Letters

Letters

A selection of Lord Lexden's letters this year to The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The New Statesman and The Spectator. You can read letters from previous years in the menu to the left.

18/01/19 - The biggest ever Tory rebellion
The Daily Telegraph

SIR--Tuesday’s rebellion by 118 Tory MPs was not “the biggest on record” (article, January 16).

On  February 28 1846, Benjamin Disraeli’s fierce defence of agricultural protection and his vicious jibes at his party leader led 231 Tories to vote against Sir Robert Peel’s Corn Laws Bill. An observer wrote that Disraeli “ hacked and mangled Peel with unsparing severity, and positively tortured his victim.”

Lord Lexden
London SW1

17/01/19 - Record Government defeats in Commons and Lords
The Times

Sir, The Commons has never defeated a government by a larger margin. The majority of 166 against Ramsay MacDonald on October 8, 1924, the worst government defeat of the 20th century (following its two earlier defeats of 140 and 161), exceeded those which occurred in the 19th century. Nevertheless, Tuesday did involve “the biggest parliamentary defeat of a government in more than a century” (leading article, Jan 16). As a result of its massive inbuilt Tory majority, the House of Lords threw out Lloyd George’s People’s Budget by 295 votes on November 30, 1909. The biggest parliamentary defeat in history occurred on September 8, 1893 when the Lords rejected Gladstone’s second home rule bill  by 419 votes to 41.

Lord Lexden
House of Lords

07/01/19 - Churchill talks to his father's ghost
The Daily Telegraph

SIR- In briefing the ghost of his father about the state of the country’s great institutions in 1947 (Comment, January 1), Winston Churchill has faint praise for the House of Lords, referring only to its Bishops who “make a lot of speeches”.  His father asks: “Are they better than they used to be?”

Winston speaks much more enthusiastically about the strength of the monarchy, buttressed by the Labour Party. “They even go to the parties at Buckingham Palace. Those who have very extreme principles wear sweaters.” Lord Randolph finds that “very sensible. I am glad all that dressing up has been done away with”.

But what he really wants to know is whether the House of Commons is doing its job well. Winston is surprisingly restrained, saying that he is “very much in favour” of the elected House. His father replies, “You had better be, Winston, because the will of the people must prevail”. 

It is not hard to guess what he would have thought of Brexit.

Yours faithfully

Lord Lexden
London SW1

07/01/19 - A federal UK post-Brexit?
The Spectator

Sir, How astonishing that the historian Robert Tombs (‘ Beyond Brexit’, 15 December) should think that the Lords might ‘at last be seriously reformed’ after more than a century of schemes that foundered in the Commons. MPs have an unthreatening upper house; they will never agree on substantial changes that would increase its power. They will leave the Lords to implement its own sensible plans to cut its numbers to 600 by bringing party strengths into line with those in the Commons over the next few years.

Those interested in radical Lords reform should study the detailed proposals for a federal constitution drawn up by an all-party group chaired by the Marquess of Salisbury, the current custodian of  a long family tradition of creative constitutional thinking. A member of the group, the distinguished former Clerk of the Commons, Lord Lisvane, has introduced a Bill which would completely recast the role of the upper house. Those seriously interested in finding a constitution fit for the post-Brexit world should turn to the Lisvane Bill.

Alistair Lexden
House of Lords