A selection of Lord Lexden's letters this year to The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The New Statesman, The Spectator and others. You can read letters from previous years in the menu to the left.
21/02/21 - A Minister for the Union
The Daily Telegraph
SIR - I hope Vernon Bogdanor is right in saying that the Dunlop report on strengthening the Union, completed in 2019, is about to be published at long last (“Can anyone fix the fatal flaws in devolution?”, 18 Feb).
I was assured again and again in the Lords that it would appear before the end of 2020. Some of its recommendations, I was told, were being put into effect.
Why then the continuing secrecy on the part of a government that it is supposed to be firmly committed to the Union? We have been cursed for too long by the policy of “devolve and forget”, as Professor Bogdanor says.
It is erroneous, however, to say that in the past “devolve and forget” in Northern Ireland “legitimised discrimination by a majority-ruled Stormont against the minority Catholic population”. Discrimination was practised, above all in housing, by both Unionist and nationalist local councils. [In 1972 Stormont took over all the major local government functions. Brian Faulkner, the last Stormont Prime Minister, invited the main opposition party to join power-sharing Stormont committees; it refused in accordance with a long nationalist tradition of boycotting serious public responsibility in Ulster under a system it wanted to overthrow.]
Lord Dunlop is one of the few people in public life today who understands the politics of both Scotland and Northern Ireland. He should be appointed Minister for the Union, replacing the three territorial UK departments, as a report by the Lords Constitution Committee suggested a few years ago.
Lord Lexden (Con)
[The passage in square brackets below was not included in the published version.]
13/02/21 - Churchill and the abuse of history
Sir, Winston Churchill’s collection of papers, one of our country’s archival glories, is housed within yards of the venue of the recent conference where he was denounced (“Churchill versus Churchill in racism wrangle”, report, Feb 12). All aspects of his career are richly documented. How many of those who spoke at the conference had studied this massive archive? Assertions unsupported by research are worthless. Where a very great man is concerned, they are contemptible.
House of Lords
05/02/21 - Bishop Bell: Lessons unlearnt by Welby
The Daily Telegraph
SIR – My friends Lord Carey of Clifton (Comment, January 30) and Rev Jonathan Aitken (Letters, February 1) will be widely supported in their calls for an end to the “culture of fear and secrecy” created by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s failure to establish open, accountable arrangements with proper legal safeguards for the investigation of allegations of sexual abuse brought against members of the clergy.
It is intolerable that, after a secret process, Lord Carey was found “on a balance of probabilities” to have known of one person’s record of abuse.
It was clear that something was seriously amiss six years ago when the Church’s press office suddenly announced that compensation had been paid on the uncorroborated word of a complainant who said she had been sexually abused by Bishop George Bell more than half a century earlier.
Lord Carlile QC tore the Church’s conduct of the case to shreds in an independent report at the end of 2017. Astonishingly, Archbishop Welby simply said that a “significant cloud” remained over this internationally renowned bishop.
After another secret process judged a copycat allegation to be groundless in 2019, the archbishop made a general apology to those involved, but there was no withdrawal of his charge against Bishop Bell. It is still awaited.
The public campaign in defence of Bishop Bell involved only two senior Church of England clerics, Lord Carey and the Dean of Christ Church. It is striking that they too have suffered as a result of the Church’s refusal to devise procedures that treat complainants and defendants even-handedly.
Lord Carey is still owed an apology, which, judging by what happened in the case of Bishop Bell, is unlikely to be forthcoming.
23/01/21 - Stanley Baldwin's gay, left-wing son
The Daily Telegraph
SIR - Whatever their difficulties, Downing Street offspring (“The outrageous fortunes of the children of No 10”, Features, January 21) have rarely repudiated their family’s politics.
Only one of them, Oliver Baldwin, a Labour MP between 1929 and 1931, has faced his father across the Commons chamber. “I nearly died when I saw Oliver on the benches opposite”, Stanley Baldwin told one of his daughters. Even so, the prime minister continued to write affectionately to his “ dearest son”.
Later, having heard of Oliver’s financial difficulties, he sent a generous cheque to his son’s male partner in Oxfordshire where the two men lived openly together. Baldwin, one of the wisest Tory leaders, never criticised either his son’s homosexuality or his Left-wing politics.
23/01/21 - Saving the Union
Sir, James Forsyth’s call to make “the structures of government fit for purpose” (Comment, Jan 22) should be heeded in Northern Ireland as well as Scotland. More than 20 years on, the Belfast agreement needs urgent review. Victims of terrorism are dying without the compensation that is their due because the ramshackle coalition of incompatible parties at Stormont cannot agree who should pay for it, with Sinn Fein holding the purse strings. It demands that Westminster should foot the bill. It is wrong to say that this does not matter because Ulster is heading for the exit as a result of Boris Johnson’s shameful Northern Ireland Protocol, which gives the EU a large role in the province’s affairs. Parties opposed to the Union got just over a third of the vote at the 2019 election. A new constitutional deal for Ulster within the Union should be a key objective this year, which marks the centenary of Northern Ireland’s creation.
House of Lords
11/01/21 - Rules for referendums and Boris Johnson's Scottish failures
The Daily Telegraph
SIR - Nicola Sturgeon is unlikely to be impressed by Charles Moore’s assertion (Notebook, January 5) that “ we should hold the next referendum on Scottish independence in 2055.”
Since referendums can be held whenever Parliament is persuaded to authorise them, she has every incentive to keep up the pressure.
Firm constitutional rules are needed to end the current state of affairs in which referendums take place “on an ad hoc basis, frequently as a tactical device rather than on the basis of constitutional principle”, as a report by the all-party House of Lords select committee on the constitution pointed out in 2010.
Its recommendations, ignored by successive governments, would be invaluable in devising a clear set of conditions for referendums. They include “an independent body to provide information and run the public education process.”
In the immediate future Mrs Sturgeon’s campaign can only be countered by forceful exposition of the Unionist case.
A report for the Government by Lord Dunlop in 2019 on strengthening the Union, due for belated publication by the end of last year, has still not appeared. Nor has the government’s own review to improve working relationships with Scotland.
Just four months remain until the Scottish elections. Is Boris Johnson, self-styled Minister for the Union, totally committed to preserving it?