But intriguingly, not for the reasons we might have come to expect. Listen to Peter Hennessy’s take on Cummings/Johnson—37 minutes into Broadcasting House, 9:00 am Radio 4 yesterday. A masterful analysis of the Prime Minister—gifted campaigner, not built for government.
Hennessy proposed the ‘knicker-elastic’ principle; Johnson’s continual rule-breaking stretches reality. Eventually, it snaps back with painful consequences. It is the Ministerial Code, which Johnson signed off when he became PM, that could get him. By denying to Parliament that he made the remark about bodies piling up in the street, and if proof-positive emerges that he did say it, he will be seen to have broken the Code. One section of it states that anyone knowingly misleading Parliament will be expected to resign.
In the recent post on poor old Henry John Hatch, the one ‘trial’ I didn’t mention was the apparent estrangement from his daughter Lucy. She was an orphan whom the Hatches adopted, and at the tender age of eight, she gave evidence in respect of the charges against Henry. Lucy was present during three of the occasions that eleven-year-old Mary Eugenia Plummer claimed that she had been indecently assaulted by Henry. During one of those incidents, Eugenia said that Lucy was also assaulted. Lucy steadfastly declared that on the occasions when she had been present, nothing had happened.
In the book I presented extensive evidence, by necessity circumstantial, to show that it was remotely unlikely that Henry had committed the offences of which he was charged. The most telling of this evidence was detailed by the trial judge during Eugenia’s trial for perjury. Although both Eugenia and her younger sister Stephana claimed that Henry had assaulted them, neither child ever claimed that Henry had warned them not to ‘tell’.
So when it became clear that Lucy had left the Hatches, at least by the time she was nineteen, had reverted to her birth name, ‘Buckler’, and was living close to her birthplace on the south coast, I found myself wondering what had happened. Neither Henry nor his wife was a signatory on Lucy’s marriage certificate, although that was hardly suspicious. But when Henry made a will, there was no mention of Lucy.
There could be many quite innocent explanations. The Hatches were effectively bankrupt and living off charity after the failure of the court actions. Perhaps Lucy left in order to get a job and support herself. Possibly she reverted to her original name in order to avoid any taint attaching to the ‘Hatch’ name—since Henry’s misfortunes had been national headline news. It is also possible—although unlikely given Henry’s charitable nature—that there was a family schism for reasons entirely unrelated to the trauma they had all suffered in court.
Nevertheless, conspiracy theorists might speculate that Henry’s behaviour towards Lucy and/or Eugenia had been less than entirely innocent, and as Lucy got older she determined to distance herself from him. I do not believe that, although I recognize that it is a possibility no matter how unlikely. Lucy died in 1943 at the age of ninety, and like Eugenia took her secrets with her to the grave. There remains the remote possibility that she did confide in someone, perhaps her husband James Staniland Stocks, or her siblings—she was one of five. Somewhere, in a journal or letter, there might be some clue as to what really happened.
We are used to nice pat resolutions to the unceasing diet of detective/murder mysteries that seem to dominate TV drama at present. Real life is rarely so accommodating.
An interesting feeding-frenzy in the correspondents’ page of the Torygraph today as the loyalists turn on one of their own and tear him to pieces. It is a sad reflection on our politics that Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition were incapable of damaging Cummings when he was ruling the roost, but when he dares to criticise the leadership, the Tory sharks go in bigtime.
Hancock’s Half Hour is nearly over. Wounded sharks usually make a swift meal for their comrades, and I think his days are numbered. Already he is demonstrated not to have been telling the unvarnished truth about care-home testing.
One comment emerged from the marathon committee session that really does resonate: (and I paraphrase) there is something seriously wrong with our political system when the country is given the choice between Johnson and Corbyn as prime minister. I believe I made this comment myself in an earlier post.
It seems extraordinary that it was twelve years ago that I published an account of the trials and tribulations of Reverend Henry John Hatch. He was the first chaplain of Wandsworth Prison in 1851, and he ended up in Newgate Prison doing four years’ hard labour for indecent assault. He was pardoned after six months, but the experience would have broken many a person of his character and gentile background.
The book, my first ‘literary’ effort, does contain many faults; it is far too long and would have benefited from some radical editing. But it does serve as testimony to the extraordinary indomitability of the human spirit. Here was a man knocked down again and again by circumstance. On each occasion, nothing daunted, he got up, dusted himself down, and embarked on a new venture.
The title of the book, Henry’s Trials, although a rather lame pun is a good description of what happened to the man; here is a list of his ‘trials’:
Henry was released from Newgate after his main accuser, the twelve year old daughter of the Plummers, was found guilty at the Old Bailey for wilful and corrupt perjury. He brought an action for damages against his solicitor for bungling his defence in his trial for indecent assault.
Henry’s reputation had been restored, and he became rector of Little Stambridge in Essex where he stayed for twenty one years ... until the parish itself was abolished as being too small to sustain itself. While he was at Little Stambridge, he contributed some stories and other material to a book. One of the stories, founded on his experience as a prison chaplain, was about a reformed prisoner returned from transportation. After all he had been through, Henry was still proselytizing his Christian values and belief in the basic goodness of his fellow human beings.
The news of the revelations about the BBC interview with Princess Diana, is like finding out that your favourite uncle is a brutal wife-beater. The Dyson report cannot but severely damage the reputation of the corporation and provide copious ammunition to the anti-BBC brigade. The British right-wing press, with the Daily Hate Mail and Torygraph in the vanguard, are probably sharpening their pens in glee, preparing an all-out assault on the hated Beeb and its effrontery in daring occasionally to criticise government ministers and their running of the country.
Michael Grade—sometime chairman of the BBC—who commented on the Dyson report on the Today programme this morning is that rare animal, a conservative who takes an apparently non-partisan and constructive position on the BBC. He emphasised the extreme seriousness of the situation, and pointed to the governance of the corporation being at fault and the need for an editorial board capable of holding journalists properly to account. He also stated what he has said many times before, that most political parties think the BBC is biased against them, the implication being that it is broadly balanced. He said that he did not think the government would use the affair as a ‘lever to bash’ the BBC over the charter renewal; ‘The public wouldn’t stand for it.’ I hope that is true.
Nevertheless the Dyson report's conclusions in respect of the deception, and particularly over the subsequent cover-up, severely dent the Beeb’s reputation for honesty and probity. Lord Reith must be turning in his grave.
I’ll admit to more than a little dismay at the headline in The Times today: ‘PM eyes ten more years’ Ten more years of that fornicating, narcissistic clown… Can I bear it? Can anyone? Well apparently quite a few can.
The bitter truth is that the issue of B****t played a significant, possibly decisive, role in the election and is going to continue to blight politics in this country for a generation. No doubt some were pleased to see re-invigorated Blighty now free to despatch gunboats to protect Jersey against the Frenchies, and the fact that this happened on election day was a gift from the gods.
It’s not just Hartlepool either, although the Labour Party blundered dreadfully in running a ‘remain’ candidate in a strongly ‘leave’ constituency. At the time of writing, there are nearly twice as many Conservative as Labour councillors elected.
Everyone is pleased with the ‘vaccine bounce’; wallpaper and sleaze is forgotten. But this country needs an effective opposition for good government. The Lib Dems can’t do it, and now Labour can’t do it. We’re in danger of becoming a one party state, and we all know where that can lead. ‘O tempora, o mores!’
My father was a great fan of the artist Stanley Spencer, and met him once in Cookham where Spencer lived. Cookham is very close to Bisham where my parents occupied a caravan in 1945. It seems likely that Father came across Spencer as a local character; he certainly met him on at least one occasion. Spencer, who was always hard up, once offered to paint a picture for my father for £5. It might as well have been £5,000 for all the likelihood that he had a fiver on him, let alone one to spare.
Father was a skilled graphic artist, and over the years produced a number of paintings in oils. Sadly, like many of the projects he started, he frequently failed to finish his art works. Nevertheless, one that was fairly complete had its provenance in a painting by his idol—who may have inspired him to paint in the first place. The Resurrection, Cookham, which Spencer exhibited in 1927, shows that Biblical event taking place in Cookham churchyard, with the dead rising from their graves on the day of judgement.
Like Spencer, my father spent virtually his whole life in the place where he was born, so when contemplating his own version of the Resurrection, it was natural that he should place it in the churchyard of the local Ealing parish church of St Mary’s. St Mary’s Church was very close to where we lived in South Ealing. The building, enlarged and redecorated in 1873, looks like a ‘Byzantine Basilica’ inside, but it’s most striking feature is its rectilinear tower. The tower resembles St Stephen’s clock tower at Westminster (now the Elizabeth Tower), albeit with the clock much lower and only possessing one face. My father decided to make this quite unique church the backdrop for his painting.
The view, at the back of the church, is from a path that extends through the churchyard which I have walked along many times in my life. It shows the angels blowing the ‘last trump’ to awaken the dead for their judgement. The dead are emerging from their tombs, one in Tudor attire, another bearing the sword of a Cavalier. To the right of the angels, at the edge of the picture, are two figures in modern dress. One is wearing a brown jacket and holding an artist’s palette. The figure with white hair and a dark jacket is Stanley Spencer; the artist next to him is my father, in a wonderfully accurate caricature, immediately recognizable.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs