Betjeman girl drops a bomb on Boles…

Quentin Letts


20:47 GMT, 21 December 2012



21:38 GMT, 21 December 2012

Minister with plans: Nick Boles wants to make building easier for developers

Minister with plans: Nick Boles wants to make building easier for developers

Planning minister Nick Boles has been given a right kick up Santa’s chimney by the daughter of Sir John Betjeman.

Candida Lycett Green, an author and broadcaster, has made withering remarks about Mr Boles’s moves to make life easier for developers. Countryside campaigners say the Boles approach will lead to many thousands of acres being covered in Tarmac.

Mrs Lycett Green is certainly among them. She says the Government is ‘making a balls-up of the planning system’ and that if there were one thing she could stop in modern Britain, it would be the Boles reforms.

‘It’s astounding what they’re about to do,’ she tells the Church Times.

‘They’re about to sell England down the river for quick financial gain. Our glory, our green fields and our tourist attractions. They will be the Government to go down in history as wrecking England.’

Such remarks from a Citizen Swampy might be wafted aside as the bleats of a lentil fancier. Were a planning lawyer to speak thus we might also discount it as predictable flak from naysayers.

Mrs Lycett Green is less easily dismissed. Her Poet Laureate father, who died in 1984, was a veritable Lancelot in the way he fought the concrete brigade. But for him, many fine vistas and Victorian streetscapes would have been lost. His daughter has long honoured her father’s memory by fighting insensitive development. Now she is after Mr Boles.

Candida Lycette Green says the Government is 'making a balls-up of the planning system'

Candida Lycette Green says the Government is 'making a balls-up of the planning system'

There is a royal connection. Mrs Lycett Green’s late ‘step-mother’ (it was an unconventional arrangement) was a good friend of the Queen and a lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret. Is it too naughty to wonder if Mrs Lycett Green’s strong opinions about Mr Boles are shared by Prince Charles He and Mrs Lycett Green are mates.

Mrs Lycett Green, who was a wild young thing in Sixties London, was asked to name her biggest regret in life. Her reply ‘Not going the whole hog with Mick Jagger.’ For that to appear in the Church Times is what my late colleague Bill Deedes would have called ‘a marmalade dropper’.

John Howell (Con, Henley) has outed himself — as a church organist. Quite a good one, too, by all accounts.

The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Tony Baldry (Con, Banbury), has left in his will a small stipend to ensure that, come the dread day, Mr Howell is hired to play at his memorial service.

In similar vein, a Herefordshire clergyman of my acquaintance was taken to one side the other day by an elderly friend.

She solemnly told him that she could not bear her parish priest and would like my clergyman chum to officiate at her funeral.

He began his reply with the words: ‘I’m afraid I’m a bit tied up next week . . .’

A big racket from the Squeaker

A big racket from the Squeaker

A big racket from the Squeaker

Tory MP Richard Graham (Gloucester) is off to Indonesia on his first outing as David Cameron’s trade envoy. The former diplomat was Indonesian squash champion 30 years ago.

‘I am taking along my racket for old times sake, in the same suitcase I had when I arrived to live there in 1980,’ he says.

On Thursday, Mr Graham was attacked by Commons Speaker John Bercow for failing to be present in the Chamber for a question put forward in his name.

Mr Bercow harrumphed: ‘That fella needs to get himself sorted!’
He owes the MP an apology. Shortly beforehand, Mr Graham’s 99-year-old landlady suffered a bad fall. He rushed to help her, rightly considering that more important than a little piqued pride from the Squeaker.

Using his noodle

From City of London restaurateurs comes muffled wailing: Piers Pottinger, the Square Mile’s greatest trenchermen, is moving to Singapore.

Just after Christmas, the impish Pottinger is opening an Asian branch of the City PR firm he runs with Lord Bell. They may soon expand into China and other points East.

Mr Pottinger has already scouted the gastronomic possibilities.

PR guru, Piers Pottinger is moving to Singapore, and is looking forward to the restaurants available

PR guru, Piers Pottinger is moving to Singapore, and is looking forward to the restaurants available

‘Singapore has 6,900 restaurants,’ he booms. ‘I have been training and am now adept at chopsticks.’

Very much a club man, he has reciprocal membership of Singapore’s Tanglin Club, well known for its Malaysian curry tiffin buffet on Sunday mornings.

With Pottinger looming over the horizon, the chef might want to top up his production of banana fritters.

More from Quentin Letts…

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By 'eck, Gromit, mocking politicians isn't just fun – it's essential


Long before the ‘plebgate’ rumpus (hasn’t the Police Federation made a monkey of itself), top politicians rubbed along pretty well with the police.

Jamie Douglas-Home, whose uncle was prime minister in the early Sixties, recalls that the family asked one of Uncle Alec’s police bodyguards to join a grouse shoot. The man was reputedly a crack shot.

Mr Douglas-Home tells The Oldie magazine: ‘After several shots with his pistol at a stationary bird sunbathing in the heather resulted in wide misses, we were forced to conclude he was anti-field sports — or his future might lie in directing traffic.’

Dial 1 for help

A comedian friend, Nick, rang 999 the other day. He says he was put through to an automated message: ‘Sorry we can’t answer your call. All our police officers are helping other police officers with their inquiries.’

Thou shalt easily rile the Beeb

The Rev Peter Mullen, least Left-wing priest in the Church of England, has devised a new version of the Ten Commandments, to be pinned in every BBC newsroom.

1. Thou shalt take heed of the aetheist prophet Richard Dawkins and not worship God at all.

2. Thou shalt promote the images of celebrities which thou dost worship.

3. Thou shalt take God’s name in vain.

4. Remember the Sabbath day to shop until thou dost drop.

5. Take no notice of thy mother nor of thine absent father.

6. Thou shalt kill the embryo in thy womb, for it would be an hindrance to thy lifestyle, innit

7. It was said aforetime, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’ but I say unto thee that thou should’st put it about a bit, like.

8. ‘Thou shalt not steal’ being vieux chapeau, thou mayest fiddle thine expenses.

9. Thou shalt grass up neighbours to the Thought Police if they utter such that be racist, sexist or discriminatory.

10. Thou shalt covet thy neighbour’s wife and even his slag, his iPad, his Rolex and his Ferrari and everything that is thy neighbour’s.

Fr Mullen — 70 and having just been obliged by the Bishop of London to retire from his parish in the City — is now helping at traditonalist St George’s, Headstone, in Harrow. You may not be surprised to hear that it is doing a great deal better than most Anglican churches.