Monthly Archives: January 2018

No Longer With Us


Born in 1910, Diana Mosley was one of the celebrated Mitford girls, daughters of the eccentric Lord Redesdale who was to feature prominently in Nancy Mitford’s novels. At the age of eighteen Diana married Bryan Guinness, later Lord Moyne, by whom she had two sons. In 1932 she met Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists, and fell instantly under his spell. Four years later they were married secretly in Dr Goebels’ house in Berlin. She bore two more sons before she and her husband were detained during the war under the defence regulations. Her publications include a book on the Duchess of Windsor and, in 1977, her autobiography A Life of Contrasts. She also regularly writes book reviews for the Evening Standard. For the past forty-five years she has lived in Le Temple de la Gloire, a country house south of Paris.


Diana, when we spoke about this interview you rather suggested that there was nothing new to say. My own impression from doing research is that you have given a very uneven picture of yourself. It seems to me that you are perhaps misjudged, certainly misunderstood. You say in your book, A Life of Contrasts: ‘Indifference to public opinion is an essential aristocratic virtue. It is rarer than one might imagine.’ Looking in from the outside, it is a quality, however rare, that you seem to have in abundance. Is it really so? Are you not tempted to open up?
I don’t quite know what you mean by ‘open up’. I don’t think I’ve ever consciously dodged answers to questions. By saying that indifference to public opinion is an aristocratic virtue, I did not mean to imply that I consider myself aristocratic, I certainly do not. Of course I mind very much about the opinion of people I love or esteem, but not of journalists or acquaintances who – quite rightly – look upon me as not ‘politically correct’ or whatever the fashionable phrase may be.

You have been known to say that you don’t understand all the fuss about the Mitford girls. By any standards family life was strange and eccentric and it has been well documented in Nancy and Jessica’s books. Was it the case that the oddness seemed perfectly normal to you, or were you conscious that yours was a very singular milieu, unlike that of others, even in your social circle?
I think there’s a misunderstanding here. Our life as children was exactly like that of hundreds of other children in the same walk of life. If you lived in the country in those days you probably didn’t go to school if you were a gel, you probably had a governess, you had animals, you went out hunting, you went to neighbours’ parties. I honestly don’t believe there was anything in our childhood which was unlike that of a great many other people. There was really nothing odd about it. Some fathers were stricter and more violent than others. Although our father was sometimes rather violent, we loved him and were amused by him. He’s been a bit exaggerated by Nancy, though not very much, since he is really more or less Uncle Matthew, but I think even in her novels she says we loved him. There was never a dull moment.

I realize that the memory of your brother Tom must still be painful for you, but can you tell me what it was about him that formed so strong a bond between you?
I suppose it was that we were very close in age, not even eighteen months between us. We were very fond of one another. He was a musical boy, and I loved music, so that was a bond. It’s hard to say really, but until he was killed we just were very close. I miss him even now, for many things. I can’t imagine him as an old man.

When one studies the Mitford girls it’s difficult not to be astonished by the sheer brilliance and individuality of all of them. It is not usual in large families for these qualities to be dealt out in such large measure across the board. Would you say that such things are decided, as it were, genetically, i.e. in advance of upbringing, or would you attribute it more to family life and parental influence?
I think it’s completely genetic. I don’t think that upbringing has a great deal to do with what one becomes later on. We’re products of our grandparents and great-grandparents much more. That’s been proved scientifically, I think. For example, if you take identical twins who are brought up in two different ways, they turn out the same in the end. It’s just a curious fact.

In your early life at least, your father seems to figure much more prominently than your mother. Was he the decisive influence on you, do you think?
No, I really do not think so. We just took him for granted. In a way the person who meant most to me when I was a child was my nanny. I loved her far more than I did my parents and I often felt guilty about that. One should love one’s mother more than one’s nurse, but in fact I loved nanny best. My mother was a great character; she had wonderful courage and was so honest that you couldn’t even imagine a dishonest thought or act coming from her. But again, she was somebody we took completely for granted; she was just our mother, always there.

If you had a problem, would you have confided in her?
I wouldn’t have dreamed of confiding anything in either of my parents. Possibly one of my sisters or my brother, but nobody else. It simply wouldn’t have occurred to any of us to confide in them, I’m sure.

You and your sisters seem in retrospect all to have been quite fixated on a particular man. In your own case it was Mosley, in Unity’s it was Hitler, in Debo’s it was her duke, and so on. In your own ways you all seemed to have been besotted by powerful men. This is not something you touch on in your autobiography. Is it not something that has occurred to you?
Yes, it has occurred to me. Strangely enough, even Nancy, who was devoted to her colonel, went over the top of the colonel, so to speak, in her tremendous feeling for de Gaulle. You see, she loved France, and she thought he was the ideal dictator. It was far more than the usual rather cool approval that one might feel about a president or a prime minister; it went much more deeply with her. You might say we all had that characteristic which must have come through our genes.

Your father does seem to have been a very eccentric man – he chased the children with a bloodhound, for example.
I don’t think he was nearly as eccentric as people imagine. You see, he had a bloodhound, and it was rather fun to hunt with him, and we children were there, available. Most men love hunting after all. He didn’t hunt us very often with his bloodhound, and in any case the bloodhound died. He didn’t have what you might call a kennelful of bloodhounds; there was just one dear old one and he thought, well, let’s give him a run.

But did there come a time when you realized that he was not like other men?
Well, he was actually very much like my uncles. It’s true he had great hates which were rather unusual. There were people he disliked intensely for no particular reason, even children. Most people usually dismiss children and say to themselves, ‘What a tiresome little gel or boy’, but he managed to work up quite a passion of hatred for some child he didn’t like. It didn’t evidence itself in any way; one just realized he could hardly bear the child. The same applied to grown-ups, of course. He wasn’t what you might call a very sociable man. He preferred walking with his dogs and chatting to the keeper.

I have heard it said that he was a bit of a philistine. Is that something you were aware of?
I suppose he was a philistine. He never went to an art gallery, he never cared the least about sightseeing, and he liked only a very simple kind of music – Puccini’s arias, for example; apart from that I cannot say that he had any sort of artistic interest.

In a sense you seem to have had quite a Spartan childhood, plenty of space, but not much warmth, no fires in the bedrooms, and really rather strict ‘rules’. I’m thinking of your Paris diary and its aftermath. Was that the usual patterns among the families you knew?
A good many gels of my age, who were friends of mine, had exactly the same experience, perhaps not quite so strict, but they were not allowed out except with a governess or a maid. This was by no means unique to us. When I got to Paris at the age of sixteen it seemed such a wonderful chance for freedom that I’m afraid I did one or two things which were strictly forbidden, like going to the cinema with a young man in the afternoon when I pretended to the old governess that I was going to a violin lesson. I put it all in my dairy and then of course there was the most fearful row when it was discovered. It’s rather sad that my diary went west. Mother and father put it in the boiler.

You married Bryan Guinness when you were eighteen. And he was also very young, twenty-three, I think. Do you think in retrospect that to marry at such a tender age may have been a mistake?
Not really. I don’t think age makes much difference. I was nineteen when my eldest son was born and when I was twenty I had another son. About a year after that my husband and I parted. It was not because I married too young, but because I fell in love with Oswald Mosley and decided that I should prefer living on my own and being able to see him occasionally, to being married to Bryan Guinness. He wanted a wife who would always be there, and that’s what he got afterwards. He married a wonderful person and they were terribly happy, so I was absolutely right.

You paint a very different picture of the nightclubs of Berlin from that usually portrayed in novels and memoirs. Were they really all as dull as that? You called them ‘grim places’?
Yes, you imagined you were going to find Marlene Dietrich, and then you didn’t. Nightclubs are for people who are searching for something. My husband and I weren’t, and we just did think them very dull – awful noise, second-rate jazz, hideous people, and lights going on and off. One’s idea really was to get away to bed.

How did people you knew react to your divorce and your attachment to Mosley? I imagine not everyone was sympathetic.
Everyone was unsympathetic, without exception I should say. It seemed very unusual for somebody as young as I was to leave her husband, to live alone, particularly after having had such an amusing, entertaining and interesting life as I had had. To want to cut oneself off seemed very curious to most people. First they thought I was too young to be married, then they thought I was too young not to be married.

Were you looked upon as rebellious?
I didn’t feel the least bit rebellious. I just followed my instinct. It’s very difficult to look back sixty years, but I never regretted it for one instant, and by degrees everyone came round to my point of view. It seemed the normal thing for me and Mosley to be together.

The relationship between yourself and the Mosleys after your divorce is rather baffling. For example, you speak of the death of Mosley’s wife, Cimmie, as a ‘devastating blow’ for him. It was also, however, the turn of events that allowed you to be together and marry. Did you have a strong sense of fate intervening? Did you know Mosley’s first wife?
I knew her, not very well, but she was charming and people were very fond of her. It was a devastating blow for me as well as him. She was a young woman and the last thing either of us ever expected was what happened. It might easily have meant a complete break with Mosley because it was terribly tragic for him. It might easily have worked the opposite way, but in fact it was only three years later that we did get married.

But what were your expectations when you fell in love with Mosley?
That I would live on my own with my children and that I would see him from time to time. I was interested in his politics, and I hoped to be able to play some part perhaps. Otherwise it was to be a life alone.

When you met Mosley he seems to have had the support of a great many men who were later prominent in public affairs – John Strachey, Aneurin Bevan, Arthur Cooke – and much later Richard Crossman spoke of the way in which he was a generation ahead of labour thinking. What went wrong? Was he unwilling to serve if he could not lead?
No. As you know he was first elected as a conservative, and when he crossed the floor he became an independent and then went the whole way and joined labour. But he never felt that labour would be an instrument of action; he always thought that the Labour Party would break in your hand if you tried to do anything with it. It was dominated then (and I suppose up to a point it still is) by two such disparate elements – the trade unions and the intellectuals; and they did not want the same thing. I don’t belong to the school of thought which makes out that one party is perfect and the other is devilish. By and large all politicians want the best for their country, but they got about it in different ways. England was at that time in a very poor way with enormous and growing unemployment, terrific suffering and hunger. That must never be forgotten, because to be unemployed then was far worse than it is now, awful though it must always be. Mosley therefore thought that the only thing to do was to make a grass-roots movement of his own. Some of the men you mentioned came with him, but there was a tremendous crisis in England after the Wall Street Crash in 1929. In 1931 there was an election and rather predictably the Tories won a sweeping victory and the New Party, as his party was called, was wiped out at the polls; even he was not elected. It was then that he thought he had better call things by their name and so he called his new movement the British Union of Fascists, later modified to the British Union, as you know.

Why do you think he went to such an extreme?
It wasn’t considered an extreme then. In those days, for instance, a great many Tories were admirers of Mussolini. Hitler had not yet come to power. It was a different picture. The reason he called it fascism was because it was in a sense a world movement and he thought it was more honest. With the benefit of hindsight, I think perhaps it may have been a mistake, but on the other hand he didn’t in the least want people to imagine it was anything it was not.

Historically speaking, it is not difficult to have some understanding of Hitler’s charisma and the spell which he cast. Even your own brother, who was later killed fighting on the other side, seems to have found his politics attractive initially. How did it strike you at the time?
It struck me as perfectly normal and natural. Tom used to say that it would be either the Nazis or the communists, and that if he were a German he would be a Nazi. It wasn’t only when he was a student in Berlin; he went on thinking that he would have been a Nazi – in fact, practically every decent German was. We must remember that nothing succeeds like success. Hitler not only had what people now call charisma, he was also – unheard of in the thirties – completely successful. He made promises at the polls and he kept them. In England both labour and Tories said they could cure unemployment, put the economy straight, make an earthly paradise, they each had a chance and neither of them was able to do it. Under Hitler, unemployment dwindled to nothing, and within two or three years a despairing country had been transformed into an extraordinarily prosperous one where people were happy and worked hard. Hitler always said he would give the people Arbeit und Brot, Work and Bread, but the interesting thing is that he put work before bread, whereas in England, they put bread first and then work a long way afterwards. Everyone was interested in Hitler. Churchill himself wrote at the time that Hitler was the person everybody would like to get to know, because he seemed to have a political secret which was hidden from others.

You speak in your book of your conviction that fascism in Britain would have been a different sort of thing from that which overtook the Continent. It is difficult for many people now, after the horrors of the camps and so on, to understand how it could have been different. What was your own vision?
That is such an impossibly large question; to answer it properly one would have to go into every fact of life. Briefly, the British parliament would have had a great deal of power which of course the Reichstag did not have. Another point which is very important is that my husband was always against imprisonment without trial. He said concentration camps were a horror which should never have been allowed anywhere. And as to cruelty, it just wasn’t in his nature.

What impression do you retain of that first Nuremberg rally? It must have been very different from the huge stage-managed affairs of later years.
Even so they managed to gather a million people for that first rally. The Germans are of course quite extraordinary when it comes to organization, and perhaps no other country could have done it, or done it so smoothly. It was an amazing achievement, and of course very interesting for a foreigner to see.

Were you mesmerized by it?
I wouldn’t say one was mesmerized, but it was very striking and even very moving. You saw a country which had been reduced to despair pulling itself up by its own bootstraps.

With hindsight virtually everyone thinks of Hitler as a monster, but that is a public rather than a private judgement. He clearly commanded the allegiance of his fellow countrymen. You have never denounced him, and have continued to reiterate your admiration for him… were you ever able to see things from a different perspective?
No. I saw a man whom I got to know through a very strange chance because he was a friend of my sister Unity. Unity loved and adored him, thought him utter perfection. I never felt like that about him, but I did admire him very much for what he had done. I thought it quite amazing that of all the politicians in charge of being industrial nations at the time, whether France, the United States, England, he stood alone in having been able to solve the appalling problems of poverty and unemployment. That is never admitted now because it is said that no monster could possibly have done anything as clever as that. But in fact he did, and one day history will be written in a truthful way. That was the man I knew, the public man. As for the private person, I didn’t know him all that well, but I was determined after the war that I would at least sat what I’d seen, because by then he had become a monster, as you say. Of course the crimes in the war were utterly terrible and unforgiveable, but I believe that THE great crime was the war itself, which engendered all the horrors, and not only all on one side, I may say. I have felt it not only a duty but almost a pleasure to describe the man I knew, because it’s so monstrously unfair when people deny something which they felt very strongly at the time.

Have you regretted anything?
No, absolutely not. Why should I? A woman writer published something the other day about me being impenitent. I’ve never really understood what I have to be penitent about. I just speak the truth as I remember it, as I know it, as I believe it.

But obviously you didn’t know some of the things that had happened. Since the war there have been horrific revelations about Hitler…
Yes, horrific. But I can’t change my mind about the man I knew long before all that happened. Like everyone else, I deplore the crimes and the horrors and the miseries, but I still think the basic reason that made them possible was the fact that we had a war, and for the war I blame Hitler and I also blame Churchill.

In your autobiography you suggest that the Jewish question was one which Jews rather brought on themselves and that is could have been solved by emigration. This is surely a somewhat naïve view, if only because there must have been millions of Jews, then as now, who thought of themselves as Germans. They were people who had fought as Germans in the First World War. Why should they have felt the need to leave?
I do see that very much, but at the same time, I’m quite sure that Jews who had fought for Germany in the First World Warn need never have left. Unfortunately there was this tremendous feeling of anti-Semitism not only in Germany, but all over central Europe. I’ve always felt that it would have been far wiser, and also far more humane, to have had a round-table conference with, say, the League of Nations, and discuss how best to separate people who were not living happily together. I still feel that. That’s what was attempted in Ireland, but because there were so many Republicans who remained in the Ulster, the fighting just goes on and on. If you force people who dislike each other to live together, it doesn’t make for a very happy life for anyone.

But what was the cause of anti-Semitism?
After the First World War there was an enormous influx of Jews from Eastern Europe. As we know one of their great strengths is that they always hang together, and, rightly or wrongly, they became more and more unpopular because people coming back from the front found their businesses had been taken over. This engendered an enormous amount of anti-Jewish feeling in Germany as a whole, not just in Hitler. I’ve always felt it could have been solved simply by separating them. Most of them would have loved to go to America, just as they do now. After all, most Jews coming out of Russia go to New York, not Israel.

In your book your recount that Professor Lindemann, a regular visitor to Chartwell, said to you of your friend Brian Howard, ‘Oh you can’t like him, he’s a Jew’. Were you aware of much casual anti-Semitism in those days?
No, I wasn’t. He gave me quite a surprise by saying that. But there are double standards here. My father, for example, was very anti-German and was quite capable of saying the only good German is a dead German, but of course if anybody said that about the Jews they’d be for the high jump, although it’s supposed to be quite all right to say it about other people. English people often say they hate the Scotch, but of course when they meet the Scotch they don’t hate them at all. It’s rather the same thing with the Jews. Collectively, so to speak, they may be deprecated by certain people but individually they’re considered brilliant, charming, clever.

How do you feel about the Jews yourself?
I feel they behaved very badly towards my husband who was not anti-Semitic. They attacked him not only in newspaper articles and newsreels at the cinema, but physically at his meetings, until in the end they practically made him into an anti-Semite. He never was one, it just wasn’t in his nature, but he did think they were a perfect pest. They used to disrupt his meetings, jump up and down and shot, very often without knowing English and therefore not even able to understand what he was saying. We now know they behaved in this way because they were having a really bad time in Germany, but having said that, it doesn’t alter the fact that they were anti-Mosley long before he was anti them.

You were very friendly with Goebbels’ wife. In Leni Riefenstahl’s autobiography she claimed that Magda only married Goebbels to be closer to Hitler with whom she was actually in love. Was there any evidence for that in your view?
No. She did adore Hitler, but I’m certain she was in love with the Doctor, at least when I first knew her. I think she got very fed up with him later. As minister of propaganda he had so many starlets around, and that probably annoyed her quite a lot. Nevertheless she was very fond of him, and devoted to her children.

Leni Riefenstahl also describes a conversation she had with Hitler on the subject of Unity. According to Riefenstahl, Hitler said: ‘Unity is a very attractive girl, but I could never have an intimate relationship with a foreigner, not matter how beautiful she might be.’ Does this accord with your own impression?
I don’t think Unity ever thought of him in that way. She adored him, of course, and the great attraction for him was that she made him laugh so much. She was so unlike German women; she just always said what she thought, did as she wished. I remember him telling me one day he had been driving in Munich when he saw somebody coming straight at him the wrong way down a one-way street. His driver had to break and Hitler saw it was Unity. She merely laughed and said she had been trying to catch up with him. She had no idea of keeping any rules, and that in itself is very unGerman. She was lawless, completely.

You have said many times that Hitler adored Unity and was devoted to her. I’m sure you are tired to death of being asked if Unity was in love with Hitler, but if she was not, why did she try to kill herself when war broke out? Was there a chance that they could have been lovers?
No. There was a much nobler reason behind her suicide attempt. She had always told me she would kill herself if England and Germany went to war. She was always an extremely patriotic Englishwoman as well as being so in love with Germany.

But she was in love with Hitler, wasn’t she?
Well, there are so many different ways of being in love. I don’t think she was sexually in love with Hitler, at least not in my opinion. She was devoted to him, admired him, but he represented for her something quite different from a lover or a husband. That’s my own view. She was appalled by the global tragedy of her two beloved countries going to war. When she heard Chamberlain say that war had been declared on Germany, she didn’t really wish to live and see any more happen.

Unity was the one who chose consciously to adopt a national-socialist creed. Did she ever change her mind when the consequences became apparent in the revelations after the war?
She wasn’t really with us after the war, her mind had gone away. The bullet went through her brain and Professor Cairns, the brain specialist, told my father that it was not possible to remove it safely. It was therefore a kind of freak that she lived at all. The Germans had been afraid that she might do something and were therefore watching her. They knew she had a gun and on 3 September 1939 she went to Gauleiter Wagner in a great state and gave him a letter to send to my father, and also one for Hitler. She then went to the English Garden in Munich and shot herself. Wagner had her followed because he had a feeling that she was going to do herself a mischief. No sooner had she fallen off the bench than two men ran up and took her to hospital straightaway. She was unconscious for several weeks and was looked after with extraordinary devotion by nuns. Hitler had been informed, of course, and he was constantly telephoning to find out how she was. On 9 November he came to Munich for the anniversary of the 1923 putsch and it was on that day she emerged from the coma. Naturally her brain had suffered terribly. Hitler offered her the choice between having a house in Germany where no one would pester her, or, if she preferred, safe passage to her family in England. She chose the latter. Hitler arranged the whole thing with a Hungarian friend of my brother Tom who was, in fact, a lover of Unity. He was perfect. He took her in a special train with nurses and doctors to the Swiss frontier and there handed her over to Swiss doctors. She was taken to a clinic in Zurich, and my mother travelled across France with my sister Debo and together they brought her back to England. This was in January 1940, long before France fell. Before that, my father had seen Oliver Stanley at the War Office and made him promise that Unity would not be arrested. Stanley gave his word and he kept to it. To begin with Unity was paralysed, but by degrees she got the use of her limbs again. But her mind was completely different; it was never again normal. To what extent she realized what had happened at the end of the war I don’t know, and I’m sure my mother kept newspapers away from her. She knew Hitler was dead, but whether she knew anything about the horrors of the camps, I doubt it. She never spoke to me of them and of course it was the sort of subject one never would have dreamed of raising with her. She was pathetic really.

In 1944 Adam von Trott was executed for his part in the failed attempt on Hilter’s life. Instead of being shot he was hanged from a butcher’s hook as Hitler looked on. His death was filmed for all to see, so there was no question of this being anti-Hitler propaganda. Was there anything about Hitler and the others that suggested this sort of potential ruthlessness?
First of all, I completely disbelieve that Hitler would have wished to see any person hanged in any way; that’s just the figment of some foul person’s imagination. You see, he was accused of terrible atrocities and cruelties because he was in charge, but that’s a very different thing from doing it himself. I’m quite sure your story is untrue, nothing would ever make me believe it. As for Adam von Trott, he was a traitor to his country. He tried to kill the person who was fighting the war and losing it – I don’t suppose there would have been very much sympathy in England for somebody who had tried to assassinate Churchill. His friend von Stauffenberg was one of the dirtiest fighters imaginable. He did what is always so much denounced when the IRA does it; he left a bomb so that it would go off and kill any number of people around, but not himself. If he had wished to rid the world of Hitler, all he had to do as a serving officer was to take his revolver, shoot him and take the consequences; that would have been the act of a man. What he did was the act of a perfect common or garden terrorist. There would have been no pity for such a man in England either….

Yes, but they wouldn’t have hanged him on a hook.
Well, I don’t suppose they did. But if it was done in a cruel way, Hitler would never have demeaned himself by going to watch, never. I simply don’t believe it.

Why are you so sure that Hitler wouldn’t have done it?
Because I knew Hitler well enough to be sure. I knew his character, he may have been cruel but he wasn’t mean.

You speak of Churchill as someone who was really in love with war. In your book you write: ‘The difference between M. and Churchill was that M. wanted Britain to be strong in order to keep the peace unless any part of our possessions was threatened, while Churchill genuinely hoped for war.’ And you quote in support of this statement Lloyd George who said: ‘Winston likes war; I don’t’. But if that was the case, why did Churchill disarm after the First World War and render the country quite unprepared for war?
He disarmed after the First War because quite rightly nobody thought there would be a war for ten years; this is what they call the ten-year rule. England became more and more poor (partly owing to Churchill’s muddling as chancellor or the exchequer) so the ten-year rule was forever being extended, or reimposed. But in the early thirties he did begin to want to rearm, and he never stopped speaking about it in parliament. Mosley thought it fatal to have the very tiny air force which we had, and he always maintained that a strong air force and navy together could have kept an invader out. That’s why he said that as long as England was not attacked we could make peace, or at least it would have had to be such a pathetic peace that it would hardly have counted. All the same, several cabinet members were for it, but Churchill was against it. I don’t myself go along with the idea of the finest hour; it seems to me that if you declare war on a very strong country and have as your ally a rather weak country and the weak country is overrun, and your army has to escape through Dunkirk as best it can, throwing away all its armaments such as they were, there’s nothing very much you can do except have a finest hour. What was so utterly foolish was to declare war in the beginning, pretending it was to help Poland; as Mosley said at the time, it was simply writing Poland a blank cheque which then bounced.

It must have puzzled you enormously, as it does me, why you were arrested and imprisoned. I suppose its arguable that your husband might have been thought potentially disruptive, but what were the authorities afraid you would do? What could you have done?
Nothing. I had absolutely no idea why they imprisoned me. I was told recently by a professor that the Japanese who were arrested and put in camps in the west of America brought a successful action against the government and won their case. I thought that was wonderful, and wondered about bringing one myself until he told me that they hadn’t got their compensation, so then the idea rather died on me. To return to your question, I think it was an extraordinary thing to have done to my husband too, especially since our people were extremely patriotic. They all joined the army when they could, and long before he was arrested. Fortunately it’s in black and white in his little paper which came out nearly a fortnight before he was arrested. He said there would be no question of where members of the British Union would stand; they would die to the last man in order to drive the invader from our shores. You can’t say more than that. All he had argued beforehand was that until something happened, we should try to have a negotiated peace over Poland. But France fell so quickly, and then there was the terrible tragic farce of Norway, which was entirely Churchill’s idea. And after he had made such an absolute fool of himself there, the next thing they did was make him prime minister.

What did you feel about Churchill’s complicity in your imprisonment? After all, you knew him quite well, and he was your father’s cousin, yet he separated you from your husband and your children and imprisoned you for years without charge. Do you feel bitterness towards him?
No, none at all for that. I feel bitterness towards him for the war itself. He was one of the people responsible for it, determined to have it. Sadly, I think the same of Hitler. I think that was their great crime, because it very nearly ruined Europe, and England was ruined completely. Not only have we lost our empire, which was supposed to be so strong but turned out to be so very weak, but also England itself changed very much as a result of the war, not all for the good.

Rumour has it that Churchill was prepared to allow you a bath and running water, but you refused it. Is there any truth in that?
Yes, it’s completely true. I was sent for by the governor and he said: ‘There’s a message from the cabinet. Lady Mosley’s to have a bath every day’. Of course it wasn’t possible, so I just laughed and so did he. All we had was a horrible foul little bathroom with a very old-fashioned geyser which did only three baths twice a day. There were about sixty of us, so we had a rota, and I could no more have gone in front of the others than…well, they were all my dear friends.

What did prison life teach you?
Nothing, except to hate discomfort, which I always have hated.

Did you leave feeling bitter?
No, I just despised the government so much really. If you don’t respect people, it doesn’t engender bitterness.

Were you ever offered any sort of explanation afterwards? Large numbers of those arrested with you were eventually freed, but you had to wait many years. Even after the war ended the authorities tried to prevent you travelling. Why do you think this was?
I just do wonder really. It is very extraordinary. One reason is that the Foreign office, as Enoch Powell so truly said, was a nest of spies and traitors; it really was, right up to 1951 when Burgess and Maclean very sensibly went off to Russia, which was where they belonged. And if you have a Foreign Office which is a nest of spies and traitors they don’t want decent people travelling.

You say in your book: ‘The paramount crime was the war itself. None of the atrocities could have happened in time of peace.’ But we know now of course that both Dachau and Buchenwald were in operation by the end of 1933…
Not in the sense that you mean. There were several concentration camps which my husband greatly deplored, but they had floating populations, so to speak. People would be told they were going to Dachau for three months, and out they’d come again. I remember an edition of an illustrated Berlin weekly just before the war which had pictures of people in concentration camps; there were very few, a couple of dozen perhaps, and they were all mentally deficient, or people who might have annoyed the government. They were neither criminal nor were they our beloved liberals or anything of the sort, they were just ordinary common or garden misfits.

Did you ever meet Eva Braun?
Yes. She was very pretty. She was also extremely loyal and brave, as we know by what she did when she flew into Berlin. She was flying to her death and she knew it.

You once said: ‘Men who wage war give cruel orders which are executed with violence and provoke tragedy. This applies to them all, Hitler, Stalin, Roosevelt and even Churchill, in so far as he had the power.’ Many people regard it as breathtaking cynicism that you make no distinction between the first two, Hitler and Stalin, and the last two, not even a distinction of scale.
But I said ‘in so far as it was in their power’; I call that a distinction. If Churchill had had absolute power, which thank God he did not, then who knows what he might have done? When you think of the lies that have been told about Hitler since the war I should think Roosevelt and Churchill would have been capables de tout.

I realize how dreadful it must have been to be imprisoned for years without even a shadow of a charge, but in view of the fact that there were crowds protesting at your release even as late at 1943, do you think that perhaps you would have been safe had you been released earlier?
That was the most terrific canard there has ever been. I know Clementine Churchill said to my mother that she thought we were probably much safer in prison, but my mother replied that she thought it was for us to judge. There was never a breath of any trouble after we got out. The Daily Worker even went round Shipton asking all the villagers to demonstrate against the Mosleys and not one of them would. We also discovered from an old man who lived in a villa about half a mile away that he had been approached by the Daily Mirror who told him that the Mosleys were going to be his new neighbours, and he said, ‘Oh, how interesting’, which wasn’t at all the reaction they’d hoped for. You see, English people are not like that really. You might get communists demonstrating outside the underground if they think enough people are watching, but they are not going to do the slightest harm. No, that aspect never bothered us. What we minded was not having passports. We had to buy a little yacht to get away from England.

Presumably you were not a political animal until you met Mosley. Did you actually share his vision intellectually or was it something you took on board as part of your profound love for him?
It’s not quite true to say that I wasn’t interested in politics; I was. The first time I had a vote was in the 1931 election and if in our constituency there had been a Lloyd George liberal standing, I would have voted for him because Lloyd George had very clear ideas about unemployment and all sorts of things. I often thought afterwards that was why he and Hitler got on so very well. They liked each other enormously when they met, and Lloyd George wrote wonderful articles in the English papers praising him. There’s a beautiful story about when he was on the Berg with Hitler. He was in bed one morning and he rang for his secretary Sylvester and told him he wanted to lay a wreath on the war memorial. Sylvester brought him a wreath, and gave him a card to inscribe. Lloyd George wrote on the card: ‘To the brave men who died for the Fatherland’. Sylvester asked, ‘Don’t you think it might be better to put their Fatherland?’ and Lloyd George thought perhaps it would, so he added the two little letters. It’s terribly nice isn’t it?

It is often said that you were the driving force behind Mosley. Would you agree with that?
No. He had the driving force within himself. He didn’t need me for that. I suppose I must have influenced him a little bit, but not very much. He was much more of and influence on me. He was so clever, so brilliant.

It is also alleged that Mosley was something of a philanderer. Was this a problem which loomed large in your marriage or were you so devoted to him that you accepted and forgave his transgressions?
Well, I suppose one never completely accepts. Jealousy is a very real emotion which nearly everybody who has been in love must feel and know about, but he was an exceptional person, and therefore very attractive to women. He himself adored women, and that’s just a fact. I never blamed him for that.

But did you suffer?
Only marginally really, because it was so taken for granted. It’s very hard to say looking back; I’m sure there were moments when I was jealous, but not unduly, not enough to matter.

You were upset and angered by the publication of your stepson Nicholas Mosley’s book, Beyond the Pale. I was told that you were shown the book in draft from and decided to make no changes and that it was only afterwards that you had second thoughts about what he had written being made public.
It’s completely untrue to say that I was shown it in draft. He sent it when it was already too late to make any alterations, which is an old trick, as we know. I didn’t mind him saying that Mosley was a philanderer, because it was just the truth. What I minded was that he tried to make him such a trivial person, whereas in fact he had been a tremendous worker all his life and had had brilliant ideas. None of that is dealt with at all in the book.

You mean the balance was not right?
No only not right, it was simply ridiculous. The other point is that as he was his son, he’d been told he could have the papers, and I didn’t bother to look through anything. There were very intimate things, such as letters between him and his first wife, which I didn’t think it was right for Nicholas to publish. I implored him to take them out and the answer was that it was already too late. He has a complete obsession about his father, which may not be entirely his fault, because the truth is that the most interesting thing about him is that he’s the son of an extraordinary man. Journalists know that too, so they always get off the subject of his probably not very interesting novels, and ask him instead about his father. The book about Mosley is fundamentally such a dishonest book, because nowhere is it suggested that he was a brilliant thinker or that he could have made a difference to the world had his ideas been accepted. Instead he is portrayed as some kind of playboy, which is too absurd when you think of what the man was. That’s why I object to it.

How did he get on with his father?
Very well. My husband was very fond of him and very good to him always. But of course it turns out that Nicholas must have been fearfully jealous; it can’t be explained any other way. The dishonesty and the obsession must be the fruits of tremendous jealousy.

Is there any truth in his suggestion that during your marriage to Mosley you suffered from appalling migraines which disappeared after his death?
It’s quite true that I did suffer from appalling migraines, but what I had was a brain tumour. It was operated on and removed, and I’m alive to tell the tale. Mercifully, it turned out to be benign, but it had been pressing on the nerve for years. However wicked Mosley may be considered by his rather dreadful son, I don’t think he could have given me a brain tumour.

With the imminent arrival of a united Europe, and apprehension about immigration and its troubles, you must feel that both your husband’s goal of an integrated Europe and his fears about widespread immigration have become part of mainstream politics. Do you feel that many of his views have been shown to be right?
I think his views were quite extraordinarily right. When you look back at what he wrote, you realize that he had amazing powers of seeing what might happen. It’s been a wonderful joy for me to see what’s happened in the last two years, to see the utter and complete failure of socialism and the reuniting of Germany, which is something I’d always known would happen but imagined might be long after my death. As to immigration, what happened in the 1950s was a great tragedy, and it still is. The proof is the number of laws which had to be made to force it down the throats of the unfortunate English, who really should have been asked, either in an election or in a referendum, whether they wished to be the hosts of an enormous population with a completely different culture from their own. They might have said yes, but I doubt it. Luckily there was a referendum for Europe and there was a large majority in favour. And every time the English try and put a spoke in the wheel of Europe, as Mrs Thatcher tried to do, I mind less and less, because as time goes on, if you have twelve countries and one of them is always the one that is bloody minded, it doesn’t really matter very much; the other elven have their way and the twelfth comes hobbling alone afterwards. Of course I should love to see Europe with England at the very heart of it, as Mr Major promised, but if we’re not to have that, we still have Europe. I’m a complete European. I love England, but I could be as happy living in Spain or Germany or Portugal or Italy as I am in France. The reason I live in France is that the house I’ve been in for so many years has so many memories, I don’t want to leave it.

You yourself have always had a very bad press. You said in an interview in The Times five years ago: ‘People think I’m a sort of gorgon.’ Do you think there has been a deliberate campaign of vilification or is it just the usual tabloid thirst for copy?
It’s fashionable to attack me and people follow the fashion. I can’t say I’ve minded very much or that I’ve done anything to stop it. I don’t get hurt in the least. I’m very thick skinned. I also feel very fortunate in that I have children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, not to mention a great many friends. The people I write to and receive letters from don’t attack me, so I don’t very much mind whether the papers do or not.

Have you ever had the same sort of hostile reaction in France that you have suffered for so long in England?
No. They’re not a bit interested in attacking private people. In fact they have a very good law which forbids interference in people’s lives, which is an absolute boon. Nobody has ever bothered me in the forty years I’ve been here.

Even an apparently innocuous activity such as appearing on Desert Island Discs can provoke an outcry after nearly fifty years. Can you in any way understand the strength of the public feeling against you?
I don’t think it’s public feeling; it’s really rather a small number of people. Apparently what happened was the BBC decided to broadcast the programme when it was Yom Kippur. I’m not sure when Yom Kippur is, but it’s something very important for Jewish people who immediately made a tremendous fuss and said they couldn’t listen to Mozart or Beethoven and Wagner at Yom Kippur. The poor old BBC had to think of another date, but the next one turned out to be the Jewish New Year or something quite important. Again there was a tremendous outcry so they had to put it off again. In the end I wrote to them and said that if it was an embarrassment, then they should cancel. But of course they didn’t want to.

Your beauty is legendary in its own time. Your looks astonish still and yet you are said to feel indifferent on the matter. Can this really be true?
I suppose I was quite glad not to be a monster, but people exaggerated quite a lot by pretending one was so beautiful.

But didn’t men fall for you all the time?
I don’t think they did. Men don’t ever fall for someone who doesn’t fall for them; that’s my opinion. Women usually make the first move if there’s going to be anything. In any case, there’s something much more important than beauty, and that is charm, which is something you can’t describe adequately. But there’s no doubt it’s far more powerful than just having big eyes.

You were friends of the Windsors in Paris and you even wrote a biography of the duchess. It is a very sympathetic account of a royal love story which is at odds with the widespread opinion that she behaved appallingly towards the duke who was in turn masochistic, and so on. Why did you want to paint such a romantic picture to the world? Were you really not aware of the negative side?
I was well aware of it in the sense that it is always being written about. But I tried to write what I knew about, what I’d actually seen. I just don’t go along with the idea that he was masochistic or that she was beastly to him, or any of those things at all. Perhaps I did bring out the nice side, but one thing is for sure, he absolutely loved her. The reason I wrote the book was not all because writing about royals is an amusing way of spending one’s life, but the Americans had gone really beyond everything in their unfairness. It seemed to me that somebody might perhaps try and put the record straight.

You have said that one thing you regret is not having been able to do more to help Mosley to achieve his aims.
I regret most being unbale to do anything towards his campaign for peace. From the beginning of the war until I was arrested I was either pregnant or nursing a tiny baby, so there was nothing I could do.

But, looking back now, do you regret anything else, or wish that things had been different?
Does it sound very smug to say no? When I have regrets in the stilly watches of the nights, it’s always been about having been unkind to somebody or not fair, but I suppose everyone has those sort of regrets. Otherwise in the big lines of my life I wouldn’t have changed anything. I would choose the same life again, and in fact it’s wonderful to be able to say that. It’s like Nietzsche’s idea of die ewige Wiederkehr.

Is there anything in life you’d still like to achieve?
Not for myself, but for the people I love. I long for everything to go right for them. Of course, everyone has to live life in his own way, and nobody knows that better than I do.


La Temple de la Gloire 91400 Orsay 19 January 1995

Dear Naim, Thank you for your Christmas card.
I’ve been meaning to write to you for months. When you asked me questions you said something like, Did it make a difference to you being beautiful? And I answered: No. Well, the answer wasn’t quite true, although I never considered myself particularly beautiful.
I am now punished for my lie. I have cancer in my nose, and in getting it well again the poor nose was not improved, and will never be the same again. Don’t worry about me, I’m quite well (though so deaf and old), and it was very lucky to get a marvellous surgeon.
But of course it did make a great difference to my life being considered beautiful, even though I didn’t much agree myself about it. Forgive this selfish letter. Just to say if you are ever in Paris do come down here, I should be so pleased.

With love,










Apples are back in the news. Not only do they gain prominence with the passage of time, they are now found to heal damage done to the lungs through smoking. They, together with tomatoes, are claimed to reverse the damage, a study suggests.

Many people in middle and old age smoked before the dangers became fully apparent and many face lung damage in their later years, even after quitting. However, an apple a day and preferably two tomatoes, appears to slow down the decline in lung function, which leads to irreversible lung disease. These foods could push back a diagnosis of emphysema or chronic bronchitis by years, suggests research by Imperial College and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in the US.

The results show a diet high in tomatoes can slow the rate of lung damage by four per cent in a decade because of the nutrients they contain. Lead author, Dr Vanessa Garcia-Larsen, from Johns Hopkins said: ‘This study shows that diet might help repair lung damage in people who have stopped smoking. It also suggests that a diet rich in fruit can slow down the lung’s natural ageing process even if you have never smoked. The findings support the need for dietary recommendations, especially for people at risk of developing respiratory diseases.’

Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals that can damage the lung’s natural defence system. These toxins create mucus, which block the lungs and weakens them as lung cells, forced to clean the toxins, are less able to control breathing efficiency. Tomatoes are thought to help because they are rich in vitamins such as lycopene which combat the effect of the toxins.

Researchers measured the lung functions of 680 smokers, ex-smokers and non-smokers. Among former smokers those who ate a lot of fruit produced the highest reading when asked to blow into a measuring device: the 10 year decline in their lung function showed by 4 per cent, for those who ate two or more tomatoes a day, compared to those who ate less than one. Lung decline fell by 2 per cent who ate at least 3 apples a day.

Dr Garcia Larsen said: ‘Lung function starts to decline at around age 30 at variable speed depending on the general and specific health of individuals. Our study suggests that eating more fruits on a regular basis can help reduce the decline as people age, and might even help damage caused by smoking. Once lung function falls below 70 per cent, someone is classed as having chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is a form of irreversible lung damage.’

The study published in the European Respiratory Journal suggests diets could help delay this diagnosis in former smokers. Tomatoes; apples; bananas; herbal tea and Vitamin C all significantly linked with an improvement in lung function.

For those who read my blog I recommend that they follow this pleasant diet to keep them fit in old age. Having reached the age of 86, I should know a thing or two of how to combat the elements of being old and how to bear them gracefully.

Anti-Depressants Are Surely Not the Answer

The more you read newspapers or watch serious television programmes, the more you are astounded at the knowledge you accumulate, most of which you find surprisingly unexpected.

Take for instance the latest discovery that Briton’s take nearly twice as many anti-depressants as our more excitable neighbours in Europe. Research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that the UK was now the fourth biggest consumer of anti-depressants with a rate that had nearly tripled in 2015 of 94.2 daily doses for every 1,000 people. That is up from 37.6 doses in 2000 when the UK was seventh on the global list. The new level is more than twice that taken by the French, Italians and Dutch.

Researchers said that the rise in use of drugs such as Prozac was seen in every wealthy nation as people were increasingly willing to ask for help dealing with mental illnesses, but the paper added there is significant variation in consumption of anti-depressants between countries. Ireland reports the highest level in 2015, twice the OECD average followed by Australia, Portugal and the UK.

James Davies, a mental health expert at the University of Roehampton said, ‘Waiting lists are very long for psychological therapies so doctors reach for the prescription pads instead.’

Professor Wendy Burn, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said, ‘Studies show that anti-depressants reduce suicidal feelings in the severely depressed. Rising anti-depressants prescription means more people are getting the help they need.’

Although anti-depressants might help some, I’m still rather disturbed by the number of people taking them. It’s a frightening process that can only escalate unless we find a more acceptable alternative.

A book to treasure

Annabel Gaskell, one of the editors of Shiny New Books wrote a review of Unaccompanied Minor, a book which Quartet published recently.


The book by Alexander Newley had already received very positive reviews from both the press and the public and is still going strong. But Annabel’s is totally different and more innovative than most. But first let’s begin at the beginning:

The children of celebrity couples inevitably have a hard time growing up, especially when their parents split. You need only think of the late Carrie Fisher, daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher as a prime example. Carrie was later canny and secure enough in her writing and performing – her stage-show Wishful Drinking was transformed into a book, followed by other volumes of memoir. We all felt for Carrie, sympathised with her and her health issues, yet we really needed to read all about those behind the scenes life with the stars too. Carrie milked it, and we loved her for it, and it grew to become about her rather than her parents.

Alexander Newley has a similar yet completely different tale to tell. The son of British superstars Joan Collins and the late Anthony Newley, he has become an artist, and has poured all his angst and insecurities into his paintings. Quartet, his publisher is to be congratulated on producing this superb volume: now he has written a memoir about his growing up, including more than twenty of his paintings and portraits in full colour and using quality stock throughout.

Before the book starts, Newley gives us a dramatis personae full of pithy one- or two-liners about everyone. Here is how she describes his mother and father (Newley’s capitals):

‘ANTHONY NEWLEY: Holey Father. Artful Reality Dodger. Cockney Colossus of Stage and Screen. Unflagging Lover of Women. Unsurpassable Source of Paternal Warmth (when he was there). JOAN COLLINS: UnVirginal Mother. Stargazer/Starlet/Star. Dynastic Diva. Conspicuous Absence. Tense Presence.’ 

After a short prologue in which Newley blames his fractured childhood on an ‘ogre called Show Business’, his life story begins with the family’s arrival in Hollywood in 1965. Alexander was just six months old, his sister Tara was two. Newley père had decided that Hollywood was where it was at, no more Broadway musicals, he wanted to make films. Joan, now in her thirties, had been there before as a starlet in the 1950s – now she was to play wife and mother.

Newley shows this in his painting ‘Self-Portrait with Happy Family’ (below right), and as in common with many of the self-portraits in this book, he paints himself as he is now, observing him as he was then. The picture is based on a photo he found but was troubled by – he couldn’t recognise the relationship it portrayed between his doting parents.

Doctor Doolittle came his father’s way and when Anthony comes home, he takes Alexander and Tara to the toy store.

‘At home we open the toys Daddy’s bought us and study the instructions. He takes the directions from us and dramatically throws them away, then starts building intuitively, making the thing through trial and error, which is far more thrilling for us. This is the way of Art, which I inherited from him: the way I endeavour to do everything in life. Without signposts – my way – for good and for ill.’ 

Anthony Newley struggled to find movie roles, however; his stage persona, full of grand gestures, was too much for film. So he devised his own project, hoping to replicate the success of his autobiographical stage show Stop the World I Want to Get Off but sexier, it being the permissive late 1960s. The film’s awful title was Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?  It co-starred Joan Collins as Polyester Poontang, but was a flop – and it finally broke Newley and Collins’ relationship. Both Alexander and Tara also had small roles in this X-rated film.

‘If I had been old enough to grasp what was happening, I might have asked my father what he thought he was doing, exposing his kids to all this filth. As it was, I was just a three-year-old witness for the prosecution, conveniently mute.’


                                         Self-Portrait with Happy Family by Alexander Newley

This marked the beginning of a peripatetic lifestyle for Alexander and Tara, shuttling between mother and father. They moved back to London with living with Joan and her new man Ron Kass, who was a ‘non-event’ as a stepfather. They only bonded over Ron’s Maserati. This period is when ‘Fat Sue’ comes into the picture – a giant of a woman, who bullied the kids with her own contorted brand of tough love. Eventually, Sue was gone, and, unable to cope with Joan, Alexander decides to return to the States to live with his father and Cathy, Anthony’s girlfriend. It’s from this period that the book’s title comes, as Alexander jets across the Atlantic between parents as an ‘unaccompanied minor’.

This marked the beginning of a peripatetic lifestyle for Alexander and Tara, shuttling between mother and father. They moved back to London with living with Joan and her new man Ron Kass, who was a ‘non-event’ as a stepfather. They only bonded over Ron’s Maserati. This period is when ‘Fat Sue’ comes into the picture – a giant of a woman, who bullied the kids with her own contorted brand of tough love. Eventually, Sue was gone, and, unable to cope with Joan, Alexander decides to return to the States to live with his father and Cathy, Anthony’s girlfriend. It’s from this period that the book’s title comes, as Alexander jets across the Atlantic between parents as an ‘unaccompanied minor’.

Anthony and Joan were both full to the brim with insecurities, which came out in different ways. Anthony was ever the tortured obsessive genius, eternally child-like, searching for that elusive success and meaning of life. Joan, instead, hid her vulnerability behind armour which effectively shielded Alexander out too. He says, ‘The little boy has never forgiven Tinseltown for toying with his mother’s heart.’

Since the book’s publication, there has been a rather public row about things Alexander allegedly said about Anthony’s sex-life during the Hieronymous Merkin period in the newspapers, which upset Joan. I gather they are now reconciled, and that the interviewer in question had twisted Alexander’s words.

This is a brutally honest memoir of an artist trying to come to terms with, and make sense of, his growing up. It was fascinating to view the 1960s and 1970s, the excesses, the glamour, the highs but also all the lows, through an artist’s eye, but written with a sense humour too.

As his publisher I am delighted to include this remarkable review in my blog, hoping that my readers will rush to the shops and arm themselves, so to speak, with this honest and astonishing book written from the heart for people who care.


No Longer With Us


Julian Amery was born in 1919 – 1996 and educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford. He was a war correspondent in Spain during the last part of the Spanish Civil War. He joined the RAF and served as sergeant from 1940-1 after which he transferred to the army and fought in the Middle East, Malta and Yugoslavia. In 1941 he organized the first military missions to the Yugoslavian Resistance Movement and in 1944 was wounded in Albania when leading a force of escaped Russian prisoners. His brother John, who made pro-Hitler broadcasts from Berlin, was later tried for high treason and hanged in London in 1945. In 1950, Julian Amery married Catherine, daughter of Sir Harold Macmillan, and in the same year he was elected MP for Preston North. He was defeated in 1966 but was elected for Brighton at a by-election in 1969. As minister of Aviation he was responsible for signing the agreement with the French government on the Concorde project.


You grew up in a family which was as much a part of the Establishment as any could be. Has that ever worked to your disadvantage, do you think?

It worked both ways, though I don’t agree that my family was so very much part of the Establishment. My father was a fellow of All Souls, but he didn’t have money or any particular family connections. He got on to The Times and later became a leader writer and a supporter of Joseph Chamberlain in the tariff reform campaign, but that hardly puts him in the Establishment class. Perhaps at the end of it all he had graduated into it.

But you went to Eton, did you not?

Yes, of course. That was not a difficult thing to do, however, and it hardly makes me part of the Establishment.

Was your father the most influential figure in your life?

Certainly. He always treated me as an adult and would talk to me about economics when I could hardly understand it. I grew up imbibing the atmosphere of politics and I met Churchill and other leading figures when I was seventeen or eighteen. It was part of the air I breathed. And later in the early part of the war when I was catapulted into the whole morass of Balkan intrigue, we had the shared experience of political interest in that part of the world. This made a great difference and established a partnership between us which otherwise might have been difficult to achieve.

Most children seem to have a period of rebellion, quite often when they are students. They become Marxists for a while or hopelessly idealistic about the world. Did you ever waver from the Tory traditions in which you were reared?

Yes, indeed. My youthful political career was not exactly straightforward, and not all that Tory. When I was eleven years old my father took me to the House of Commons where I met Lloyd George who asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I told him I wanted to go into the navy. ‘Why the navy?’ he asked ‘There are much greater storms in politics, you know. If you really want the broadsides, walking the plank and blood on the deck, this is the place.’ The scales fell from my eyes, and his comparison of modern parliamentary life to Treasure Island made me opt for politics. My father was of course delighted, but I kept in touch with Lloyd George, and whenever we had mock elections in my school I was always a liberal candidate. Then I examined Communism and Fascism and it was only when I went to Oxford that I opted for the Conservative party, though I also joined the Labour and the Liberal clubs so as to be able to go to their meetings.

Some people have suggested that the driving force of your ambition may have been a determination to honour a well-loved father’s memory. Do you see it that way?

I certainly inherited my father’s views on the Commonwealth and the importance of Britain as the centre of the Commonwealth and a leading power in Europe, and all my life I was greatly influenced by his thinking. The year after he died I fought what I thought was the last great battle of the Commonwealth, the battle over Suez. When we gave in at Suez it was really the end of the Middle Eastern and African empire which Britain had built up over many decades. I was very sad at that, and it seemed to me then that our only chance of playing an important role in history was within Europe; and so while I did my best to defend what was left of the Imperial position, in Cyprus, in Aden and elsewhere, Europe has become increasingly the important area for British influence to exert itself. I see no other.

At the Oxford Union you spoke in favour of conscription which reversed the notorious ‘We will not fight for King and Country’ motion of some years previously. Did your conviction spring from the mood of the time or was it ingrained in your background?

It had been ingrained. My colleague in the debate was Randolph Churchill, who had by that time become a friend. It was the first of several campaigns that we fought together. When I left the debate, I went at once and joined the Royal Air Force reserve.

You had what people would call a good war, risking your life many times in undercover operations. How do you look back on these years … with pride, nostalgia, perhaps with incredulity?

I have to confess, with enjoyment. There were of course moments of danger, moments of discomfort, but if you look at the whole spectrum of that sort of life it was pretty agreeable. Sometimes there were three or four days without anything to eat at all, then there would be a roast sheep. And then there were the times when we were sitting around in Cairo waiting for the next assignment, where all the delights of the flesh were available. Denis Healey once said I was nostalgic for the life of Richard Hannay in the Buchan novels. I don’t think that’s true, but I did enjoy those days.

Didn’t you work for the Secret Service?

There were always two secret services, intelligence and operations. I was in operations. My role was always to do things, to blow up trains or bridges, or to shoot convoys. One of our more dramatic coups was when the Bulgarian government wanted to arrest, and perhaps to kill, the leader of the peasant party. I supervised the arrangements which brought him out of Bulgaria in a diplomatic bag. He was transported to Istanbul where we unpacked him and released him for his future activities.

Were you ever a spy?

The word is of course derogatory, and a spy is someone who learns or acquires information. If the spying side involves itself in operations it loses its security.

Apparently you made the suggestion to Churchill that he visit his weary troops in the desert, and as a result you are sometimes dubbed ‘The Victor of Alamein’. Do you think that visit had a significant impact on the outcome of war?

Who shall ever say? What happened was this: I was flown back from Cairo to London to report on our plans, and when I came to my father’s house, I found him lunching with Harold Macmillan, then a junior minister. They asked me what the mood of the troops was and I told them I thought the 8th Army was rather demoralized. When they asked what could be done, I told them that it would be difficult to change the balance of forces, but the balance of morale could conceivably be altered by Churchill visiting the troops himself. I then went on to the SOE headquarters where I received a telephone call summoning me to Downing Street. When I arrived, there was the Prime Minister in a boiler suit with a rather weak whisky and soda in front of him. Alanbrooke, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, was also there, and the PM asked me to tell my story. Of course the Field Marshal didn’t like the idea of a junior captain, not even in a regiment, criticizing the morale of the army and he kept trying to interrupt, but Churchill said, ‘Let him talk.’ I told him if he went out and talked to the troops it would have a dynamic effect on morale. When I left Churchill thanked me, but I heard nothing for a while. Later of course he did go, and it was his private secretary, John Martin, who said to me afterwards that my talk had inspired Churchill with the idea, so to that extent I could claim to have won the battle of Alamein.

You were a war correspondent during the Spanish Civil War. Did you have any sympathy with the Republicans?

I went three times to Franco’s Spain. The first time was in the spring of 1937, and I came away rather pro-Franco. I went again in the summer of the same year when I met Philby, who was then The Times correspondent, and very pro-Franco, rather more than I was myself. Then in a hotel bar I ran into a German colonel of my acquaintance who was fighting on Franco’s side. We had a drink together and, referring to the Munich agreement, he said, ‘I think we’ve got the better of you this time.’ That was the moment I understood that the Germans and the Italians were about to fight against us, and this changed my whole attitude. The Germans and the Italians were using Spain to advance their control of Europe at our expense, and once I realized that, there followed a kind of Pauline conversion. I came back to England determined to see what I could do to oppose it.

You mentioned Philby. Did it ever occur to you that he could be a Communist spy?

No, I met him once during the war and once after the war, and he appeared on both occasions to be a rather right-wing Conservative.

In 1950 you married Harold Macmillan’s daughter. In political terms I imagine this was a mixed blessing in that there were the inevitable cries of nepotism and an element of resentment that you had a direct line to the Prime Minister. Was that difficult to deal with?

I would want to get the story in perspective. Macmillan was then not even in office, and when he did get into office it was as Minister of Housing, so he wasn’t at all a senior figure. I’d also known him before because his son Maurice was one of my closest friends at school, and I had often been to their house. But there were many steps between him and the premiership. I liked Harold but my affection for his daughter was entirely personal.

Macmillan aroused very different opinions, both as a man and as a politician. Some people thought him devious, a charlatan and ultimately a very cold man. In so far as you could stand back from family ties, how did you view him?

Every Prime Minister has to be to some extent devious and cold; he has to sacrifice people. If you’re at No. 10 Downing Street you have to keep the Party together, the Cabinet together, you have to drive through the policies to which you’re committed. And Macmillan served all these well. He was enthusiastic for Europe, though it took him a long time to get the Cabinet and House of Commons to accept his proposal to join Europe, and then he was defeated by De Gaulle. He was always determined to maintain Britain as a nuclear power which now everybody accepts, even the Labour Party; but it wasn’t accepted in those days, and he fought a good battle. As Chancellor of the Exchequer he gave in too soon to American pressure over Suez – I don’t want to say he lost his nerve, but he became frightened by the run on sterling. He then made it his first objective to repair relations with the Americans, which he did. And we have to remember that inflation in his time never topped three per cent.

And yet people call him the father of inflation.

There’s a lot of nonsense talked now about the Macmillan government and its effect on the economy, but in the light of the circumstances of the time he was doing just about the right thing.

But how would you rate him as a Prime Minister?

I wouldn’t put him in the Churchill or perhaps even the Disraeli class, but I think he held his Party together, he held the country together and he was vindicated at successive elections. He was a very remarkable political operator.

When I interviewed Mollie Butler there was no doubt in her mind that Macmillan was determined from the first day of his leadership to the last never to be succeeded by Butler, even though Butler was the obvious candidate. Do you think that’s true?

Yes. He thought of Butler as an extremely able, intelligent political leader, but he didn’t regard him as a commander-in-chief. I don’t think it was jealousy – in fact he had very good personal relations with Butler.

Most people believe that Macmillan rigged the results of the investigation into whom the Party wanted as his successor, and Enoch Powell even wrote an article entitled ‘How Macmillan Lied to the Queen’. What view did you take at the time and what view do you take now?

I don’t think he rigged the election. What happened was fairly simple: the Lord Chancellor and Chief Whip consulted members of the Party as to whom they would like as leader. There was a strong vote for Quintin Hailsham and a strong vote for Butler. We were all asked, myself included, whom we would chose if we couldn’t get the candidate we favoured, and there was a very large vote in favour of Alec Home. The Prime Minister had no choice but to tell the Queen that the Party was divided between Hailsham and Butler, but there would be a consensus for Sir Alec Home; and so Home got it. I don’t call that rigging it.

Why do you think Enoch Powell in particular opposed Alec Home?

The official reason was that he didn’t think a fourteenth earl had the right image for the modern Tory Party, but I think it was really that he wanted Butler to succeed. He thought that if the leadership of the Party refused to accept Alec Home then Butler would have it, but when the time came Butler wasn’t prepared to throw his hat in the ring.

That Butler was prepared to serve under Home was commendable in itself, was it not?

It was a matter of political morals.

What did you think of Enoch Powell at the time? I believe you have described him as something of a werewolf.

He was always a friend of mine, I always liked him, but he does have some of the characteristics of a strange creature.

Butler is often referred to as the greatest Prime Minister we never had and indeed people often say you are the greatest Foreign Secretary we never had. Do you think these labels are ones which emerge only when we have events in some kind of historical perspective, or is it the case that you felt at the time you were being passed over?

Let’s take Rab Butler first. I think if elected he would have been a great Prime Minister; what I’m not sure about is whether he could ever have been elected by the people. Of course he was an able man, but he lacked charisma and I don’t think he was a natural leader, though he was a great chief- of- staff. In my own case, the only comment I would make is that there is a difference, not always appreciated, between diplomacy and foreign policy. Diplomacy is the art of negotiation; foreign policy is determining where the interests of your country lie. Looking back on the years between the wars I have a clearer view of where the interests of our country lie. Looking back on the years between the wars I had a clearer view of where the interests of our country lay and would have fought for those rather than attempted negotiation. Anthony Eden, who was perhaps the greatest negotiator we ever had, fought very hard over Vietnam, where there was no great British interest, yet he surrendered in what I thought was an area of vital interest, in the Suez Canal Zone in 1954. This effectively meant the end of the Commonwealth as a world force, and a major defeat for Europe, and for British influence in Europe. Later on there was the Rhodesian crisis where again Lord Carrington achieved a great success in producing agreement between the different sides, but in my view at the expense of vital British interests in South Africa. So I have sometimes said that we have to be careful not to let diplomacy triumph over foreign policy; I would have put the latter ahead of the former.

Don’t you think the loss of the Commonwealth, or the loss of the empire, was only a matter of time?

Not necessarily. It might well have survived. The resilience of the old Commonwealth was quite remarkable – in 1931 when we went off gold, in 1940 when we went into the war, in 1945 when we came out of the war – and with a little encouragement we could have kept the system going for quite a long time, perhaps indefinitely.

Would it be fair to say that your views are right-wing as opposed to middle-of-the-road?

I never know what people mean by right-wing. My views on domestic policy have been rather centre, some might say slightly wet. Where foreign policy is concerned I’ve always taken the Churchillian view that you first of all identify the enemy, and having made up your mind where lies the threat, who is the enemy, you must stand up against them and take whatever precautions are needed to counter them. I’ve always thought it right to defend British interests and to take a fairly long-term view of what they are.

When Alec Douglas Home became Prime Minister your position became increasingly difficult and there was a move to oust you from government. Do you look back on that period as being particularly difficult?

Unpleasant … but these things happen. I was perceived as an extravagant minister, with Concorde, TSR2 and space projects, and people were beginning to say we must cut back on public expenditure.

Do you think they were justified in trying to remove you?

No, I think I was right. Concorde has been a great technological success. It may not have been a moneyspinner but it’s been our little space programme and it hasn’t lost any more money than space has lost to the Americans and Russians. And the TSR2 and the P1154 would have been remarkable aircraft – they haven’t found anything better twenty years later.

I suppose you came close to becoming Foreign Secretary when Lord Carrington resigned over the Falklands. Were you disappointed not to have been chosen?

I don’t think politicians should be disappointed. But it was perfectly true, there was a strong movement from the Tory backbenches to make me Foreign Secretary at the time, and I would have enjoyed the opportunity.

Your career was badly damaged during your time at the Ministry of Aviation in the last days of the Tory government – I’m thinking of the Ferranti business. How serious was the damage in your view?

Not very serious. I think I overcame that. The Ferranti family were prepared to cough up the money which we thought they had unduly gained. They repaid the debt, perhaps even more than they should have done.

Before 1962 your career was extremely promising, and you were tipped as a possible Minister of Defence. Are you philosophical about the volatility of political life?

You have to be, otherwise you couldn’t go on in politics. I’ve never been very keen on securing a particular job; it’s been much more important to achieve certain policies and objectives. There’s no point in being embittered.

You were Aviation Minister when Profumo ran the War Office. What view did you take of the Profumo scandal?

I supported him as far as I could. He was a friend, he’s remained a friend, and I thought he was not really as important as the media made out.

The official reason why Profumo had to go was that he lied to the House of Commons, but of course the real reason was his involvement with a prostitute. Isn’t that the ultimate in British hypocrisy?

I think they could have tolerated the involvement with the prostitute; the real reason was that he was led into a situation where he told a lie to the House, and this was an indefensible position to be in. Had he not lied to the House, and had simply admitted to the affair, he might still have had to resign but would have remained in the House of Commons, and continued to claim the viscountcy which was the right of any Secretary of State in those days.

The number of scandals involving MPs has increased over the years, or at least the diligence with which the media expose the scandals has increased. Do you think the private lives of MPs are a legitimate area of public interest?

In principle no, but of course if an MP or a minister gets himself into a flagrant position it’s bound to be discussed.

Discussed is one thing, but hounded out of office is another.

Where do you draw the line between the two? None of this is new … it went on in the last century, and it goes on today. I think the public will accept a good deal, and any incidental action on the part of a politician does not necessarily render him incompetent; on the other hand, a man who gives a lead in not only political but moral affairs, obviously can become a little ridiculous if he’s caught in the wrong situation. Before the Second World War, the rule was that if the wife didn’t complain the press had no right to complain, but in those days a divorce was a clear block to continuing in political life. That convention has now disappeared; indeed it’s sometimes said that you can’t get into the Cabinet unless you’re divorced. But the balance has not changed very much; things go on very much now as they did before.

Thirty years ago you signed the Concorde deal with the French. Was that your proudest moment?

No. I suppose my proudest moment was when Nasser proved me right about the Suez Canal, and I was able to say in the House of Commons. Much more politely than I’m saying it now, ‘I told you so.’

You seem always to have had a thinly disguised suspicion of America and the Americans. Even in the 1960s when the cold war with Russia was at its height, you said you were more alarmed by the Americans than the Russians … what was the origin of this alarm and suspicion?

Objective historians recognize that it was the aim of the American foreign policy to destroy the British, French and Dutch empires. I myself became aware of this during the Second World War when I was attached to Chiang Kai Shek’s headquarters in China. It became quite clear that although American policy was well aligned with our own in Europe and the Middle East, it was quite plainly anti-British, anti-French and anti-Dutch in the Far East. And Suez was the touchstone, Suez was the coup de grace.

So you don’t believe in the so-called ‘special relationship’ between Britain and America?

On the contrary, but it doesn’t alter the fact that there was an American policy to destroy the British Empire; and it succeeded.

Do you have difficulty in accepting the view that without the Americans we would not have won the Second World War?

I don’t see how we could have won without the Americans. I remember a curious occasion – January ’41 I think it was – when I was invited to a little dinner party where Churchill and Harriman were the principal guests and the talk came round to how the British were going to win the war. There were still oranges on the table, though they became rarer as the war went on, and Churchill picked one up and said, ‘If I were a worm wanting to get into this orange I would crawl round it until I found a rotten spot.’ He then turned to Harriman and said, ‘But you’ve got to keep the worm alive until it finds the rotten spot.’ Without the Americans I don’t think we could have won the war, but we’d already got to the point where we weren’t going to lose the war.

Did you yourself ever have any doubts about that?

At the time when Rommel came to Alamein, I think my heart never doubted, but my head may have wondered a bit.

Your own patriotism during the war must have made your brother’s behaviour all the harder to bear. I wonder how you think it was possible for two brothers born of the same parents and brought up in the same environment to have turned out so differently. You must have asked yourself this a million times – what is the answer?

Although you talk about the same environment, he had in fact lived on the Continent for several years, and that made all the difference. He’d been involved in the Spanish War, and then came very much under the influence of Doriot in France. He was convinced the Germans were going to lose the war and that the Communists would sweep over the whole of Europe. This was a view that became increasingly prominent in the occupied countries. Of course it was not for him to intervene, and he was able to do so only because of my father’s standing. He should have kept him mouth shut, but he felt he had to say something. It was regrettable but understandable.

It is difficult to imagine the depths of disappointment, the shame, the anger which must have been wrought on the family at the time, feelings which must have been made worse by the heightened tension of the war. How did you all cope? Did you talk about it, or was it suppressed?

It wasn’t suppressed. My father offered his resignation and I offered mine; we were both quite clear that it was the right thing to do, but we were both refused.

Did your father ever manage to come to terms with what happened?

Yes. He came with me to say goodbye to my brother in prison and indeed he wrote a short verse in the taxi which took us there, and I think it sums up his feelings: ‘At end of wayward days/You found a cause/If not your country’s./Who shall say whether that betrayal of our ancient laws/Was treason or foreknowledge?/He rests well.’

In the course of my research I was struck by the fact that although you said you might have killed your brother with your bare hands if you had met him during the war, after you saw him in prison your feelings changed. Compassion took the place of anger, blood was thicker than water perhaps?

I think that is about true. Also, if I had seen him during fighting he would have been with Hitler and I would have been fighting against Hitler, but when I saw him in prison the war was over and the Russians were dominating half of Europe.

Did your brother’s plea of guilty come as a shock especially after all your efforts on his behalf?

No, I think it was a logical act.

Albert Pierrepoint, the famous hangman, said that of all the people he executed your brother was by far the bravest. Did that make the pain all the harder to bear?

No, I think it was appropriate. He was an Amery.

As an MP you have consistently voted against capital punishment. Is that shaped directly from your personal experience?

It has been influenced by it. Within our legal system when someone is charged for a potentially capital offence there is a considerable delay while the lawyers prepare their case, then there’s the trail, the appeal, and even when that is rejected there is the appeal for mercy. All this takes a long time and it exacts its toll on all concerned, especially the family, quite apart from the person charged.

You were a vociferous opponent of the Official Secrets Act and were against the lifelong confidentiality imposed on former members of security and intelligence services. Why was that?

There used to be a very flexible arrangement under which former secret agents could publish their memoirs if they had first of all submitted them to the proper authorities. This was a very good system and it should be allowed to continue, because it is right that people who spend their whole lives in the Secret Service should be able to explain to their family and friends what they’ve been doing, provided it doesn’t endanger future operations. It is wrong to have a blanket veto on anybody writing anything, even about what they saw of butterflies in Anatolia. I produced what I thought was a rather good amendment which was accepted by the Home secretary of the day. But he then went back on it – orders from No. 10.

Do you think Mrs Thatcher made herself and her government look foolish over the Peter Wright memoirs?

Yes. She was his best publicist.

In a BBC interview with Robin Day in 1979, just after the Commons debate on Anthony Blunt, you remarked that there were a dozen traitors in the House of Commons, a remark which you later – under pressure – unreservedly withdrew. Why did you make that remark in the first place, and why did you then feel bound to withdraw it?

I was not in a position to prove that the members concerned had been bought by the enemy; I could only have attempted to prove that objectively they were siding with the enemy. Mr Speaker asked me to withdraw my remark, otherwise there would have been a long and complicated debate. And so I withdrew.


You had great doubts about American foreign policy, especially in South East Asia and in the Middle East. Did you therefore have doubts about the Iraqi war and the reasons, largely dominated by America, for going to war?

I had no doubt about the American decision to go into the war. I still have the greatest doubts about their decision to stop. In Churchill’s famous words: ‘I don’t know whether I would have dared to start; I would never have dared to stop.’

You once said of Mrs Thatcher: ‘Her aims have usually been defensible, but her methods deplorable.’ What did you mean by that?

I don’t remember ever saying that, though I remember seeing it in print. I’ve always had great respect and considerable admiration for her. We didn’t always agree about Europe, but she made a great Prime Minister.

You have crossed swords with Ted Heath in the past over oil sanctions and he sacked you from the opposition front bench, and yet on other matters you have been closely aligned. Am I right in thinking you have high regard for Ted Heath?

We’ve known each other since student days at Balliol. I’ve always liked him, and I am a strong supporter of the European Union, though I think he goes sometimes too far in that regard. I thought he was wrong about Rhodesia, and wrong about the Suez Crisis when he was Chief Whip, but we have a good relationship.

And was he wrong about Mrs Thatcher?

Well, that was his opinion.

You’re very diplomatic. It has often been said that personal loyalty is one of your best attributes. Do you regard loyalty as a necessary political virtue?

Personal relations play a much greater part in politics than is generally understood, and loyalty to friends at home and abroad is of great importance. Sometimes necessity makes you change friends, but if you have to change friends you should always take steps to ensure that it is done with proper decency and decorum.

The Tories at the moment seem riven with disloyalty … but isn’t that ultimately a more honest approach than the normal closing of ranks in political parties?

I’m not a great believer in open government, and I confess I’m rather shocked by the speed with which friends of mine publish their memoirs. They bare all sorts of secrets which would have been thought very indecent until quite recently.

Politics can sometimes be a dirty business. Have you ever felt a distaste or at least an ambivalence towards the political life?

No. If you go into the business you should be prepared to get your hands dirty.

As a politician you concentrated your energies on the wider issues of national importance – some said at the expense of your own constituency and the local interests of your own people. Do you think that is a valid criticism?

Not really. I managed to retain the wholehearted support of both my constituencies, in Lancashire and in Brighton. But I’ve always thought that the fate of more people is determined by what goes on abroad than by what goes on at home. Whether with the old imperial connection or the modern European connection, or issues of peace and war, or issues of export and import, the British people are terribly dependent on what goes on in the world.

What would you describe as your greatest failing?

Perhaps it was to take up positions that were not popular at the time – I’m thinking of my support for Britain’s imperial and Commonwealth role when it was unfashionable (though probably right), and my tendency to make realistic judgements in foreign affairs when these were thought rather reactionary. I’ve usually been a little out of phase with the mood of the time.

If you were to relive your political life, would you do it differently?

I don’t think so, I might have made greater efforts to soften some of the things I said, and I might have tried to sell my views rather more plausibly to audiences who didn’t want to hear the truth; but I would still have taken the same line.

Do you think you will be vindicated by history in all the causes you have chosen to champion?

All is saying a lot, but I’ve already been vindicated to a very large extent in many of them. The chaos that has overtaken Africa as a result of a premature decolonization speaks for itself; the successive Arab-Israeli wars came about directly as a result of Britain’s withdrawal from the Suez Canal Zone; and the anxieties I expressed about Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, alas, were proved to be well-founded.

You were an advisor to BCCI. Wasn’t that a major embarrassment to you in view of what happened?

No, because I was merely a consultant. I was only ever asked for my judgement on the political climate, the validity of investing in Africa or Europe. I was never involved in the banking or the finance, nor would I have been capable of helping in that way; they simply wanted political advice, which I was happy to give them at the invitation of the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi, who was a good friend of this country and a friend of mine.

But you didn’t suspect anything at all? Weren’t you taken in?

I was never anywhere near their books. I had no idea what they were doing. I certainly don’t think I was taken in.

You began life with many advantages: financial independence, public schooling, intellect, powerful connections. You still live in the house in Eton Square in which you were born. Do you ever think that these factors have effectively removed you from the lives of the vast majority of people in this country?

No. Don’t forget I was for eighteen years Member of Parliament for Preston in Lancashire, a very marginal constituency, and in order to keep the seat I had to see very much how everybody else lived. I never felt out of touch.

How did you cope with the death of your wife, your companion for forty years?

Of course it was a terrible blow, I can’t conceal that, though up to a point I was prepared because she had been ill for a couple of years.

Do you ever think you might see her again in another life?

I don’t know. These are mysteries which are not unveiled to me.

Were women very important in your life?

The whole problem is this: Which is more difficult? To have to do with women or to do without them?

And what is your answer?

It is a dilemma. Further disclosures will await my memoirs.

Though you have had a very distinguished career in politics, many have remarked that it is so much less than you should have had. You give no outward sign of being disappointed. Does that reflect your inner feelings also?

What is the use of being disappointed? In life one learns that the prizes don’t always go to the ablest or to the ones who were right; they go to people who are better connected, or have the ear of the powers that be. It’s stupid to be disappointed.



I noticed copies of one of Quartet’s photographic books, long out of print, in the window of a boutique shop just off Kensington High Street. I was intrigued to see the shop was called the same name as the book’s photographer – Richard Young. Alas, we have no copies left, but his shop does.

By Invitation Only, was a softcover book in which Richard Young’s lens and Christopher Wilson’s pen recorded the famous, the glamorous, the ambitious, the tasteless and the shallow as they socially revered, engineered and mountaineered their way amid the party set of the day. In its pages could be found the chic and cheerful of café society hard at their occupation. The tools of their trade were a champagne glass and a black bow tie; their place of work could be anywhere within the gilded environs of Mayfair. Their only task was to have fun; their only ambition was to come by as many different pasteboard passports to pleasure as possible – each one engraved ‘By Invitation Only’.

The cover of the book featured a dazed looking Lord Montagu clutching a glass with hands and a cigar between his fingers. The illustration on the back cover showed the legendary Peter Langan in a total state of inebriation face down on the floor of his own restaurant. Appropriately enough it was at the restaurant that the book launch was held. On the night, a party for two hundred and fifty people turned into a bash for five hundred of London’s most diligent freeloaders.

The book’s cover blurb said it all: ‘… such is the paradox of café society that many of its components who appear in these pages would, on the whole, prefer to be absent. Many others who have been excluded would prefer to be included in. It must be made clear that some of the more arcane practices described herein apply to the latter grouping and not the former.’

Exercise has its Benefits

Type 2 diabetes is not easy to control, especially for people who do not exercise as often as they should do and spend long periods of time sitting down at their desk. Alas, I who suffer from this disease find it rather difficult to walk as my legs are not as strong and agile as they once were.

New research suggests that dieting and regular exercise can be more effective at controlling type 2 diabetes than medication. Patients who take part in weight loss programmes are less likely to need drugs and tend to have healthy blood sugar levels, a study has found.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow tracked 1,500 type 2 diabetes patients who attended an NHS lifestyle course and compared them to those who did not. They found that people who completed the sixteen-week regime showed no increase in the diabetes pills they had to take. There were also as likely to see their condition progress to the extent that they needed to take insulin.

Patients who completed the course lost an average of 1.25 stone in the three years after they finished – compared to just two pounds among those who did not. Diabetes sufferers who lost at least eleven pounds also had a significant reaction in their blood sugar levels in the following three years.

The authors wrote, ‘a real life structural weight management intervention can reduce weight in the medium term, resulting in improved glycaemic control with fewer medications and it may be more effective than pharmacological alternatives.’

The course involved ninety-minute classes every fortnight for four months, in which patients were given exercise advice and told to follow a diet of 1,400 calories a day for woman and 1,900 a day for men. They also underwent cognitive behavioural therapy to help them lose weight.

Study leader Dr Jennifer Logue, from the University of Glasgow, said, ‘This is the first real world study to show that the lifestyle weight management programmes we deliver in the NHS can have a long lasting, meaningful clinical effect.’

A landmark paper last month showed how a three-month crash diet of soups and shakes, totalling no more than 800 calories a day, can not only control type 2 diabetes but reverse it. But the latest study, published in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, shows a much more achievable course which can control diabetes often more effectively than drugs.

Type 2 diabetes patient Ian Armstrong, 71, from Eaglesham, East Renfrewshire, dropped nearly three stone from seventeen stone after completing the course, and was able to stop his insulin. He said, ‘Contact with the Glasgow and Clyde Weight Management Service has given me the best health I’ve ever had, to help me have a longer and healthier life – a true life-saving experience.’

Type 2 diabetes is a serious disease unless you control it. I try my best food-wise but I find that exercise is now necessary once you get older. 2018 will certainly be my exercise year; whether or not I succeed, it’s worth a try.


The hazards of living in London

London, the great metropolis, is going through a crisis. A slowing market and pollution, as well as a burgeoning standard of living are driving homeowners in wealthy areas to swap the city for commuter belts. On top of it all, we have a rickety administration determined to stay in power at all costs in defiance of a future riven by political uncertainty and a world that seems to have lost standards of behaviour, the likes of which we have seldom seen before.

Given all this mishmash, record numbers of homeowners in select areas of London are selling up to quit the capital as price growth slows, a new report revealed recently.

Last year, 42% of people who sold in London bought outside the capital, whereas in 2013 the figure was just 33% according to the comprehensive analysis of sales in affluent areas by LonRes Data Service and Hamptons Estate Agents.

Uncertainty over the past ten years has created ‘a huge, bent-up bulge of people who would have moved out of London but haven’t,’ said James Greenwood of Stacks Property Search, a buying agency. ‘We’ve had the financial crisis, a hung parliament, Brexit and Trump… People are saying, “Let’s just get on with it”.’

In fact, to my own way of thinking, they have given up – what we are seeing today makes no sense whatsoever. People are confused, they have lost confident in their leaders, and have given up caring of what goes on.

Marcus Dixon, head of research at LonRes, added, ‘In 2014, the gap between prices in London and elsewhere peaked. As it has narrowed, London sellers have taken an opportunity to cash in on previous gains.’

Overall almost half (48%) of the 2,000 householders who left prime London areas last year moved to the commuter belt in the southeast of England, followed by the east of England (23%). While many kept some of the profit from their sales by buying a cheaper home, about one third spent more on their new property.

‘We’ve been thinking about selling for four years,’ said Vicki Mirta, 39, who is about to move to a £1.6 million Buckinghamshire barn conversion three times bigger than her £1.26 million home in Maida Vale, northwest London. Her husband, Rana, 40, a digital strategy manager, was ‘horrified’ at the effect of the air pollution from Marylebone flyover on their sons Harrison, 6, and Daniel, 4. ‘Now I’ll be able to watch them from the kitchen as they climb trees,’ Vicki said.

Belinda Aspinall, founder of the website said members of her forum for London leavers increasingly cite pollution as a reason to go. ‘For many, London just feels expensive and crammed full. There is supposed to be a rush hour but in the words of a taxi driver, “They are like ants all day and all night. There are just so many people everywhere”.’

LonRes and Hamptons found that most prime London leavers headed to towns or suburbs (51%) rather than the country (38%). The other 11% went to cities – almost double the figure in 2010.

In August, Betty and Andrew Towler moved with their daughter Georgia, 2, from Wandsworth to Pewsey in Wiltshire. They traded a three bedroom terrace for a five bedroom Georgian house bought via Carter Jonas for ‘pretty much the same money,’ said Betty, 43, an interior designer. She works from home while Andrew, 53, a property consultant, commutes to London three days a week.

‘I don’t have to be in London at 9 a.m. every morning. We wanted a less frenetic life, waking up to sheep instead of car alarms. It has been a really good move.’

Well, unless pollution becomes a priority, London will ultimately lose its popularity and end up a health hazard for families and their children.


My friend the late Brian Sewell

In August of last year I wrote about my friend Brian Sewell whose many books we were proud to publish and whose death two years earlier had left a deep gap in my own life. He was indeed a one off, a man you would hardly dream of meeting in a world where, unfortunately, mediocrity has taken precedence and talent become a rarity.

Here is what I wrote about him then.  See if you agree:

A Literary Giant to Reckon With


When Quartet became his publisher, we were warned by many of his detractors that he would prove to be hard to handle and will ultimately cause us no end of grief . The reverse as it happened turned out to be  untrue and without foundation.

Having been a publisher since 1976 and encountered many rather pompous and presumptuous authors, I can easily vow that Brian was a meticulous professional who invariably endeavoured to give his best in everything he touched and as a consequence was a joy to deal with.

What was remarkable about him, despite being the most accomplished art critic in the western hemisphere, was his total loyalty and devotion to his friends often to his detriment financially.

I can cite many examples of his generosity and grandiose spirit but feel deep inside that had he been alive today, he would have not wished me to do so.

His death two years ago marked the end of an era where men of his calibre are now rare to find. He was a one-off who defied the establishment and had the courage to call a spade a spade unperturbed by the circumstances that followed many of his pronouncements.

One of his books Naked Emperors, which we published in 2012, is a selection of Brian’s criticism during his tenure at the London Evening Standard and was the first collection to be published in over twenty years and was chosen from his art reviews of exhibitions by English contemporary artists. Most first appeared in the London newspaper for whom he first wrote for in 1984. They are gathered chronologically under artist or institution and discuss nearly every important contemporary English art exhibition for the past quarter of a century. Besides being a record of one man’s developing response to the explosion of blockbuster contemporary art shows and multi-millionaire artist escapades of the past two decades, the reviews’ sequence also reveal how much this often maligned critic did, at first, wish the new establishment well. How he came to see so much as dross or fiddle-faddle, is written with such knowledge, style and humour, readers will also come to understand why mugs with ‘Brian Sewell is fab!’ are on sale in gallery gift shops.

Brian Sewell became a devoted friend with whom I spent many a good time and learnt a great deal from him. As a consequence I miss him terribly.

It is time now, you buy a copy of this book for your library or to give away as a gift. This will give the receiver an insight about a great man who lived for his art in deciphering the good and the mediocre for the benefit of us readers.

May his legacy remain as bright as the full moon on a beautiful summer night.




Pamela Gems was a English playwright. The author of numerous plays, as well as of adaptations of works by major European playwrights of the past. She is best known for the 1978 musical play Piaf.

She was a very good friend of mine and I miss her terribly. She dies aged 85 in May 2011. Here is the substance of an interview I did with her in 1987.



Pamela Gems: My grandmother was a great influence. I spent a lot of time with her. She was widowed in the First World War. My mother was also widowed very young, but I spent a lot of time with my grandmother. She was a witch really. You imprint at a very deep level, and I imprinted from her. My mother was, still is, a melancholic from the loss of her lover husband. But my grandmother was very strong, very wise, very tough and unmalicious. She was a little bit frightening, and I don’t know why, because she was very benign. We were, in a way, sisters. Just before she died, she used to come to me and say things like, look after Else, Pam. Else is my mother, whom I neglect. My grandmother was very important woman, but quite uneducated and very funny. She had three sons and three daughters, no money, lived by poaching – all that kind of thing. But she was formidable.

I had two younger brothers, but one had a heart defect and the other was severely asthmatic so missed most of his schooling. I was the eldest of the three. And we were told that neither of them would survive. Once, when we all had measles, they told us to lay my baby brother on the bed, because he was going to die. In fact they are both alive and well. My mother was told, when she was widowed, to put two of us in a home. And she refused. She was very beautiful, still is, in her seventies. She looks like Garbo, and I’m still frightened of her. I’m a plain daughter of a beautiful woman. I am in love with my mother- we all three were- but we had to placate her constantly. She sang contralto beautifully. In fact she was taken up by the local gentry. We had no middle class where we lived, only ourselves and people with titles and huge houses and thirty servants. So I grew up knowing the difference between an Aubusson and a Chinese carpet, for example. I saw the end of the feudal life. You see all this and yet you are not part of it. Of course, you are full of hatred, really. You’re full of resentment, because it’s so unfair. We lived, seven of us, in a coach-house. Next door lived an old lady with, i guess, seven or eight servants, counting the outdoor- one woman in a house with fifteen bedrooms. It was a house where Scott had written some of his books. So this collision was very dramatic; it was a dramatic childhood. In fact I didn’t know that the middle class existed until I grew up and went into the WRNS, when I realized that there were gradations rather than snobs and slobs. I was a terrible snob myself, and still am a bit, because of that early hierarchy and knowing how to behave. My uncle was an under-gardener who got the sack because he refused to bow when Queen Mary went by. The servants had to line up and bow, and he said, I can’t do that, and they said, well, I’m sorry, but you must. But when she came he hid behind a bush. He voted Labour, secretly. It had to be secretly in those days, or you lost your job. But he was seen and he lost his job.


Pamela Gems: I think, for a long time, I thought I was a boy. We lived on a marsh during those years, and I was still very wild, I was just like a boy. It’s hard to imagine now I am old and fat. But I fought as a boy, and I always had a stick. When you are the lowest, you are despised in the social hierarchy in a small town, so I was always very aggressive. As my brothers grew older, they became stronger than me because of the sex difference, and there came a day when I couldn’t beat up my brothers if they misbehaved, so that was a rather bad day. I’m not so much motherly as older-sisterly; that is, that has always been my attitude to men: protective and bullying. You find it hard to lose those patterns.

I didn’t really find disadvantages in being a woman. You have only your own life to go by. I am a feminist by condition and through politics, but war came when I was fifteen. Now, during wartime, men and women suddenly have amazing equality. Suddenly women are quite capable of ferrying large Liberator aeroplanes and becoming spies, or being dropped by parachute, and the camaraderie between the classes and between the sexes is amazing and wonderful. Of course, we all thought, after the war we’d have to get rid of the public schools and everything else. We didn’t expect to revert. At that time, I didn’t come across discrimination, and I was happy to be a woman in that I didn’t I didn’t have to fight and actually kill someone, though I guess I would have done it then. I couldn’t have done it after having children; then you change. It takes too much of your life to produce a human being; the sin of killing becomes total.

The first thing I learned when I came into the theatre was that, if you open the Radio Times or the TV Times, there’s twice as much work offered to an actor as an actress, week by week, year by year. That means, five years out of drama school, the boy is twice as experienced therefore twice as good as his sister. The parts offered to women are written by men mostly, and they always are of an object, a sexual object- what I call the girl in the front seat of the car. I watch it like a hawk every time. She has no lines, she’s not a protagonist. It’s the man who has the action, who has the challenge, who is changed by his experience, who wins or loses. The girl is there to smile and be there and greet him, to be saved by him. I don’t mind that, I quite like being saved. I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But when I came into the theatre, the lack of opportunity for actresses absolutely astonished me.

I have a young woman friend who is black, a very bright girl, got all her exams and wanted to be a vet. The most right-wing group of surgeons you can imagine is in the veterinary school. They tried very hard to discourage her; she had to get very, very good marks. When she applied, her marks were so much better than the boys’ that they had to say yes. The day she went to register, the woman at the desk looked up, saw she was female and black and said, my dear wouldn’t you be happier doing secretarial work? Can you believe it? Now that’s an extreme example. Some women are lucky. Some women are foxy, they will succeed on a man’s back, or become his mistress and get a job that way. I worked in the BBC and I’ve seen that happen. Sometimes the man gets drunk so the woman does the job, the woman does the job again, and suddenly she has the job. But there aren’t enough jobs to go round. We have such a problem to get woman directors into the theatre; we need them for various reasons, to explore certain kinds of work. But how can the men move over? I can’t say to Ron Daniels, do you mind giving up your job because, fair dos, you don’t have any women working there? Men say, we’re glad to have a woman if she’s good enough, we’re not chauvinist, she just has to be good enough. But she can’t be good enough until she’s done the number of productions that men have done, with the privileges they have for production. It’s impossible. In the theatre, it is really impossible. I see no sign of it changing. I’m very depressed about it, actually.

There is no doubt that, if you are to succeed in anything, you must be persistent and dedicated. And a lot of that is to do with whether you are lucky with energy, whether you have a good adrenalin, a supersonic system. I don’t. I think there is a way and I think a lot of women haven’t found it. I have just been in America, and women there do it at a great cost, the ones who become mock men, the ones who become strident. Almost worse are the women who go, as it were, into drag. They become super-female, you know. They’re very honeychile about everything, and their urine would etch glass. That is really frightening to live with, and men and women are, I think, repelled.

I couldn’t dream of being a man, because of having a child, because it is such an ecstatic experience. On the other hand, I do believe in reincarnation and I would like to be a man next time to experience that.


Pamela Gems: There is a very wide sexual spectrum. My doctor friends tell me people still come into the surgery and say, we’ve been married six months and haven’t got a baby yet; and it turns out they haven’t been doing it. Amazing. On the other hand, there are people who are the opposite, and it’s just as difficult for them. I’ve known men whose desires have been uncontainable. A dog’s life. What do you do? Such a man has to find an answer. And I’ve known women like that. So we have this very wide spectrum. I have often thought, because I myself never had a lot of energy, and it happens I have a husband with very high energy, that some of the rules about marriage are silly. I mean, some men should definitely have three or four wives. It would be really kinder for the woman, too; occasionally, not so often I don’t think, the other way round. It is a problem. In America, they have serial marriage. They are a high-consumer country: every five years you have another hat and a wedding, and a new deal, and lawyers have been paid off, and you have a new one. Liz Taylor is the arch example. It’s romantic, and very immature. In France, it’s the menage a trois, which is a very good system, a very good system. Of course, the French do everything best. But we’ll never do that are because we are Anglo-Saxon and we’re puritans, you know. England, I think, has always been a mess sexually. We send our boys away to school, and all that.


Pamela Gems: Discrimination is at a very deep level. There is an awful lot of lip-service paid to feminism, particularly if it sells newspapers or whatever you’re involved in selling. We live in a buy-and-sell society. But the discrimination is there, and it is there au fond, because a man is stronger than a woman and in the end he can hit her. That is one of the major differences, and one men and women both find it difficult in different circumstances to deal with. The honour between men and women which began in the twentieth century – this code of I am stronger than you, therefore my role is to protect you- is an incredible code. This was fine when men and women were together in a static feudal society. Now we smash men to pieces and people are surprised at this venomous increase in rape. There is a terrible sex war going on. The hostility between men and women is dreadful. It’s terribly difficult for men. Iv’e spoken, and been regarded as reactionary, at many feminist meetings, because I’ve agreed it isn’t in men’s interests to give up being looked after, first by the mother and then by the wife, while they shoulder the responsibility for the family. You know, I have never seen a good production of A Doll’s House because it is always played as though Nora is escaping from this silly husband, he’s a perfect husband. They are in the middle of their conjugality, they are in love. They have three beautiful children and he is doing his best. She gets into debt, she can ruin him, and if she ruins him how can he look after the three children? This is a wonderful subtext in the play which is not ever dealt with. He is played as a wimp, and what woman wouldn’t want to run out of that house from such a silly man? But all of those systems of protection started to go when the machines came in and muscles weren’t necessary anymore. Man is in a tragic state in the West because his heroic qualities are no longer needed and not revered.

The difficulty for a woman is the deception. You see, it’s a moment’s thought for a man. I know, because I was complaining to my son the other day about my husband, and my son said surely now you can accept the fact that we are not like you; when we see it, we have to have it. He was actually talking about himself and his father. And I said, yes, but I still can’t get over it. I’ve lived with this man forty years, I love him, he’s the father of my children, and he comes in with a bland face and a bunch of flowers; and the bunch of flowers always gives him away. Why has he bought those dreadful daffodils, which cost him 50p? I know why he bought them, and so they go into the bucket. He has no charm, no style. He’s not going to buy a jewel, he’s already got me. Anyway, I’m older. I used to say to him twenty years ago, cant you say, oh, Pammy I’ve met this wonderful woman and she’s gorgeous, and you know you’ve never been good in the legs, and she’s got wonderful legs. I wouldn’t mind if he had the odd kid elsewhere, but he could never tell me. My son says, don’t you understand, thats half the fun. But my husband is making me into his mother, and I don’t want to be his mother. That’s the dilemma. I see no way out of it, for men or women in the society structured as we are. I started to think in the 1960’s, the communes are going to work it out – it’s going to be an extended family, like a gipsy group, there’s going to be little bits of love here, and maybe a kid, and then they’re going to move on. But the shotgun comes out at some point. There is always one who breaks it up, not two. In any of the normal daily papers, there is always somebody who has shot himself or his wife because she has been having it off with the man at the pub.

I always fall in love with men who look like my Uncle Ted, who was not my favourite uncle, but he was the best cricketer in the village, and he had a very English face, and fair hair and blue eyes, and if anybody looked like that, I fell in love. But I never went near him, because I was too afraid of rejection. I tended to go with men whom I felt needed me. I guess it was maternal, though I was a bookish girl and hated to be thought of as that. You spend your twenties finding out about sex, being concerned about sex, but mostly getting it wrong, but when I came to maturity in my thirties, I found that my sexual taste was for rather repressed men, almost perverse. And I think it is something to do with the English, and something to do with being brought up in the kitchens of these very lah-di-dah men who were also terribly repressed because the only relations they knew were power relations. They had no relations with their parents, whom they rarely saw. They were brought up by nannies, nursery governesses, with whom they had relations of affection, but also they had power over them. I like that. I like men who are kind of spies, and I like moody men. I had a friend who, alas, lost her husband who died on the operating table. It was twenty years ago, and she went to a marriage bureau. You had to write down what kind of a man you wanted and what sort of personality, and my friend Ann wrote, moody. She has this lovely moody man, never boring. I think to be married to someone boring must be the worst thing.


Pamela Gems: In my own personal history, I see men equally oppressed, for different reasons. That’s not to say that there aren’t men who aren’t absolute monsters, but I see as many women who are monsters, witches – bad witches – that destroy children’s psyches before they are out of the cradle with their coldness and hatefulness. But I think that the male dilemma is particularly acute. I have had men say to me, in a way you’re lucky, you have a cause. It’s true.

The more I talk to my sons and other men, and the more I talk to women, the more I think we see things differently. I say this particularly after having seen women, often younger than me, doing for what I would call the masculine style of behaviour that is gaining pace, living a free sexual life, exercising the right to choose a partner, to ditch a partner, the right to choose not to breed from a partner, the desire to have a child but not want to marry – you know, all these radical choices women have been making. And the concomitant unhappiness has been very defeating for a lot of women. Iv’e seen that unhappiness. I know women, very well-known women, who’ve spent years in the London Clinic trying to breed. I know a woman who had a hysterectomy because she wanted to be an artist. Is art to be the cost of mutilation? That can’t be right. My own perception now is that women and men are far more different than I used to think, when I grew up with brothers. Particularly sexually. Particularly where sexual loyalty is concerned. I suppose I was nearly into my forties before I realized that to expect sexual loyalty from a man is to expect and abnormal man. You know, there was something bloody well wrong with him if he didn’t lust after something that was absolutely fascinating out there in the street. It’s very hard for some women to accept that, because most women do breed at some point in their lives, and it changes you utterly. You are hostages to fortune then. You are dependent on the goodwill of the world; particularly, if you are wise, on a man, and if you are very wise, on the father of your children. We haven’t discovered any really good substitute for the family unit, boring and reactionary and traditional as it’s regarded. Children have a right to their own genetic inheritance. Take the surrogacy case in America – the woman who had a baby and then couldn’t give it up. The father lost all his relations in the Holocaust, so he badly needs a child. One can imagine his need. His wife has multiple sclerosis, so it would obviously be unwise for her to have a child. So they found a surrogate and the surrogate couldn’t give up the child. What judgement does one make? The father is middle class, the child would have a very good life with him. The mother is working class, rather shaky background, without culture. Do you simply say, it is better for the child to be with the father? It’s quite simple for me, because I am a woman. You cannot take the child away from its mother. It’s an insanity. She can’t give up the child and the child has a right to her. But the judge will give that child to that father, to what he thinks is the best environment and consider he’s solved it. There’s a surrogate case in England where twins were born and the woman didn’t want to give them up. She’s accepted £5,000 and the judge has ruled that the father may adopt the children and the mother now must be deprived of them. In other words, she must legally stay by her bond. It’s nothing to do with what happens in the uterus and the bonding between a mother and child. If you start to break those laws, we might as well give up. Really I believe that. I think its terribly dangerous not to honour the fact of natural family. You might as well go to the Nazis. You cannot say, look, you’re a poor woman, you’re a working-class women, you can hardly afford to bring up your three children; we’re an infertile middle-class family, we’ll give you £10, 000, please have a baby for us. I would love to have a baby for you; I already have my children and I need that £10, 000. But now I have the baby and there’s milk coming through, of course I can’t give him up, he is me. I can’t give up my arms and my legs. This is the difference between a man and a woman. But most judges are still men, and the few female judges are in the masculine mode. Otherwise they wouldn’t have got there.