Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Nobility's obligations

From Lord Grenfell

Sir: Boris Johnson's portrayal of me (Another voice, 15 April) is good knockabout stuff designed to induce a few cackles, but a far cry from reality. Since you carefully avoid mentioning why I maintain a Paris address, permit me to enlighten your readers. My final career assignment was in Paris (1990-95) where I met and married a lady pursuing her own career there, as she does to this day. We therefore chose to stay in Paris when my retirement from the World Bank at the end of 1995 freed me from international civil service constraints to become an active hereditary backbencher in the Lords.

I have since been a resident in London during parliamentary sittings, returning to Paris at weekends and in recesses to be with my wife. Your fertile imagination sees me leading a life of ease on a pension out of which the French take an almighty tax bite, and on the royalties from my novel, which in fact dried up in 1986. Our flat is not in the fashionable 16th arrondissement but in the less fashionable 9th, and miles from the Bois de Boulogne. Nor do I plaster the windows of our fifth-floor flat with pink posters. Paris pigeons are notoriously uninterested in New Labour. The reality is more prosaic.

While my wife has been working in Paris, I have been, until the Lords reform, working in Westminster. During the last session I attended 142 of the 154 sittings and voted in 85 of the 95 divisions. I served on the select committee on the European Union and chaired its very active economic, financial and trade affairs subcommittee. I was also a UK delegate to the Parliamentary Assemblies of the Council of Europe and Western European Union. I like to think it was this kind of service which led the Prime Minister (whom I have met but once) to invite me to return to work as a life peer. You certainly won't find my name in any list of high donors to Labour party funds.

Julian Grenfell

House of Lords,

London SW1

PC Gremlins

From Mr Herbert Thornton

Sir: Frank Johnson (`I'm a soul man', 15 April) doubts that a machine equipped with artificial intelligence can possess a soul. I should have thought there might be a theological basis for the idea that any suitably complex arrangement, whether of cells or microcircuits, can either give rise to a soul or, if the soul comes from somewhere else, provide it with a place of sojourn.

I don't know about souls, but I have noticed that personal computers sometimes act so perversely that it seems highly plausible that they have become possessed by evil spirits.

H.M. Thornton

Annan's inaccuracies

From Mr C.D.C. Armstrong

Sir: Lord Thomas of Swynnerton describes Paul Johnson's denunciation of the late Lord Annan as `quite uncouth' (Letters, 15 April). Lord Thomas's criticism would be more to the point were it not for the inconvenient fact that Annan himself was not above engaging in denunciations of the recently deceased. …

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