George bell

The Spectator’s Notes | 18 July 2019

Seventy-five years ago on Saturday, the July plot failed. Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg placed a bomb in a briefcase next to Hitler in the conference room of the Wolf’s Lair, but someone moved the briefcase a little. When the bomb detonated, the heavy conference table shielded Hitler from the blast. Stauffenberg and many other conspirators were caught. He was executed early the next morning. This Friday, in Christ Church, Oxford, a special service will commemorate the plot and all those who resisted Nazism in Germany. It will centre on the altar dedicated to George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, and the main external supporter of German Christian resistance to Hitler.

Justin Welby’s reformation

Justin Welby is working in Thomas Cranmer’s old study in Lambeth Palace, a room that looks as if it hasn’t changed at all since the Book of Common Prayer was written here almost six centuries ago. It feels like a mini-monastic retreat: there is a desk, a crucifix, several Bibles and not much else. The 105th Archbishop of Canterbury studies and prays here, deciding how best to lead a national church whose Sunday services are now attended (according to its own figures) by barely 1 per cent of England’s population. These are new times — and require new tactics. When he was enthroned six years ago, he was seen as

Bishop Bell is still being denied justice

In January, the Church of England announced a new child abuse accusation against the late Bishop George Bell. They handed it to the police. This weekend, the police said that the case is now closed. Their spokesman added, ‘Of course further police investigation or action is not possible as Bishop Bell died 60 years ago.’ Indeed so. The date of his death was known to the police when they received the information. Why did they not at once tell the church authorities to go away, on the grounds that it is not their job to investigate crimes allegedly committed by people who, being dead, cannot be tried? Three months have

The Church of England’s Bishop Bell battle

The Archbishop of Canterbury has once again been dragged into a battle between traditionalists and modernisers. This time though it’s not about gay marriage or women bishops, but the tattered reputation of one of the Church of England’s most-celebrated figures, Bishop George Bell. Justin Welby was sorely mistaken if he hoped commissioning an independent report into the claim that Bell was a child abuser would draw a line under this messy two-year row. Instead, the report found that the church has made mistakes in the way it handled the accusations. This infuriated Bell’s supporters, who always maintained his innocence. Now, some are calling for Welby to walk, or at least

The Spectator’s Notes | 19 January 2017

It is hard to be shocked by anything in these tumultuous times, but I was brought up short by the ‘attic’ headline of Tuesday’s Times, advertising the paper’s T2 section: ‘Up close and personal with Donald Trump — Michael Gove’ , it said, and continued, ‘Sex after 50: it’s fabulous’.. The earliest members of Alcoholics Anonymous offered their famous Twelve Steps, which the drunkard must take in order to recover, born of their own experience. The Twelve Steps are still the foundation of AA. They work because they are taken by people who have hit rock bottom and realise it. The first step says, ‘We admitted we were powerless over

The Spectator’s Notes | 5 January 2017

‘My deep concern is that because of changed ways that news is now gathered, collated, packaged, delivered and displayed, the country can often find itself in… the tyrannical grip of the massed media… which could seriously threaten the political health of the United Kingdom as a Parliamentary democracy.’ This is from a letter I have received from Field Marshal Lord Bramall. Lord Bramall has reason to complain, since he was recently, in his nineties, the victim of preposterous child abuse allegations, invented by the fantasist ‘Nick’, fanned by the media, and wild-goose-chased by the Metropolitan Police. His complaint, however, goes much wider, including how the British media misread the Arab

It’s not Alan Turing who needs an apology

My invitation to the Pink News dinner (where David Cameron won an award) on Wednesday night promised ‘an inspirational evening’ which would be a ‘celebration of the contritions of politicians, businesses, and community groups’ after ‘another historic year for LGBT equality’. I assumed, at first, that ‘contritions’ was a misprint for ‘contributions’, but maybe not. Contrition for any deed committed or word spoken against gay people in the past is now compulsory for all who wish to take part in public life, rather as Catholics must be absolved before taking communion. I agree that the criminalisation of consenting, adult, private, homosexual acts was cruel madness. But I am suspicious of

The Spectator’s notes | 5 May 2016

The comparison between the referendum questions — that asked in 1975 and the one which we shall be asked on 23 June — is interesting. In 1975, the question was ‘Do you think that the United Kingdom should remain part of the European Community (Common Market)?’ (Answer: Yes/No). Today, the question will be ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of European Union or leave the European Union?’ (Answer: Remain/Leave). The modern question is the fairer, and it also brings out how things have changed. In 1975, it seemed almost obvious that the answer was ‘yes’: even many who did not like EEC entry could see it was strange to leave only

The Spectator’s notes | 11 February 2016

Here is a thought for all those Tory MPs calculating their personal advantage in the forthcoming EU referendum: unless the vote is an absolutely overwhelming Remain, the next leader of the Conservative party — whose day is no longer so far off — will come from the Leave camp. This will happen, obviously, if Leave wins, but also if Leave loses but does well, because most party supporters will only back someone who feels their pain and can reconcile them afterwards. Another thought: why would Nigel Farage want Britain to vote Leave? Then he would be redundant. Study him in the light of this thought and you will see that it explains

In the case of Bishop Bell, the Church has shown real compassion

Christian columnists of left (Giles Fraser) and right (Charles Moore, Peter Hitchens) agree: Bishop Bell has been most sorely wronged. The Church should not have compensated the person he allegedly abused about seventy years ago. It has damaged the reputation of one of its major figures, without any sort of trial taking place. I disagree. I think the Church has behaved – shock, horror – Christianly. The Church knew what a huge step it was taking in believing this woman, who has now told her story to the Brighton Argus. (She was a relative of a member of staff in the bishop’s palace; she was occasionally read bedtime stories as she

The Spectator’s Notes | 7 January 2016

At the end of next week, a judge will decide whether the ‘trial of the facts’ can proceed now that its subject, Lord Janner, is dead. Janner was accused, on various occasions, of child abuse, though the Crown Prosecution Service, on three occasions, over more than 20 years, decided that there was no case to prosecute. The amazing Simon Danczuk, now himself accused of rape, used parliamentary privilege to accuse Janner of the same crime (plus torture). Last year, Janner was forced to appear in court, though senile. When his senility was upheld, his accusers resorted to a trial of the facts to get their day in court. They were

Letters | 12 November 2015

The C of E should apologise Sir: Peter Hitchens’s article on the allegations against the late Bishop Bell is a welcome intervention in a sorry affair (‘Justice for Bishop Bell’, 7 November). If the best evidence against Bishop Bell was sufficient only to merit his arrest (were he alive), then the recent statements concerning him issued by the church authorities should be withdrawn; if they have better evidence, then that should be published. It should not be forgotten that this is not the first time this year that senior figures in the Church of England have made dubious accusations of child abuse against the dead. Earlier this year the Bishop

The Church of England’s shameful betrayal of bishop George Bell

The Church of England has produced a lot of good men and women, but very few great ones. It is in its modest, cautious nature that it should be so. Greatness requires a lonely, single-minded strength that does not sit easily with Anglicanism’s gentle compromise. And I suspect the Church has always been hesitant and embarrassed about the one undeniably great figure it produced in the 20th century. To this day, George Bell, Bishop of Chichester from 1929 to 1958, is an uncomfortable, disturbing person, like a grim obelisk set in a bleak landscape. Many British people still disapprove of his lonely public denunciation of Winston Churchill’s deliberate bombing of