The Independent London Newspaper
31st October 2014

Letters

The Xtra Diary - Disgraced Tory peer Lord Taylor, signs off at “Save St Mark’s Campaign”

    Disgraced Lord Taylor with Lady Sainsbury and campaigners at City Hall, 2008

    Published: 3 June, 2011

    IT was a moment to savour in a hard-fought campaign.

    When the triumphant parishioners of St Mark’s Church emerged from a planning meeting at Westminster City Hall in December 2008 there was only one thought in their minds: “victory for the people!”

    The church had been spared from a private developer wanting to transform the historic Grade I-listed building in Mayfair into a posh health spa.

    And all the campaigners – including the Lady Sainsbury, wife of the former Tory minister Sir Tim Sainsbury – cheered loudly and proudly adorned red caps emblazoned with  “Save St Mark’s Campaign” in a final photo call salute for the West End Extra.

    All, that is, save one.

    Lord Taylor of Warwick refused. The red cap, he argued, was too red. It was not blue enough to match his Tory stripes.

    The lawyer, first black Conservative peer, and avowed Christian, had accused the Diocese of London – which had put the church up for sale – of being “obsessed by greed” and holding a “shameful” philosophy. 

    He had told the West End Extra: “It reminds me of Gordon Gekko’s greed-is-good attitude. The church is about community not commerce.”

    Lord Taylor was jailed on Tuesday. After being found to have wrongly claimed £11,277 in parliamentary expenses, he was sentenced to 12 months in prison.

    A sledgehammer to crack a vexatious…? 

    AS the arm’s-length management organisation in charge of looking after Westminster City Council’s housing stock, CityWest Homes from time to time comes in for flack. 

    But what to make of its “vexatious complaints” guidelines, officially known  as the “Procedure for Management of Unreasonable Behaviour”?

    A Freedom of Information request recently made public on the website WhatDoTheyKnow.com has revealed that, on at least one occasion, CityWest Homes threatened to take legal action against an individual who persistently complained to its staff.

    The member of the public allegedly said the CityWest office was “inept” and told staff: “Pull your finger out.”

    In a letter sent to the complainant, CityWest’s director of customer services Darren Levy, wrote: “We will be monitoring the situation closely but if further complaints are received we will have no option but to take this matter further and this could include taking legal action against you.”

    Asked whether he thought the threat of a court summons was proportionate, Mr Levy insisted there was more to the story than met the eye.

    “Unfortunately, the correspondence that is publicly available does not  tell the full story of this case,” he said. 

    “We have done our very best to resolve the issues that this individual has raised and believe we have done all we can do. 

    “Regrettably, he persisted with his complaints and harassment of our staff even after we had given our final response.”

    Summer of smiles at RA

    Summer cool at the Royal Academy sees not only American Jeff Koons in the courtyard with his magical Coloring Book, but this week even the statue of Sir Joshua Reynolds nearby was garlanded.

    The walls of the historic institution could shake… except for the fact that for this, the 243rd year, there are slightly fewer works than last, at what is still the world’s largest open, contemporary, art exhibition. And for the lightness of touch demonstrated by the choice and positioning of pieces, which is heralded by Koons’s reflection of society’s “obsession with infantilism and youth”. 

    The main show co-ordinator, Royal Academician Christopher Le Brun, likened the task of hanging in the vast space of Gallery III to: “…a battle of the paintings”.  As well as larger works, such as former Turner Prize winner Keith Tyson’s “apocalyptic” red painting Deep Impact, here there are delicate and poignant oils by Ben Levene RA, who died in September aged 71. But the historic mix is there, too, with outside contributors’ works side-by-side with those of members. 

    In all, more than 12,000 entries  were received from 27 countries. Nevertheless, London is particularly well represented among the 1,100-plus pieces accepted this year.

    Architects and photographers are given dedicated galleries and, for 2011, a selection of Academicians, including Antony Gormley, Michael Landy, Gary Hume and Fiona Rae have a “room of their own”.

    Most works are for sale and money raised helps to fund the RA Schools, which do not charge students fees.

    • The Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition 2011, Burlington House, Piccadilly, June 7 to August 15. £10, concessions available. Booking 0844 209 0051, www.royalacademy.org.uk 

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