SUNDAY 19  MAY 2024


Here’s to the smiling NHS womb transplant stars, a triumph for immigration

Earlier this week I wrote about the many terrible aspects of the Lucy Letby affair and like most things we write, the angrier one is the quicker the copy flows. As we used to say ‘it wrote itself.’ Imagine then how little time it must have taken the brilliant Allison Pearson to write her Telegraph piece on the affair, specifically the role of the so-called management of the Countess of Chester Hospital Trust. Because Pearson was steaming, clearly very, very emotional.  I hope every one of those guilty of sheltering Letby read it. But of course they bloody didn’t.

Then within a day we learned just what the real stars who make up our NHS are capable of with the news of the UK’s first womb transplant. It took 17 hours and 30 clever, skilled and infinitely patient men and women – surgeons, anaesthetists, gynaecologists, nurses and three porters (and not a single manager) to complete the sister-to-sister operation at Oxford’s Churchill Hospital. Apologies: I forgot the perfusionist who (for the very few who don’t know) is the specialist who works the cell-saver machine that recycles blood lost during the op.

After that marathon, spent mostly on their feet, the team lined up, still in their surgical gowns, for a beaming photograph, an array of white, black and brown faces. And their names? Only four were recognisably British including a Smith and a Jones (the Smith is Prof Richard Smith, the Scot who led the transplant.)

And my point is? Every one of the team may or may not have been born here, they might be offspring of Asian, Indian sub-continent or East European immigrants or they might be imported from across the world. But one thing is for sure: Thank God they are here and we must hope that the inflow never stops despite the worst efforts of some politicians (and leader writers.) This country is a far, far better place for their presence.


On the same day I received an email from my very good and literate chum Thackery (no relation, different spelling) informing me that Richard Ayoade is to star as Sir Henry Wood, the Proms founder. Now the nearest I’ve got to meeting old Sir Henry is touching his bust (if you’ll pardon the expression) in the Royal Albert Hall but to the best of my knowledge he was born white to two white parents in Oxford Street (he must be turning in his grave to see the state of that blot on the landscape today.)

Ayoade, on the other hand, is not white; thanks to his Nigerian father and Norwegian mother he is the colour of, well, cappuccino coffee. Thackery, like Ayoade a Cambridge man, asks if it is now appropriate to have white actors portray Mandela or Muhammad Ali? The answer is of course NO.

I do have one suggestion however: In the forthcoming TV series based on my book Toto and Coco, Lord Beaverbrook, very late of this parish, features greatly.

Step forward Sir Lenny Henry, you were made for the part.


I am much saddened by the forthcoming demise next month of the India Club, an eccentric part of the fabric of London since 1951. Two storeys up in The Strand, I suspect it has remained unchanged in the intervening 72 years and certainly in the 40 or more years I have been patronising the joint. Formica table tops, spindly and reassuringly wobbly chairs, the photographs of a very young Queen Elizabeth and the grandly patrician Nehru on the peeling walls, and a menu unchanged by fads and foodie nonsense.

For decades it was cash only and strictly bring-your-own. About five years ago it began accepting these new-fangled cards and you can now buy beer with your order, much, no doubt, to the chagrin of the overpriced shop next door.

In 2017 a previous attempt by the landlords to redevelop the site was met with a petition. I duly signed it and as I was doing so looked at the other signatories. A Who’s Who of distinguished QCs (as they were then), High Court and Appeal Court judges, some of the BBC’s best-known reporters, grateful of an old-fashioned curry after months in a war zone, and the Indian High Commissioner.

We got our way then but this time I fear the game is up. Another bit of London’s precious heritage soon to be gone, all in the name of sodding progress…


You Couldn’t Make it Up Dept: The three Unionist parties in Northern Ireland led by the sphincter-lipped Jeffrey Donaldson have asked that the public purse pays the £14,000 for a sculpture ‘celebrating’ the partition of Ireland 101 years ago. Not surprisingly there is opposition and not just from the obvious quarters. So in the finest tradition of the shabby compromise I have a suggestion: Get Stormont up and running again and we will consider it. Otherwise pay for it yourselves.