Vol. 45 No. 4 · 16 February 2023

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Moving the Goalposts

Luke de Noronha writes about some of the deportation appeals he has worked on (LRB, 19 January). Theresa May’s 2014 Immigration Act included the statement that ‘the deportation of foreign criminals is in the public interest.’ In 2019 and 2020 the Court of Appeal heard two cases in which ‘foreign criminals’ had faced deportation proceedings after serving prison sentences, had then won their appeals and been granted leave to remain in the UK, but then, on applying for further leave, had again been faced with deportation – on the basis of the offence that had led to the earlier decision. These new decisions were made even though both of them had continued to enjoy the family life on which their original appeals had been based, and had committed no further offences. The Court of Appeal dismissed both cases. In the second, concerning Mr Abidoye, the court ‘said it empathised’ with his lawyer’s characterisation of the new decision as ‘moving the goalposts’.

In December 2020 the Immigration Rules concerning deportation and refusals were amended. Paragraph 399C says that even if a ‘foreign criminal’ has previously been granted a period of limited leave, ‘his deportation remains conducive to the public good and in the public interest notwithstanding the previous grant of leave.’ The rules indicate how an applicant’s human rights are to be assessed. If those who have received prison sentences of between twelve months and four years are to be given leave to remain, it must be shown that deportation would have ‘unduly harsh’ effects on them or on members of their family. Those sentenced to more than four years must show, in addition to this, further ‘very compelling circumstances’. Indefinite leave can also be revoked and those who received it required to renew their leave.

Regardless of how long ago their offences took place, De Noronha’s successful appellants (and mine) now have to make repeated applications for leave to remain, each time satisfying very demanding legal tests. Those with family in the UK, or who have health or other personal reasons for resisting deportation, currently have a right of appeal. But this means requesting (and paying for) a further round of medical and social work reports, and going through expensive, gruelling tribunal hearings in order to be granted perhaps just a few months’ leave to remain, after which they will, once again, be refused further leave.

There may be even worse to come. The currently shelved Bill of Rights bill proposes that deportation will not be found incompatible with a person’s human rights unless it will result in ‘manifest harm’ that is ‘extreme’ – where ‘extreme’ means ‘exceptional and overwhelming’ – and ‘is incapable of being mitigated to any significant extent or is otherwise irreversible’. This is probably as far as the government thinks it can go without withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights. It would make deportation appeals virtually unwinnable.

Sheona York
University of Kent, Canterbury

The King’s Madness

Alan Bennett mentions the film he adapted from his own play The Madness of George III (LRB, 5 January). I wonder if it isn’t time to acknowledge that the diagnostic theory that was so popular when Bennett wrote the play in the early 1990s – that the king’s madness was caused by porphyria – has been exploded? When I began my psychiatric training in the mid-1960s, the paper by Richard Hunter and Ida Macalpine that launched the theory was widely discussed, but even then most of my teachers were unimpressed. In 2010, Timothy Peters, one of Britain’s few experts on porphyria, and D. Wilkinson, a historian, re-examined the evidence. They showed that the ‘blue urine’ story is unsupported even by the documents cited by Hunter and Macalpine. The king’s daily medical notes never unequivocally mention blue urine, and in any case, the urine in porphyria is reddish-brown, not blue, and the colour is typically visible throughout the episodes of illness. Hunter and Macalpine had so many psychiatrists worried about missing a porphyria diagnosis that ‘some 15,000 patients in South-West London were screened for porphyria without a single case being identified.’ Peters and Wilkinson thought recurrent manic episodes in a bipolar patient the most likely diagnosis, but later found good evidence that George III had developed Alzheimer’s.

Colin Brewer
London SE1


Tom Stevenson uses the Australian vernacular term bogan (LRB, 19 January), slang for a person whose speech, clothing, attitude and behaviour are considered unrefined or unsophisticated. It was popularised in the late 1980s by Kylie Mole, Mary-Anne Fahey’s schoolgirl character on the TV sketch show The Comedy Company. I doubt whether members of the Australian intelligence establishment could correctly be called bogans, but many Australians would be proud to be called a bogan by a pommie.

Ronald Brown
Newcastle, New South Wales

When the Engine Cuts Out

In response to my letter questioning his claim that ‘more than a million London homes’ were damaged by V1 and V2 attacks, James Meek upgrades his origin­al claim to 1.25 million, which would re­quire the approximately 2850 missiles and rockets that hit London to have damag­ed, on average, 439 houses each (Letters, 1 December 2022). He includes broken windows and missing roof tiles in his de­fin­ition of ‘damage’.

A number of online resources deal with this subject, the most useful of which is the ‘Flying Bombs and Rockets’ web­site run by the amateur historian Stephen Hen­den, who has combed through all the avail­­able local records for 91 boroughs, not­ably those compiled by fire brigades and ARP posts. He has further analysed the data by postcode, and lists every incident in 25 South London local­ities: 603 incid­ents in total, or more than 20 per cent of all attacks. Henden cites four categories used to describe damage to housing: demolish­ed, severely damaged, damaged and slight­ly damaged. Across the 603 incidents, the average recorded level of damage per bomb was 4.5 houses demolish­ed, 11.7 severely damaged, 15.3 damag­ed and 10.7 slight­ly damaged. Extrapolating, and taking all the categories of damage together, the total number of houses damaged would be about 120,000, less than a tenth of Meek’s theoretical number. The figure for houses demolished would have been about 12,000.

One of the reasons damage from the V1 and V2 attacks was limited was that they were not ‘smart’ weapons of the kind being deployed against Ukraine. Of the 603 listed attacks, a hundred struck targets where there were no houses, including 21 parks (Crystal Palace Park was hit six times), 21 wharves and docksides, fifteen sports grounds, thirteen railway lines and stations, six bombsites, three cemeteries and a field where an acre of potatoes was ‘slightly damaged’.

David Elstein
London SW15

A Kind of Publication

It isn’t quite accurate to say, as Catherine Nicholson does, that ‘none of Donne’s verses was published in his lifetime’ (LRB, 19 January). In fact, his two dense philosophical poems, An Anatomie of the World (‘The First Anniversarie’) and The Second Anniversarie. Of the Progresse of the Soule, were printed in London in 1611 and 1612 respectively, long before his death in 1631. But perhaps the problem lies with our modern and rather narrower sense of the word ‘published’. As Nicholson writes, Donne’s poetry ‘circulated widely in written copies’. To 17th-century readers and writers, manuscript circulation would certainly have been understood as a form of publication. Some poets, the notorious Earl of Rochester being an obvious example, actively cultivated what now tends to be called ‘scribal’ (i.e. manuscript) publication. Indeed, the throngs of spectators (the word seems more appropriate than ‘congregation’) who attended Donne’s sermons would have understood even his oral performances as a kind of ‘publication’.

Jonathan Sawday
Saint Louis University, Missouri

Puzzled Puss

John Lahr writes about Buster Keaton’s life on and off screen, but not so much about his theatre work later in his career (LRB, 19 January). I saw Keaton on stage around 1960, in a touring version of a popular Broadway musical, and have never forgotten it. Once upon a Mattress featured Keaton as a king who had been struck dumb. He played the entire performance in mime. One song, ‘The Minstrel, the Jester and I’, was sung by the minstrel, the jester and the king. It was Keaton’s job to perform the rhyme words at the ends of vocal lines sung by the other two men. His mimes were so perfect that it was as if one were actually hearing the words his character was unable to say.

Gilbert O’Brien
Berwick upon Tweed, Northumberland

John Lahr mentions that Buster Keaton built ‘one of Hollywood’s most magnificent mansions’. I was reminded of a wonderful play on words Hugh Downs made in 1961. The Metropolitan Museum had just paid the then staggering sum of $2.3 million to purchase Rembrandt’s Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer, and people were lining up outside the museum to see it. As Dick Cavett recounted in the New York Times in 2012, Downs was a substitute host on Jack Parr’s Tonight Show. He asked the audience to imagine a newspaper photograph of the billionaire Greek ship-owner Aristotle Onassis standing outside Buster Keaton’s former Hollywood home. The photo might, he suggested, be captioned ‘Aristotle Contemplating the Home of Buster’.

Peter Rose
New York

On Missing the Point

Owen Hatherley misses the point (LRB, 2 February). Before the Battersea Power Station development the area was a large industrial wasteland, of no use to anyone. Hatherley laments the number of affordable houses included in the scheme, but properties built on land of this value were never going to be cheap, especially considering the cost borne by developers of restoring the decaying Grade II* listed power station and the two new Northern Line stations.

Nine Elms is now a thriving and popular new town centre, which is delivering tens of thousands of new jobs and homes. The developers and Wandsworth Council’s previous Conservative administration should be congratulated on their role in bringing £9 billion of investment to this area of Battersea, which will now be able to provide ongoing benefits to communities across South-West London.

Matthew Corner
London SW18

Exactly why are Iain Sinclair (LRB, 19 January) and Owen Hatherley so consumed with bitterness, hatred and negativism? Why do they yearn for failure? It’s a pity Hatherley and his father do not want to buy a Rolex in a heroic space, but if I said I wanted to ‘bomb’ a Hatherley council house, I would, quite correctly, be reviled as Tory Scum. The Vauxhall-Nine-Elms-Battersea development is not perfect, but many local people are grateful for the prosperity and jobs it has brought to the area. Other local people, myself included, enjoy the fresh dynamism of what was once a neglected bombsite. The long, boring moans of Sinclair and Hatherley are irrelevant to the cheerful crowds you now find walking to enjoy Battersea Power Station.

Stephen Bayley
Royal Fine Art Commission Trust, London SW11

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