On beauty and Nick Boles

At CPRE we bang on endlessly about the importance of beauty – how everyone needs beauty in their lives, and how important it is to safeguard the beautiful English countryside.  The word is not much used in a political context, and Oliver Letwin’s great speech of seven or eight years ago promoting politics as if beauty mattered has not, I am afraid, been repeated.

But according to Tim Smith, speaking on Radio 3’s Private Passions on Sunday, “beauty is going to be the big thing for the next five years. I think,” he said, “we’re ready to make it centre stage again.”

It was certainly centre stage in a wonderful service today in Westminster Abbey to dedicate a memorial to Octavia Hill, one of the National Trust’s founders.  Simon Jenkins read an extract from Octavia Hill’s article, ‘Space for the People’: “Our lives in London are over-crowded, over-excited, over-strained.  We all want beauty for the refreshment of our souls.  Sometimes we think of it as a luxury, but when God made the world, he made it very beautiful, meant that we should live amongst its beauties, and that they should speak peace to us in our daily lives.”  That is good National Trust message, but it is also a CPRE message.

The service also had a message of hope.  Fiona Reynolds quoted an 1898 speech by Octavia Hill  on what she hoped to leave after she was gone (“when that time comes when we slip from our places”) – “the large hope to grasp the mighty issues of the new and better days to come – greater ideals, greater hope, and patience to realise them both”.

Beauty, hope – and best of all, the presence in the Abbey, listening to all these good things, of the Planning Minister, Nick Boles.  He is a thoughtful man and I am sure that the beautiful service will have called him back to his better self.  Expect the unbeautiful, over-hasty Growth and Infrastructure Bill to be withdrawn any day soon.

1 Response to “On beauty and Nick Boles”


  1. 1 Arthur Franks October 23, 2012 at 7:49 am

    I wish I had your confidence Shaun regarding the infrastructure Bill. A week is short time in politics is often quoted. Many politicians forget what they have heard before a sentence is finished.


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