30 Jul

As rigorously transparent as a barn door

A journalist from Newsweek was interviewing Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury:  “Some suspect there is still a hierarchy above the law. I was thinking of Jimmy Savile.”

The Archbishop replied: “If there is, I don’t know about it. As regards child abuse, there is rigorous transparency.”

So why, after numerous allegations of child-abuse perpetrated by senior politicians, are we no nearer to learning the truth? The homes of some of these retired or deceased politicians – such as Harvey Proctor and Leon Brittan – have been raided by the police, but their findings have not been disclosed

How transparent are the dealings of a political establishment which was content to see a knighthood bestowed on Cyril Smith, despite officials having warned Margaret Thatcher of paedophile allegations against him? Councillors in Rochdale, Smith’s constituency, have repeatedly stated that, while everybody knew what Smith was up to, he was regarded as too close to the Establishment to be named.

Then there are allegations that Dolphin Square, a 7.5-acre, 1,250-flat complex by the Thames, was a place in which boys from nearby Lambeth care homes were ferried to the apartments for violent orgies where VIPs, defence and Whitehall officials, Establishment types, as well as Tory MPs (including one cabinet minister) were participants. Scotland Yard has spoken of “possible homicide” being committed. Historical and more recent allegations have been backed by Labour MP John Mann, who first encountered them as a Lambeth councillor in the 1980s, but was told by the police that their inquiries had been stopped on orders from superiors.

Do these things appear to you as examples of Welby’s rigorous transparency?

As an Anglican priest for forty-five years, and a City of London rector for fourteen of those years, I have had more than a nodding acquaintance with the ways of the Establishment. Most of the high-ranking men and women I’ve been responsible to or have otherwise dealt with were conscientious and above reproach. But here and there, now and again, I have come across a chilling arrogance emanating from an Establishment type – the patrician prisoner of his personal sense of entitlement – who believes that a thing is true just because he says it is true.

The kind of arrogance, in fact, which in spite of the evidence, declares, “There is rigorous transparency.”