Pity the poor Establishment – now bordering on dysfunctional.
Since the summer the British elite has given away two of its elder daughters: first, Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss was obliged to step down from the government inquiry into historical child abuse, which she had been asked to chair; and now her replacement, Fiona Woolf, has been forced to go the same way.
Dame Elizabeth – thin lipped, fine boned – seems to symbolise the ascetic tradition among Britain’s ruling class. Loyalty to the law and devotion to the Anglican church have combined to keep her back straight throughout half a century of ‘public service’.
At this level, public service – yes, let’s lose the scare marks – is not without numerous privileges; but one should point out that at least as many demands are made of theprivate individuals who sign up for it.
These are the people who can speak of ‘one’ – one does this, one does not do that – without cracking up. As they see it, there’s no reason to be embarrassed by this antiquated term; instead there is every reason to expect the privileged to adhere to common standards.
Of course our club is exclusive, but anyone elected to it can be trusted to behave properly; hence ‘one’ is the proper noun with which to describe what any one of us would do.
Having previously combined senior judicial responsibilities with corporate tax law at thehighest level, Fiona Woolf has been closer to the money. Her year-long term of office as Lord Mayor of the City of London, which comes to an end in a few days’ time, amounts to a symbolic re-capitulation of the finance-oriented aspect of her stellar career.
If Butler-Sloss dresses in the manner of Thomas Cranmer, the sixteenth century archbishop and Protestant martyr, Mrs Woolf is more what you’d expect of Kim Kardashian’s great aunt – plucked eyebrows and lipstick to tone in with hairsprayed hair (from bronze to blond); and two-piece, fitted suits from material that might have been made into wall-hangings in the Chelsea church where she sings in the choir.