IT WAS only a matter of time before Baroness Butler-Sloss had to step down as chairman of the inquiry into allegations of historic child sex abuse. Even though her legal credentials were second to none, she was perceived to be close to the Establishment which is under scrutiny.
Like former News of the World editor Andy Coulson being hired as David Cameron’s director of communications in spite of the likelihood of the phone hacking scandal exploding, this points to a lack of due diligence on Downing Street’s part when it comes to such appointments.
This failing does not bode well for the long-awaited Cabinet reshuffle, which is already threatening to become yet another public relations disaster because of Downing Street’s insistence that the changes have been necessitated by a desire to promote more women to top jobs.
In most respects this is laudable, but Mr Cameron should be highlighting the attributes of rising stars like Leeds-educated Liz Truss, the Schools Minister, and Esther McVey, number two at the Department of Work and Pensions, rather than allowing his aides to give credence to the suggestion that their likely promotion is allied to their gender.
After all, the Conservative Party is supposed to be a meritocracy and Mr Cameron’s priority should be appointing the best people to roles while avoiding those self-inflicted own goals such as Rotherham-born Justine Greening’s appointment to the Department for Transport when her opposition to a new runway at Heathrow Airport, part of this policy brief, was so well-documented. As such, it could be argued that Mr Cameron’s Cabinet is short of politicians from the North, not to mention former Ministers whose previous experience of high office might lessen the likelihood of botched appointments being made by the Tory leader – or his headline-seeking aides.
Time to rejoice
Church backs women bishops
THE UNDERSTATED television images of the General Synod’s historic vote at the University of York in favour of women bishops could not have provided a greater contrast to the soul-searching that has so divided the Church of England for the past two decades.
There were very few expressions of joy; just relief that a very convoluted and complicated series of votes had come down on the side of common sense after the Church was subjected to ridicule in 2012 when it narrowly blocked the move.
Despite the deeply-held theological arguments in favour of the status quo, the Church of England – like all other public institutions – needs to move with the times.
Such opponents said the CoE would never be the same after women priests were sanctioned 20 years ago. What has happened in the passing two decades? Women now account for one third of all clergy and the Church would struggle to make a make an impact in many communities without this positive contribution.
In time, there is every likelihood that bishops will come to regret the lasting damage caused by their prolonged resistance – and how this actually offended those who want the Church to be more inclusive and more representative of society as a whole.
Coincidentally, there are now signs that the more conservative Catholic church is beginning to recognise the need for change under an enlightened Pope Francis who has suggested that priests could be allowed to marry in the future. For both churches, these are, potentially, momentous times and reflect the need to broaden their horizons in a changing world.
The shire prince
Charles is countryside champion
PRINCE CHARLES summed up his approach to the countryside – and life in general – when he was personally thanked by a victim of the calamitous Somerset floods for bringing his considerable influence to bear. “Well I had to do something. It runs in the family. It’s in my blood,” revealed the heir to the throne.
It also explains his commitment to the The Prince’s Countryside Fund which is working tirelessly, even more so in National Countryside Week, to attract a new generation of people to manage Britain’s rural heartlands and replace those farmers who have been lost to agriculture.
Yet, while the countryside has not been immune from the downturn, it is the Prince of Wales – more so than Britain’s political elite – who is championing the importance, and potential, of a rural economy which employs 5.5 million people and contributes £22bn a year to the nation’s coffers. These statistics need to become ingrained in the policy-making process.