03 September 2006

Freemasonry: A closed shop at the heart of politics?

In a free society, you should be able to associate with others in whatever way you like. Conversely, your associations should be irrelevant when it comes to being chosen to do something. Like all good Conservatives, I don't like closed shops. If you want to work somewhere, it should be based on your merits, not the colour of your skin, the colour of your tie, the union you're in (or not), or your particular class credentials.

This is why I'd like to look at Freemasonry. No-one seems to talk about it. Yet, I'm constantly astounded by the number of professional politicians who I find are members. What's it all about? Does it really have no impact on political decision-making? If you have to look someone in the eye and tell them you don't think they're qualified for position x, is your objectivity going to be swayed by the realisation you're going to be looking them in the eye again at the lodge meeting that night?

Let's contrast the situation with that of the Monday Club. Personally, I have little sympathy with most of their ideas. However, three Conservative MPs were forced to resign from the organisation in 2001 due to the organisation's views. Yet, membership of Freemasonry is unchecked by the Party, despite (generally) the organisation only admitting men, requiring belief in a 'supreme being' and meeting in secret.

There's little doubt that, like nearly all 'establishment' institutions, Freemasonry is on the decline. So what do you think: is it a powerful closed shop, or just a bunch of middle-aged men looking for an excuse to get away from their wives?

IMR (not PT)


Croydonian said...

I tend to think of it as being like the Rotary Club, only with more dressing up. I know people who are or were Freemasons, and they have struck me as decent upstanding types. I am not one, nor have I ever been invited, but I've been led to believe that anyone who attempts to use a lodge for personal gain etc is likely to get the bum's rush.

Praguetory said...

In terms of personal gain, I'm not really talking about in an overt sense, more the kind of thing that leads from blurring the boundaries between strong professional and personal relationships.

Thing is, I'll guess we'll never know... and for the record, I don't consider myself a conspiracy theorist.

IMS (not PT)

Croydonian said...

IMS - sure, I appreciate the nuance.

However, this is an interesting ethical question, and it would apply in all sorts of other situations - old school tie, membership of a political parrty, golf club, online gaming clan etc etc.

On the upside, if a freemason favours another freemason in some area of commerce or whatever, there is also a far greater scope to apply pressure to that person if they fall short.

Jock Coats said...

My old school has a lodge, as I am sure many do, but I became a Catholic ten years or so ago so it's not really my "bag" any more. But one thing I do remember was that a boy in my house had his whole fees paid for by his father's lodge when his father died suddenly. That seemed like a worthwhile use of pooled resources.

You're right though - there's very little spoken of them nowadays. If that is an indication that people are less worried about their influence and more laissez faire about whether any individual is a member or not I think that's probably a good thing. The only sinister thing about them to me is that Oxford's temple is at 333 Banbury Rd - halfway to hell...:)

Croydonian said...

I've got a vaguely similar tale to Jock. The son of a widowed friend of my mother had his education completely covered by his lodge. They do a good job of looking after their own, through thick and thin.

Anonymous said...

The Nazis suppressed the Freemasons.

Corky In Texas said...

Throughout history, ever dictator has banned Freemasonry even to the extent of prison and execution. I believe it was Franco of Spain who made the prison sentence for Freemasons equal one year in prison for each year as a Freemason. Even dictators who are not perceived as such, like the Pope, hate any group that promotes thinking for one’s self.