THE keenest enjoyment of the Paul Flowers affair, for anyone who
deals with lots and lots of PR, came from an old copy of PR
Week UK, which turned up on the net with an article by Paul
Flowers in it.
The blurb at the end was one for the ages: "Thought Leadership
credentials: The Reverend Paul Flowers is unique among his
corporate peers. A Methodist minister, he brings a wealth of social
experiences to his role in chairing the Co-operative Bank, as well
as his experience in business. A lifetime serving the public
includes leading work tackling drug abuse."
Yes, indeed. And here, according to the Mail on Sunday,
are some of the texts he sent to his dealer: "How's your 17 year
old? I reckon that with lots of coke and ket he just might get
curious at the party!!"
A week later, he texted: "In London today speaking @Commons
committee. Will probably be on television. Looking forward to
seeing you on Friday Paul xx."
Then he suggests a round of cruising sites, and "the very chavvy
'gay bars' in Bradford . . . lots of likely lads whom you would
probably enjoy." I love that "whom". It shows there is at least one
word of which John Wesley would approve.
Otherwise, the story is a bit grim for the Methodists. The name
"Crystal Methodist" will be known to more people than the
denomination now. When a similar Anglican scandal involving
cocaine, young boys, and financial nonsense emerged, it was almost
entirely hushed up. But the world was far more deferential 20 years
ago, and the old Establishment (one of the players had chaired the
wine committee at the Athenaeum) far more powerful.
If I wanted to construct an argument against high-mindedness,
the Leveson inquiry, and all the sorts of journalism that feel
respectable and constructive, I would go no further than the Paul
Flowers story. It is squalid, intrusive, almost certainly obtained
by bribing criminals - and, oh, who cares? You would need to be
very soft-hearted not to laugh at the spectacle of this pompous
bully brought low by his drug dealers and procurers. Yet it can't
really be said to expose any new scandals. The Co-op Bank had
already collapsed by the time he was exposed. No doubt there are
many bankers with the same habits but far more competence, who
never get caught and whose businesses will continue to
A. N. WILSON had a characteristically thoughtful and elegaic
piece in the Telegraph about the decline of Christianity.
"I go to a well-attended church in London, but I have made frequent
travels throughout England in the past year (literary festivals,
television work, visiting friends). On Sunday mornings, I have gone
to church. When staying with friends near Canterbury, I have
enjoyed splendid liturgy, intelligent sermons, and been part of a
But elsewhere: "I have attended at least ten churches in the
past year - all very different in their history, but in each case I
have had the same experience. At the age of 63, I have been the
youngest person present by 20 years. The congregation has seldom
numbered double figures. The C of E is a moribund institution kept
going by and for old people. They are ministered to (perhaps I was
just unlucky) by an ill-educated clergy with nil public-speaking
ability. . .
"Most decent, intelligent, middle-aged or young people I know
have no sense at all of what churches are for."
He compares traditional Christianity to the appreciation of
classical music; one has the sense, as often with him, that he goes
to church despite the creeds and its teachings. He quotes
approvingly Archbishop Michael Ramsey telling a young priest, after
deep thought, that it did not matter that he no longer believed in
God. But the tradition in which that could honestly be said has
THIS has not, of course, diminished the stock of human
credulity. I was delighted by a story that appeared in the New
York Times: Sylvia Mitchell, a fortune-teller, has been
sentenced to five years for swindling her clients.
"One witness, Debra Saalfield, who runs a marketing business and
is a competitive ballroom dancer, said she had turned to Ms
Mitchell after a bad breakup and a job loss in 2008. Ms Mitchell
convinced her that her problems stemmed from her past life as an
Egyptian princess and that she was too attached to money.
"She convinced Ms Saalfield to give her $27,000 for safekeeping
as an exercise in letting go of money."