A recent thread on Barbican Talk about a searchable database of City of London councillors’ interests in places turned into a discussion of freemasonry:
The data rather supports the belief that the City is run by masons. Percentage of masons on this key committee (policy and resources) and number of committees occupied by masons is disproportionately large compared to their percentage of common council people as a whole. Seems to be plenty of hardcore Tories in there too but that isn’t evident due to the City maintaining the fiction that it is free of party politics.
(The same poster added after someone else said of the City of London council data: “interesting that although only 17.6% of members are Freemasons, 23% of all committee memberships are held by a Freemason.”): Masons represent 0.4% of the UK population and if every Mason in the world moved to the UK they would still only be 10% of the UK population. So the City is grossly over represented by Masons. Ted Bolt, Barbican Talk, 12 May 2018.
The thread goes on to query whether members of the council have to declare masonic affiliations and features satirical commentary on the City’s code of conduct. This had the effect of sending us at Reclaim back to the freemasonry discussions of the council’s Standards Committee, which took place as Edward Lord stepped down and was replaced by fellow mason Oliver Lodge as chair. A letter Lord penned while still chair dated 4 May 2016 is appended to the minutes of the Standards Committee meeting of 13th May 2016. We will intersperse our own comments into this:
You raised with me on Thursday, prior to the meeting of the Court of Common Council, your concerns regarding the potential influence of freemasonry within the Corporation and the need for greater transparency, particularly with regard to the Guildhall Lodge. You also expressed specific concern about the gender restriction on membership of freemasonry in general and Guildhall Lodge in particular, i.e. that it is only open to men.
As I told you on Thursday, I am a freemason, but am not a member of Guildhall Lodge. For the sake of openness, I should tell you that I am a Grand (i.e. national) Officer of the United Grand Lodge of England and chairman of one of its committees.
Obviously masonry is not monolithic and if the Evening Standard is to be believed (see notes below), there has been a major rift between Edward Lord and Sir Michael Snyder. The latter is a high-ranking freemason in the City of London and a former head of the council. According to his declaration of interests, Snyder is a member of the Guildhall Lodge and this affiliation may explain why Lord doesn’t belong to that branch of The Brotherhood.
Despite currently declaring himself a ‘member, United Grand Lodge of England’ (and in past declarations a member of Guildhall Lodge 3116), Oliver Lodge doesn’t appear in the freemasonry data discussed on Barbican Talk; so the percentages of masons on the council and its committees there are – assuming the calculations were done correctly – underestimated.
Edward Lord after rummaging through his dressing up box for his masonic regalia.
Above Lord refers to his chairing a Grand Lodge committee, this was the United Grand Lodge of England Universities Scheme Committee. When Lord chaired the Universities Scheme Committee, two of his fellow City Standards Committee members also belonged to this other operation, viz Mark Greenburgh and Dan Large. That Grand Lodge committee is no longer chaired by Lord. Greenburgh currently occupies this seat but regardless the shared work undertaken by him, Lord and Large, was hardly conducive to the general public perceiving these men as achieving elevated levels of probity on the City’s Standards Committee – and for some casts in doubt claims that it’s procedures were transparent. Blithely ignoring all those who don’t share his own views and perceptions, Lord continues his 4 May 2016 letter as follows:
As I hope you know, I am a passionate believer in transparency and that has been the watchword of the Standards Committee under my chairmanship over the past three years. In relation to freemasonry specifically, when we updated the Code of Conduct late in 2014, we introduced a requirement for members to declare, under paragraph 7 (c) of the Code, their memberships of fraternal and sororal societies, which our guidance advises includes organisations like Freemasonry and the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes. This is a change from the previous statutory code which only required Members to register membership of charities, meaning that most freemasons did not have to declare their membership of the fraternity, but only their membership of the Freemasons’ Grand Charity.
In a previous post we addressed how the former Lord Mayor and City of London councillor Sir Michael Bear was less than forthright about whether the ‘Grand Charity Society’ listed on his declaration of interests – until his retirement at the end of last year – was in fact the Freemasons’ Grand Charity. Bear did not declare himself to be a freemason but there is material in the public domain that suggests he may have been one. Likewise a councillor for Farringdon Without called Gregory Jones lists Freemason Grand Charity but not freemasonic membership on his current declaration of interests – dated 16th June 2017. If the information Lord gives in his 2016 letter was correct and is still valid, this does not conform with the current code of conduct if – as would seem likely – Jones is also a freemason. These possible discrepancies and other issues undermine many of the claims Lord makes in his May 2016 letter.
From the Standards Committee’s recent review of Members’ register entries, it appears that all those who are freemasons have declared their membership either by stating that they are a freemason, or by giving the names and or numbers of the lodges to which they belong.
Our previous post on the matter demonstrates that the Standards Committee of the City of London has been rather sloppy in remembering the lodge affiliations of its own members; it would therefore be naive to simply trust it or Lord on the matter of the entire council’s freemasonic memberships. Moving on, having gone back to the recent discussions of freemasonry by the Standards Committee which we’d looked at last year – and this time having reviewed a greater amount of the available material – we discovered small but significant discrepancies between the minutes in the public reports pack we relied on in our previous blog post, and what’s ostensibly the same material on the City of London website.
Edward Lord failing to live up to his surname.
Examining additional Standards Committee minutes on freemasonry served to reinforce our conviction that: “it is clearly unacceptable to have the chair and deputy chair and a high number of members of the Standards Committee being Freemasons; because when the subject comes up for discussion – as it did at this meeting – what transpires can appear improper. How the committee felt able to discuss Freemasonry at all in this instance requires both further investigation and detailed explanation from at least some of those present.” And so we return to Lord’s letter of May 2016 with the feeling that large parts of it simply aren’t credible:
Turning to the specific issue of Guildhall Lodge No. 3116, which was consecrated in 1905 for Aldermen and Common Councilmen of the City of London and from which it still draws most of its membership. Clearly as there has been a Guildhall Lodge for more than 100 years, the position is not new. In fact, the number of freemasons and Guildhall Lodge members on Common Council today is almost certainly lower than previously, not least because of the growth in the number of women on the Court. In my fifteen years on Common Council, I have never been aware of any suggestion that Guildhall Lodge or its members have ever acted either improperly or in concert in respect of the activities of the Corporation or its internal governance. I am, however, aware that suspicion might – and indeed occasionally does – arise amongst certain non-masonic members of the Court that the Lodge could exert influence behind the scenes at Guildhall.
Here Lord skips over what for many is a central issue. He fails to address or explain why more than fifty percent of the City of London’s Lord Mayors since the founding of this lodge have been members of it. Information on this subject can be found in various places. The Paviors Lodge 5646 puts it like this on it’s website: “The Guildhall Lodge Number 3116 was established in 1905 for the Aldermen and Common Councillors of the City of London. To date, no less that 78 Masters of this distinguished lodge have also been Lord Mayors of the City of London.” This might well be taken as indicating behind the scenes influence at the Guildhall. Given that according to The Evening Standard (see notes below), Lord’s own ambitions include bagging this position, it is difficult to believe that he wasn’t aware of the fact that being a member of the Guildhall Lodge appears to massively improve one’s chances of becoming Lord Mayor. Therefore it strikes us as ridiculous that Lord continues his May 2016 letter as follows:
If you are aware of any specific concerns about the direct and inappropriate influence of freemasonry – as opposed to there being freemasons individually in leadership positions – in the work of the Corporation that you would wish the Standards Committee to investigate, please let me know.
Having looked at the way the Standards Committee addressed freemasonry when the matter last arose, we’re not convinced its members at the time Lord wrote this letter were capable of objectively investigating The Brotherhood. Indeed both Lord’s letter and the minutes recording discussions of freemasonry leave us with the impression that the Standards Committee exists to defend the existence of The Brotherhood within the City of London council, regardless of how these matters and their relationship to issues of probity are perceived by a broader public. Returning to Lord’s May 2016 letter, he concludes it as follows:
Whilst it would be invidious (and indeed in breach of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights) to require Members to declare their membership of any specific organisation (as opposed to types of organisations in the generality), it may well be that the Standards Committee might wish to review its guidance on the interpretation of the Code on this point. I could certainly see an argument that – given the number of Members involved – Guildhall Lodge could reasonably be interpreted to be a club or society active in the City of London which we might expect Members to declare their membership of under paragraph 7 (b) of the Code, just as do memberships of Ward Clubs etc.
I will ask the Town Clerk to place this issue on the agenda for the next meeting of the Standards Committee as we will be reviewing the Guidance on the Code of Conduct in any event at that meeting.
On your point regarding gender inequality in freemasonry, you raise an entirely valid issue. Under its current rules, membership of lodges under the United Grand Lodge of England is restricted to men only, and clearly that includes the Guildhall Lodge. Masonry is however open for women to join and in this country there are two Grand Lodges for women: the Order of Women Freemasons (www.owf.org.uk) and the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons (www.hfaf.org). Perhaps, if enough women Members of Common Council wanted to, they could establish their own Guildhall Lodge.
Coming from someone who positions himself as a champion of diversity, Lord’s suggestion that women council members might form their own Guildhall Lodge is extraordinary. Real champions of diversity understand that men only clubs like the Guildhall Lodge need to be opened up to women, and not just in politics but also in sport*, as Brian Pronger demonstrated so well 30 years ago in his book The Arena of Masculinity: Sports, Homosexuality & the Meaning of Sex (St Martin’s Press, New York 1990). We have women only sessions in some of our local gyms but not men only sessions because of power imbalances and sexism. If the Guildhall Lodge is so obsessed by the phantasm of the ‘male mysteries’ that it refuses to recruit women members, then it shouldn’t be allowed to meet on council premises. Lord’s understanding of these matters appears shockingly deficient and his positions on freemasonry show him as siding against those who believe in both diversity and equality.
Edward Lord’s burning ambition to be a City of London alderman means he enjoys dressing up in the rags associated with the superannuated role, although he’s yet to succeed in getting ‘elected’ to this office.
*Diversity in sport is another area in which Lord is often touted as a specialist, probably because in comparison to a theorist like Pronger his positions are extremely conservative and the powers that be actually don’t want things shaken up. And again, freemasonry as a bastion of men only culture might well be seen as an example of the ‘alpha male’ culture MPs are currently urging the finance industry – which the City of London council represents due to its retention of undemocratic business votes – to ditch. On this see MPs urge banks to end ‘alpha male culture’ to close gender pay gap by Julia Kollewe, The Guardian, 13 June 2018: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/jun/13/mps-urge-banks-to-end-alpha-male-culture-to-close-gender-pay-gap
Searchable database of City of London Aldermen and Common Councillors’ interests: https://city-of-london-councillors.now.sh
Discussion of searchable database of City of London councillor interests (including freemasonry) on Barbican Talk: https://www.barbicantalk.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=17711
Meeting of Standards Committee of the City of London council, Friday, 13th May, 2016 (Freemasonry) at Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20180613233800/http://democracy.ci atyoflondon.gov.uk/mgAi.aspx?ID=48572
Declaration of interests by City of London councillor Gregory Jones posted on 16 June 2017 at Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20180613233342/http://democracy.cityoflondon.gov.uk/mgDeclarationSubmission.aspx?UID=1220&HID=2859&FID=0&HPID=505943184
Paviors Lodge 5646 on the Guildhall Lodge and how many Lord Mayors have belonged to it at Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20180614000430/https://www.paviorslodge.org.uk/home/affiliations/
Press report suggesting there are or have been personal and political differences between Michael Snyder and Edward Lord: Revealed: source of smear on key City figure by Keith Dovkants, Evening Standard, 21 December 2004.
An Anonymous email attacking Michael Snyder, the Corporation of London’s powerful policy chairman, has been traced to a computer used by one of his council colleagues who is a magistrate and member of the police committee.
The revelation will electrify the City today, after weeks of speculation about who might have sent the email.
In a startling departure from the genteel protocols of the Square Mile, the message accused Mr Snyder, highly respected leader of local government in the City, of trying to diminish the office of the Lord Mayor for his own purposes.
It alleged that Mr Snyder, an accountant, wanted to curtail the roving ambassador role of the Lord Mayor, currently Michael Savory. Snyder, the email claimed, schemed to control the mayoralty by stripping the Lord Mayor and the ancient Court of Aldermen of their authority in a “major power grab”.
The sender said Snyder was motivated by the fact that his own mayoral ambitions had been thwarted, because he had a “serious driving conviction”.
Police were called in to investigate the email, which was widely circulated to influential figures in the City. Their investigation has proved inconclusive, but the Evening Standard can reveal that the computer used to smear Mr Snyder was traced to Edward Lord, the ambitious 32-year-old member of the Court of Common Council – the Corporation’s main decision making body. Last week, he was defeated in his attempt to be elected to the Court of Aldermen.
City police investigated the email on the basis that it might contravene post and telecommunications or criminal libel law. But they did not complete their inquiries. The Evening Standard has learned why.
After police traced the computer, they contacted Mr Lord. But, according to one source, he refused to let them examine the machine, apparently on legal advice. It was also discovered that the computer was kept at Mr Lord’s home in Blackstock Road, Finsbury Park, which he shares with Laura Willoughby, a Liberal Democrat councillor in Islington.
Ms Willoughby, 30, became the council’s youngest chief whip when Labour lost Islington in 2000. She has been selected to stand in the constituency against Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn at the next election.
No one has suggested – or suspected – she might have used the Blackstock Road computer to send the email. But the Crown Prosecution Service saw no prospect of gaining a conviction in the case, and the police dropped it. The potential offence was not serious enough to merit search warrant or arrest procedures.
Mr Lord told the Standard that he did not send the email, and he said he made two statements to the police. When he was asked whether he had refused to give the police permission to look at the computer, he said: “I think you have been given a red herring on this one.”
Mr Lord has made no secret of the fact that he would one day like to become Lord Mayor. His decision to stand in Cordwainer Ward as alderman recently would have been a necessary first step, but he failed to be elected.
Mr Snyder said he had been concerned over the email because it was not true. “I spend most of my time promoting the City and the Lord Mayor,” he said. “I find it objectionable that anyone could suggest otherwise.”
In 37 years’ driving, he added, he had been fined three times for speeding – the last time in 1977.