I wrote yesterday about David Cameron choosing arch-Mason Giuseppe Garibaldi as his political hero, and also mentioned how a previous speech of Cameron's had had a noticable Churchillian influence (and that Bro. Churchill was also a Mason). What I didn't know then was that Cameron, at the same event, had also named Churchill as one of his inspirations.
Asked about his political heroes and heroines at a journalists' lunch at Westminster, Mr Cameron came up with the unsurprising names of Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill.
There was one intriguing name on his list, however - Giussepi [sic] Garibaldi, the Italian soldier and nationalist who led the fight for the reunification of his country.
Lest he be linked too closely with Garibaldi's frequently violent methods, Mr Cameron was anxious to point out that his choice was influenced by his fondness for Garibaldi biscuits.
I don't believe that last bit about the biscuits - it's like saying he admires Maggie partly because he likes thatched cottages. And what above is described as a journalists' lunch was a speech-plus-lunch with the Parliamentary Press Gallery lunch club.
A Masonic story about the Parliamentary Press Gallery appeared in the UK Press Gazette earlier this year [link - scroll down].
Recipients of email to lodge complaint?
SPARE a thought for Fleet Street veteran Rob Gibson, who has learnt the hard way about the dangers of email.
The former Daily Express political editor and dedicated fund-raiser for journalists' charity the NPF now runs the highly regarded Gallery News at the House of Commons. Gibson sends out stories daily to a host of outlets, including MPs at Westminster.
Unfortunately, Gibson sent out one email in error last week that was a little too "exclusive".
To the great man's consternation, it contained the minutes of the latest meeting of his Masonic lodge. Now there's open government for you.
MPs at Westminster have had their own Masonic lodge since 1929, but the lobby journalists' lodge dates back to 1881. According to Martin Short in Inside the Brotherhood (p.582):
[C]oncern [about the influence of Freemasonry in Parliament] has never been reported by Britain's Parliamentary press. Its silence may have something to do with the fact that a second lodge operates in the Palace of Westminster. Thirty-eight years before MPs had their own New Welcome Lodge [no. 1539], the press lobby had set up the Gallery Lodge (no. 1928).
Kevin Maguire added this, about the Gibson faux pas, in the New Statesman:
I read in the minutes of the parliamentary press pinny boys the names of an old Times hand, a couple of ex-Express scribes and my former boss at the Press Association news wire, yet disappointingly none of the Gallery galacticos. Word was that the masons operated two lobby lodges, so perhaps chapter 1928 is the retirees. Anyone who’d like to peruse what this funny-handshake brigade got up to at their 366th convocation should get in touch.
And former regional lobby journalist Paul Linford blogs:
Correspondents were frequently baffled to find the chairs in the Lobby Room rearranged with one facing the wrong way - a seating arrangement consistent with the masonic initiation ritual in which the candidate sits blindfolded with his back to the room.
On one memorable occasion, a notorious wind-up merchant in the regional lobby put out a spoof tannoy for the Secretary of the Press Gallery Freemasons' Lodge - such a body does exist.
It was answered by a very well-known Sunday newspaper political editor, who maintained he was simply curious as to who was on the other end of the line.....
Anyway, my point is that there is at least one Masonic lodge for the lobby journalists in the Palace of Westminster, in a tradition going back 125 years. So, when David Cameron addressed the assembled hacks, his mentioning of Churchill and Garibaldi as political heroes would have gone down very well with all the Masons in the audience.
P.S. [2006.05.05] I didn't know but the Parliamentary Press Gallery has its own website. There's a list of every member of the lobby. The aforementioned Rob(ert) Gibson is Chairman of the Press Gallery.