I wonder if we can construct a general theory which pulls together institutional stupidity, hierarchy and satire. I think the rich tradition of Juvenal, whose satire was more savage than most, was at the back of the minds of the hamstrung young intellects at the FO when they came up with a beautifully spoofed piece which was spectacularly leaked, prompting a grovelling apology from their lords and masters. The substance of the piece involved suggesting that as part of his pastoral responsibilities, HH could be invited to open an abortion clinic and bless a gay marriage during September’s visit to the UK. Excellent! Important people make the joke funny – if Father Brendan from the Church of the Assumption had been paying a pastoral visit, nobody would have cared much if his route took him through the red light district or whether he handed out a few condoms to a couple of local tarts or not. The aura of, well, holiness, surrounding HH meant that nobody had the stones to ring him up and ask if it was OK to have a bit of fun at his expense, to which he might have replied ‘Well, OK, lads, but do try to keep it more or less decent, won’t you?’, thus denuding him of the magisterial mystery so necessary for the maintenance of his office. The junior civil servant responsible for distributing the leaked document has been reassigned to Francis Campbell’s office, the UK’s ambassador to the Vatican, where he will be in daily contact with those his actions most offended. “We couldn’t think of a more sadistic punishment for him”, an FO spokesman said. Tee hee.
The image is of the Foreign Secretary, who, like the prophet Ezra, is clearly ‘appalled’. Quite right. Oh, yes. None of the above is true.