Every age has people protected by a certain ‘halo effect’? At points in the past members of the clergy might have been said to enjoy the advantage. More recently it would appear that celebrities were the ones who could get away with anything. We like to think we are beyond all this now – and it’s true that we’re wise to cardinals, priests, politicians and disc-jockeys. But our own blind-spots haven’t gone away – they’ve just changed.
It has often occurred to me that if you wanted to perform any great con trick these days you could do no better than to have a hard to pronounce name, wear achingly ethnic clothing and cultivate a sort of ‘mother earth’ persona. The search for authenticity is such that before long every culturally embarrassed media and political creep would beat a path to your door, sit at your feet and hug you like a tree. In reality you would never need to do anything much because you’ve already ticked all the culturally correct boxes.
This is what makes most analyses of power in modern Britain so woefully, woefully wrong. Politicians hardly have any and they can lose it at any moment. Priests and moral leaders are mainly figures of fun. But we have our own clerical class. It’s just as ludicrous as any ever was, but it seems to be taking an age for people to wise up to it.