This is incompetence piled on incompetence. There are judges, unconnected with the Metropolitan establishment, who have carried out enquiries with great sensitivity and intelligence. The Home Secretary should look outside of London for a new Chairperson. I believe I was first MP to ask Fiona Woolf to resign in this exchange.
Paul Flynn: Do you accept that there is a very powerful perception that the reason why the terrible abuse by Sir Cyril Smith and Sir Jimmy Savile was never exposed in their lifetimes is that there was an establishment cover-up and they were regarded as being too powerful or of too high a celebrity?
Fiona Woolf: I have read a number of reports, but I think it is for this inquiry to get in among that.
Q67 Paul Flynn: In the light of that, if you accept that—and many of us see that these people were feted in their own areas; they seemed to be untouchable in their own domains; they were guests of royalty and at 10 Downing Street year after year—the establishment itself is under suspicion because of this covering up of decades of child abuse. Isn’t that what the public feel?
Fiona Woolf: I think the public feels absolute abhorrence at all these reports that continually come out, which is why this inquiry has been mobilised by the Home Secretary.
Q68 Paul Flynn: The feeling is that people are worried about the duration of the abuse that went on, publicly known by thousands of people, which never came out because the figures involved were powerful figures of influence and celebrity. Isn’t that the perception?
Fiona Woolf: There are clearly reports. I read one by HMIC that said mistakes were made—I think that is the title of it—so, yes.
Q69 Paul Flynn: You are not answering my question. These are the points I want to get. It is about establishment, celebrity and that perception is there. What I want to follow up is the e-mails and tweets I get saying, “We want this inquiry divorced from the establishment in any way”, the reason that Mrs Butler-Sloss pulled out because she was thought to be an establishment figure and you are seen to be an establishment figure as well. Shouldn’t you resign in the interests of the report being accepted?
Fiona Woolf: I have already said I have never been a member of one of those bodies that are accused of having covered up. If I had been, I wouldn’t have begun to be even thought of as being—
Q70 Paul Flynn: No, but you are perceived, rightly or wrongly—and we can go into your background—as a member of the establishment. You have Cabinet Ministers’ wives to lunch.
Fiona Woolf: I don’t accept that I am a member of the establishment and I think it is down to me to keep making the point and to communicate in a way with the victim community that I can do that.
Q71 Paul Flynn: Do you believe that the perception is there and it comes to us in the form of tweets and e-mails? People are saying, “Why have we got rid of one member of the establishment and why are we having another member of the establishment judging the sins” if they are “of members of the establishment?”
Chair: Mr Flynn, I think that Mrs Woolf is clear that she does not regard herself as being part of the establishment. That is correct, isn’t it?
Paul Flynn: Does she accept that there is a public perception of it?
Q72 Chair: Do you accept that there is a public perception that you may be because of your history of corporate leadership, your presidency of the Law Society and the fact that you are Lord Mayor of London?
Fiona Woolf: The organisations that I belong to have never been in a position to cover things up.
Chair: That is very helpful.
Q73 Paul Flynn: But you have not answered the question, I am afraid. It is the public perception that matters.
Fiona Woolf: You are predicating a question about do I accept that there is a perception on a definition of the establishment, which I am struggling with because I think there is a perception of cover-up, and there may well be evidence of it, but I am asking myself by whom.
Q74 Chair: We will come on to the specifics. I think what Mr Flynn is saying is that you, of course, don’t regard yourself as being part of the establishment, but do you believe that there is a perception that you may be because of the posts that you hold and the positions that you have held so far? They may say, for example, that Mr Flynn is a member of the establishment because he is a Member of Parliament, the oldest club in the world.
Fiona Woolf: Yes, indeed, and that is mentioned in the terms of reference.
Q75 Chair: Would you accept that perception about you or not?
Fiona Woolf: I can understand that there are people who don’t know what the Lord Mayor of London does, but as an ordinary solicitor in private practice I really don’t think I count as the establishment.