Freemasons in Westminster ‘should declare membership’

Ian Cobain and Rajeev Syal — The Feb 5, 2019

House of Commons

The journalists’ union and a senior Conservative MP have expressed alarm at the disclosure that two Freemasons’ lodges have been operating secretly at Westminster.

The National Union of Journalists said both journalists and members of parliament should openly declare their membership of Freemasonry.

The NUJ general secretary, Michelle Stanistreet, said: “Trust in journalism is absolutely essential, and transparency of membership of the Freemasons is long overdue. The NUJ backs calls for Freemason membership to be listed by both journalists and MPs in their declared register of interests when working in parliament.”

Sarah Wollaston, the Totnes MP who chairs two parliamentary committees, wrote that MPs should be made to declare membership of the Freemasons.

“Have to ask why anyone would bother with all that claptrap if not for the chance to weasel an unfair advantage. So, of course, it should be compulsory to declare membership of Freemasons if your job is paid for by taxpayers,” she wrote on Twitter.

Senior Freemasons insist there is no contradiction between the practice of journalism and membership of Freemasonry.

David Staples, the chief executive of the United Grand Lodge of England, which governs about 200,000 Freemasons in England and Wales, said that contrary to popular perception, membership helps those serving society – “including journalists, politicians, policemen and lawyers” – to perform those roles well.

“Their membership is a positive for both them as individuals, and for society at large,” he said, adding that more Freemasons would declare their membership if they did not fear prejudice and discrimination.

Critics of covert membership of Freemasonry included Paul Waugh, the executive editor of the Huffington Post, who wrote: “I do recall once arriving early for a Commons meeting, in a little-known part of the House, to find all the chairs arranged in a very odd manner indeed, and hearing a rumour that this was where masons had met.

“Verifying anything was impossible. What’s particularly odd is that neither MPs nor journalists are required to declare their membership in the Commons register of interests. Surely if there’s nothing to hide, transparency is now long overdue?”

New Welcome Lodge, which recruits MPs, peers and parliamentary staff, and Gallery Lodge, established for members of the political press corps known as the lobby, both remain active, the Guardian has established.

A third lodge called the Alfred Robbins Lodge, which was also set up for journalists also continues to meet regularly in London.

The identities of the members of these three lodges remain unknown outside the world of Freemasonry, however, and so discreet are the members of Gallery Lodge that few journalists working in the lobby appear to be aware of it.