Alan Edwards finds precedents to the idea of a code of practice

The day General Synod threw away the Church of England I was sorting through old photo albums thinking about what I could throw away to save next of kin the task one day.

One photo reminded me that it was fifty years since RAF demob. Released at the same time was a friend, destined for high Anglican office. ‘We’ll have three demob parties,’ he suggested. ‘One in our local for the erks, then a formal dinner, and finally an exclusive affair to which we’ll invite officers to ensure decorum.’

His grasp of the three-fold ministry was already well-developed, but of codes of practice less so.

‘Officers present’ meant more cash in the kitty. The ‘exclusive event’ finished with an officer-piloted sports car in a ditch, a pair of frillies topping the parade ground flagpole, while I joined a group rampaging through the barracks with burning brooms, re-enacting a scene from that Kirk Douglas epic The Vikings.

The result, a last day appearance before the CO. Faith in ecclesiastical wisdom in devising codes of practice destroyed, fifty years before York.

As I had soared to the height of Acting Corporal (unpaid) I naturally eventually found myself working for an airline, a brief experience that reinforced my pessimistic view of codes of practice. This long defunct airline arranged trips from London to Africa. Its sales pitch was offering travellers a break from the journey, by booking them with another airline to Luxembourg, to stay overnight before catching one of its own planes for the final leg.

That the airline’s ageing planes did not have UK airworthiness certificates was a factor in the overnight break offer. The moral? Sharp operators (and none sharper than modern ‘liberals’) can get round every code, even if it means doing what was later to be called ‘an Ali shuffle’.

f quickly escaped into the record business, only to discover a rival company taping radio concerts, issuing them as records by artists given names only slightly different from the genuine article – Elspeth Schwarzkopf, for example – backed by equally inventive sleeve notes.

Eye-catching packaging added appeal. It was months before anyone tumbled, an illustration of the truth that if the packaging’s slick you can sell nonsense.

Which brings us back to York.