In the country, the empire lives on

I was interested to read (Leader, 11 June) that you believe that, with the latest general election, the old order is gone for ever. Perhaps this is the case in urban areas but, in rural areas, outposts of the empire remain.

We still have lord lieutenants, appointed by the Queen. Does this matter? It does when they still chair the committees that select the county magistrates, the people who form our lay judiciary.

And what about High Sheriffs? They appear to be self-appointing. The current High Sheriff nominates the next one, and the one after that, on the whole choosing from their small group of mates, thus perpetuating a role which, while allegedly simply ceremonial, carries with it a large amount of influence and patronage. It is a role, moreover, that only rich people with time on their hands can fulfil.

Sioned-Mair Richards
Caeffyrddin, Dyfed

This article first appeared in the 25 June 2001 issue of the New Statesman, The slow death of Tory England