Matthew Norman on Monday: Sun's Christian soldier odds-on in the Canterbury Stakes


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The Independent Online

Not since Gordon Brown wrote to Hazel Blears in response to her letter of resignation from his Cabinet has a public expression of regret been as convincingly genuine. "I was greatly saddened," wrote John Sentamu, the Rupert Murdoch Archbishop of York in his enthralling Sun on Sunday column yesterday, "to hear that Dr Rowan Williams will be stepping down..."

And who, my Lord Archbish, could doubt that? Indeed, the miracle is that Your Grace summoned the strength to write the Sunday Service column at all. A less stoic soul would have taken to his bed with a fit of the vapours and a Jeroboam of communion wine. Onward must Christian soldiers march, however, so let us pray that he overcomes the grief and continues – yea, verily, even as the Disciples carried on after Christ was taken from them – his pilgrimage to Canterbury. He has every chance of making it, after all, according to the "Runcie-Carey Balance Rule", which as noted here before states that Anglicanism's top-ranked see must alternate between the intellectual leftie-liberal agnostic and the evangelical reactionary dimwit. On this basis, as we are about to discover, it is not among God's greatest mysteries that the gay marriage-opposing, right-wing tabloid-courting Sentamu heads the market for the Canterbury Stakes.


Other theologians jockeying for top job

And so to the betting. Sentamu is the warm early favourite at 11-8, with Bishop of London Richard Chartres next on 7-2. Respected Dibley theologian the Rev Geraldine Granger and Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry, are 6-1 chances, while among the flock tethered on nines are Graham James (Norwich), Nick Baines (Bradford), and the late Derek Nimmo (All Saints, Gas And Gaiters).

You can get 16-1 about Stephen Cottrell (Chelmsford), Stephen Croft (Sheffield), Stephen Hendry (also Sheffield, but with special diocesan responsibility for The Crucible), and Stephen Platten (Wakefield), and it's 25-1 bar them. What will be no bar for Sun man Sentamu, as explained above, is crowing neanderthal opinions, so expect plenty more of that from him as the jockeying intensifies.


Archbishop has Right Tory support

If you can judge a candidate's claims by the quality of his backers, Sentamu should already be odds on. Among his fan club is not only Nadine Dorries, but an arguably yet more cerebrally gifted rentaquote Tory MP. As one compelling objector to gay marriage, Peter Bone posits the clear and present danger that it would permit a homosexual sovereign to choose to wed, thereby placing two queens – literal or otherwise – upon the throne.

He is further vexed by the risk of a future monarch and same-sex consort having an heir by a surrogate who would be entitled to a peerage. With any such fiercely contested issue, it takes a rare quality of mind to see through the fog of war to the crucial long-term implications. I must say, it does seem a scandalous waste of scant resources that Boney is left to rot on the backbenches.


Wisdom of the football crowd

Tremendous to hear Radio 5 Live's Garry Richardson bringing gravitas to the discussions about poor Fabrice Muamba. Why is it, Garry mused on his reliably scintillating Sportsweek show, that more footballers keel over with undiagnosed heart conditions than rugby players or cricketers? It's certainly a challenging conundrum, and hardly amenable to any simplistic answer, such as far more people playing football professionally around the world than every other team sport combined.

The day Garry went into portentous sports broadcasting was epidemiology's darkest night of all.


Dacre turns to the most unlikely ally

I am startled to learn that, before his twin tours de force before the Leveson Enquiry, the mannerly Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre sought guidance from a former employee. Apparently the magna cum laude anger management graduate seconded Edward Heathcoat-Amory – whose Mail article on John Lennon's "Imagine" remains the high water mark for post-Leavisite textual deconstruction – from Freud Communications for some public-relations tuition. Paul has long taken the dimmest view of Chipping Norton Set stalwart Matthew Freud and all his works, so this rapprochement is baffling. Perhaps Matthew did a bit of plastering at the magnificent, 3,500-acre Dacre estate in the Scottish Highlands over Christmas.

Déjà vu as Mirror plunders pensions

The Mirror newspaper group, it is revealed, is using its pension fund to pay off its creditors. This story seems to have a vague historical ring, but I can't put my finger on it. Can anyone help?