Richard Ingrams: What is going on in the Church of England?

Saturday 10 July 2010 00:00

The Mystery of the Gay Bishop Who Never Was has yet to be resolved.

In 2003, Dr Jeffrey John was nominated for the bishopric of Reading but later stood down following a massive protest from so-called traditionalists and, in particular, African and Caribbean bishops. Seven years later, Dr John was again being nominated, this time as possible bishop of Suffolk. But now it seems that his name has been withdrawn from the shortlist.

In 2003 Doctor John stated that he was standing down "in view of the damage that my consecration might cause to the unity of the church".

But if that was the case in 2003, why should it have been any different in 2010? Had the Church of England in the meantime, like the Conservative Party, become more tolerant towards gays? Or would those bishops in Africa be able to see a fundamental difference between Reading and Suffolk despite there being only 120-odd miles between the two?

Speaking up for Dr John, The Guardian reported this week that, in 2003, Dr John "agreed to sign a letter" stating his unwillingness to cause disunity. The suggestion is that under pressure he gave his name to sentiments which he didn't actually agree with – behaviour that would in the eyes of many people make him a prize humbug. And that is not something, I presume, that his supporters would like us to think.

Clueless about apps and very happy about it

Christine Bleakley, Megan Fox, Holly Valance – as you get older you have to adjust to the fact that the papers are full of names that you have never heard of. But increasingly, with all the latest advances in technology, they are also full of stories that you do not begin to understand. Take this from a report on Wednesday: "A rogue app developer has been hacking into hundreds of iTunes accounts to buy his own apps and boost his ratings". You can react in two ways to something like that. One way is to feel guilty about your ignorance and make some kind of effort to find out what it's all about. The second is to ignore it altogether on the grounds (possibly unverified) that it's of no earthly importance. Readers may not be surprised to learn that I lean towards the second of these two approaches.

It may seem frivolous on my part, but I have found that I can get along pretty well while taking little or no notice of what is going on in cyberspace. I am aware, because friends have told me, that there are quite a lot of people out there passing comment on what I write in this column, much of it malignant, more of it mad. As with the crazy messages relayed by spiritualists from "the other side", it is best to have nothing to do with that kind of thing.

Propaganda, not politics, is Gove's forte

Journalists who go into politics very seldom make a go of it, but that doesn't seem to deter others from trying their hand. Stephen Milligan, Lady Olga Maitland, even Michael Foot. Or going back still further, men such as William Cobbett or Hilaire Belloc. The best you could say of these people is that they failed to distinguish themselves as politicians. Others have come a notable cropper, like poor Alastair Campbell, a good enough journalist on the Daily Mirror and Today but now totally discredited by his disastrous performance supporting Tony Blair over Iraq.

Another fervent supporter of Blair at that time was Mr Michael Gove, then a columnist and assistant editor on The Times. A one-time lefty turned reactionary – always the most unbalanced types – Gove happily followed the Murdoch line that Blair and Bush had done the world a good turn by invading Iraq. David Cameron, who agreed with all that, has made Gove Secretary of State for Education and almost immediately he has tripped up over his programme of cuts and finds himself under fire even from fellow Tory MPs.

In accordance with the general rule affecting journalists turned politicians, I do not expect Gove to last very long as a minister. Within a year or so, I would guess, he will be back at The Times advising David Cameron what he should be doing.

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