Nigel Farage anointed by the Bishop of Buckingham
But why else was a parliamentary candidate seeking an Episcopal audience?
Or did His Grace request a meeting with Mr Farage?
To congratulate him upon his rudeness to President Van Rompuy?
That does not sound at all like Bishop Alan.
A 'pastoral visit', perhaps?
But then His Grace would also feel obliged to extend similar invitations to the other Buckingham candidates, especially Speaker Bercow (if only out of Anglican via media ‘neutrality’).
Not to mention every other candidate in the parliamentary constituencies under his suffragan aegis (Chesham & Amersham, Aylesbury, Beaconsfield, Slough, Milton Keynes, and Wycombe – and that’s an awful lot of tea and cake).
But why is Mr Farage trumpeting the meeting abroad on Twitter?
Does he think that touching the hem of the Bishop’s garment might garner a few more votes?
Or heal him of his delusions and nightmares?
Or is it that Mr Farage is genuinely seeking dialogue with the Established Church, ‘in preparation for government’, as it were?
UKIP are making some favourable noises regarding the Christian faith.
They have said, for example, that ‘Christian faith schools must be allowed to teach Christian faith and morals. They must be allowed to do what it says on the tin. The agenda of political correctness should not be shoved down their throats’.
There is a commitment among many members to 'Christian values', and their new leader Lord Pearson has been termed ‘God’s Eurosceptic’.
He is referred to as ‘a man of manic activity (with) the inflexible resolve of an indefatigable, compulsive fighter’. Beneath a kindly humility he is ‘burning with moral fire’. To understand what makes him tick, one has to appreciate that he is inspired not by politics, financial gain or personal ambition, but by an understanding and appreciation of ‘his place and purpose in the universe’: his charity work for the mentally handicapped; his passion for democracy; his anti-corruption stance; his record of helping Soviet and East European dissidents; his remembrance of God and loathing of Socialism all derive from a ‘Manichean vision’ in which ‘evils (are) fighting side by side in (a) cosmic conflict’.
Cranmer does not know the Bishop of Buckingham’s politics any more than he knows Nigel Farage’s faith.
But knowing something of the manifest common sense, insight, discernment and wisdom they each possess, Cranmer would be tempted to bet (if he were so inclined) his withered arm that Bishop Alan might just be as relieved to see the back of John Bercow as Mr Farage would be.
And after witnessing the Speaker’s appalling performance and evident pro-Labour bias in the Chamber yesterday, one cannot help but feel that he is not the right man for that job at this time.
Paul Waugh reports:
John Bercow was struggling to keep order today in a way that I've rarely seen in the Chamber.
As Theresa Villiers got up for the urgent question on the BA strike, she questioned Labour's links to the Unite union.
The Speaker surprised Tories by immediately ruling out any such questions, insisting that this was an issue solely about the strike and the Government's response. It was not a party funding matter, he said.
A chastised Villiers carried on with her point. Several minutes ensued with Tories referring to Unite and Labour (including minister Sadiq Khan) in turn referring to Lord Ashcroft's donations.
An exasperated Bercow then got up to say once again, categorically, that he would only accept questions that did NOT refer to party funding. He then invited Dennis Skinner to speak.
Skinner blatantly defied the Speaker by referring to Lord Ashcroft's alleged failure to pay millions in taxes. Not a peep from Mr B.
Cue Tory backbench protests. Mark Pritchard then pointed out that Unite leaders should be setting an example by curbing their own generous pay packets.
The minister rose to the dispatch box, paused and glanced at the Speaker. The Speaker ruled Mr Pritchard's question out of order. But Pritchard didn't let it lie. Moments later, he got up and said "A moment ago, you rebuked me...A minister appeared to prompt you. I'm sure that is not the case".
In turn the Speaker then became very, very irate.
"Order. The Hon Gentleman will sit and listen to the response and not gesticulate. I saw no sign whatsoever from any member of the Treasury bench. For the Hon Gen. to suggest that I could be prompted to make a comment or response is quite wrong and it is also an unnacceptable observation on the part of the Hon Gentleman.
"Let me suggest to the Hon Gentleman, whose behaviour was untoward, that he would be sensible and rational simply to accept the ruling...and to move on." (paronising, or what?)
Now, these exchanges were watched with dismay by several MPs - and it has prompted some ominous noises about whether the Speaker will be challenged after the next election.
Some Tories tell me that the private discussions about unseating the Speaker are now becoming matters of open debate in the Tea Room.
"It's a question of when, not if, he is challenged," one says. "I don't wake up wanting to pick a fight with Mr Speaker. But I wonder whether he wakes up in the morning and wonders which Tory MP he wants to pick a fight with."
As for Mr Pritchard, he tells me what infuriated him was the lenience shown to Mr Skinner:
"I'm charged by my constituents and by the taxpayer to ask questions in the House. That doesn't mean I'm going to be abused. I decided to stand up for myself."
Watch this space...
UPDATE: Tory backbenchers are going to the whips tonight to express their displeasure with the Speaker. I hear that one of the delegation is also to go directly to David Cameron himself.
There is, for Cranmer, only one candidate for the next Speakership.
Wise, moral, fearless, independent, Christian, Anglican, genuinely cross-party and greatly respected across the House.
And Cranmer would bet his entire ashes that the most excellent Bishop of Liverpool would hasten to anoint him.