I have for many years opposed amending the Act of Settlement 1701, in particular those historic clauses which refer to the Protestant Settlement between the people, the Monarchy and the Established Church. I understand, to some, that this puts me in the ‘extremist bigot’ category, somewhere above Enoch Powell but still a little way beneath the Rev’d Dr Ian Paisley. That was the view taken by the Catholic Herald back in 2005, when they demanded that Michael Howard dismiss me as a Conservative parliamentary candidate over articles I had written on the matter for The Spectator two years earlier (which had been evaluated by the Chief Whip, no less). But there was no reasoning with the ‘something-of-the-night’ autocrat. Thankfully, more mature minds (like Charles Moore, William Rees-Mogg, Ann Widdecombe and Boris Johnson) fully understood my concerns, which were based on theological knowledge and constitutional history rather than any irrational prejudice or ‘bigotry’. Continue reading →
On April 23rd 2016 – and probably throughout the entire year – we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. By ‘we’ I mean not only England and the English, or the United Kingdom and the British, but all nations and cultures of the world where Shakespeare is a passion, pastime or of any scholarly interest. And that necessarily embraces the whole of civilisation. As the holder of the Guinness World Record for performing the Complete Works single-handedly non-stop (five days without sleep – never again), I’ll certainly be raising a glass or two to the world’s greatest poet-playwright.
My record still stands after 25 years, and has just been re-published in the 2013 edition of the Guinness Book of Records. I will forever be grateful to those fine English teachers I had at school – Roger Calvert, Daphne Cooper and Jean Tidy – who between the years that spanned my O-levels and A-levels introduced me to Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, Antony & Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Measure for Measure and King Lear. From the academic confines of the classroom to the emotional exuberance of the school play, I found my soul simultaneously steeped in dramatic greatness, lyrical beauty and profound wisdom: ineffable, noetic, passive – it was like a religious experience. Every visit I made to Stratford-upon-Avon became a pilgrimage: sometimes wrestling with darkness and devils, and then rejoicing with angels and ministers of grace. Continue reading →