On Thursday of this week, the Rt Hon Ann Widdecombe became Dame Ann. It is an honour well-deserved and long-overdue, bestowed in recognition of her remarkable contribution to politics and society, along with decades of tireless work for charity. ‘Dame Ann’ not only sounds good; it adds gravitas to a well-known name which will enhance the profile of her charitable efforts and increase her capacity to raise much-needed funds for the myriad of good causes she champions.
But this damehood was not bestowed by the Queen in Buckingham Palace at the behest of the Prime Minister: it was a papal honour granted after a Mass in Parliament’s Crypt Chapel. Ms Widdecombe is now a Dame of the Order of St Gregory – an honour conferred by Pope Benedict XVI himself and bestowed by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor at a ceremony in Speaker’s House in the Palace of Westminster. Continue reading →
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 →