The strange snubbing of Dr Sentamu and a Lordly U-turn…

EVEN a man without faith who surveys the world from an imaginary ledge can see that denying Dr John Sentamu a seat in the House of Lords would be unfair.

That apparent snub was reported by the Sunday Times, and then went through the U-bend of government decision making to come out facing the other way round. As so many decisions do.

There are a few aspects to this latest Downing Street whoopsie-dozy, not least whether church leaders should be in the Upper House at all. But leading clerics do sit in the Lords, so stopping the progress of the widely admired former Archbishop of York would have been petty.

Was there a current of racism in blocking Dr Sentamu? Probably not exactly, but it could be seen that way – especially as Dr Sentamu has never been afraid to speak his mind about social issues.

The argument for blocking the admirable doctor was that the House of Lords was full. What outrageously floppy flapdoodle. Boris Johnson has just ennobled a ragbag of Brexit supporters, along with his own brother – 36 new peers, the second-highest number of new peers for 20 years. That’s 36 times £300 a day, plus expenses.

If the place is chocker, that’s why.

Today’s Daily Mail kicked off with a different clerical clash, saying that the prime minister is “set for war” with the five Anglican Church leaders. This is because they wrote a joint letter warning that the government’s Brexit legislation could set a “dangerous precedent” if passed in its current form.

In a comment piece, the Mail asks “what on earth” this has to do with the Church, suggesting clerics should stand for election if they want to dabble in politics.

It’s a point – and one sometimes muttered in the corner of this ledge. But if assorted prime ministerial pals can be shoved into the Lords as part of the chumocracy, without a vote but a flexible flick of the back-scratcher, it’s hard to see that the archbishops shouldn’t deliver the occasional unflattering political sermon.

When the clerics agree with governments, minister say how much they appreciate the heavenly good sense; when the clerics turn turbulent, they shout disgrace.

While the House of Lords is constructed as it is, knocked together from glittered scraps of history and shabbily bestowed privilege, I can’t see a problem with archbishops having their say.

It would be better to have an elected second chamber, rather than one packed with the chums of assorted prime ministers. Until that happens, which it won’t ever, let the archbishops speak. And let Dr John Sentamu speak. He won over many in Yorkshire during his spell as archbishop. Even a man without faith who surveys the world from an imaginary ledge will happily admit that.


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