Thursday, 7 May 2015

Some Overdue Spiritual Influence

Doubtless to the disappointment of our peculiar readership, but because of the day, our theme will be secular affairs, and purely ecclesiastical subjects will have to wait for another.

Not that Trespassers W, our latter-day Dr Codex, has not been busy in the internal affairs of the Church. Time would fail me to tell of the preferments of the Bishop of Stockport and Canon White (for those who like that sort of thing), of Prebendary Thomas (for those who really don’t) and of Farther North (so good they nominated him twice), of the Archdeacon of Hackney (for those who don’t think suffragan bishops really count; by far the soundest proposition on offer). And words fail me (because of excitement, of course) to tell of the Bishop of Islington (for those who think the Church of England needs more small under-resourced organisations) and the Bishop of Richmond (because if episcopacy is good, even more episcopacy must be better).

At Plumstead Rectory we rejoice at the full measure of the bench of bishops, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. And all this before the talent pool has really got going. 

For the joy that is ahead of us we endure the humiliation, and we look forward to the nomination of bishops to look after Tory clergy in the key electoral areas of the north west.

Speaking of which, in the last week of this general election campaign we were visited by our sometime member and now Labour candidate Mr Twigg. Sad it is to report, but he offered no free beer; held out no promise of a fat prebend; made no offer even to pay the costs of my journey to the poll this morning. Perhaps he is not allowed to do these things any more.

In fact Mr Twigg did not even solicit our votes when he visited Plumstead Rectory. When invited to do so he demurred, saying that he had only come to say hello. We suppose he knows that the clergy are all solid for Viscount Bolingbroke and the Corn Laws. (surely “Cameron and Our Long-Term Economic Plan”? Ed.)

Still, we suspect that Mr Twigg will be returned again, and that is all to the good, since we rather disapprove of seats changing hands as the result of a contest. At Plumstead Rectory we do not join with the fashionable decrying of safe seats: the effect of these for the most part is merely as if our member had bought his seat honestly from the rightful patron in the proper good old way.

And we take some pride in the fact that there were at one point during the last parliament only eighteen Conservative voters in this ward, almost every one of them was a practising member of the Church of England. Perhaps if general elections are going to be in the first week of May from now on we should all apply for postal votes, and fill them in together at the Annual Parochial Church Meeting. It is not quite the restoration of public polling, but it would be a start.

However, the Toryism of the Church has nothing to to do with their priest-riddenness, even in this parish. Only one parishioner has asked me to tell her how she should vote, and that was the mistress of Plumstead Rectory.

But I have not done so, not because a priest and a husband should not be the decisive voice in such matters (she and you know better than that), but because of an increasing (if most-uncharacteristic) qualm of conscience.

The mistress of Plumstead Rectory owns no freehold, is not a member of any corporation, is free of no borough, resides on no ancient burgage, and is in receipt of alms from the munificence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is very hard to see on what grounds she should possess a vote at all, the advantages of being married and a churchwoman notwithstanding.

And if not the mistress of Plumstead Rectory, then certainly not most of you, dear readers. If you do not quality under the ancient constitution, we say to you: do not vote. You only lend credibility to the reformers and revolutionaries who authored that long and dreary series of bills for the redistribution of this and that, the relief of such-and-such, the enfranchisement of so-and-so. Cease to avail yourselves of this unmerited and un-traditional franchise. Don’t you know that the Church and the Tory Party fought and died to confine the vote to the clergy and gentry?

And to my fellow-presbyters, who form a large proportion of our readers: if you have taken up Common Tenure, do not kid yourselves. Rejoice in you new-found freedom as unbeneficed clergy with no freehold. Go and riot outside Dissenters’ houses, if you are of a Tory persuasion; or if by some strange chance you are a Whig and have come here by mistake, go and riot outside some bishop's palace. There are plenty of them.

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