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Press: No love for Keir Starmer from HTB millionaire

05 July 2024

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KEN COSTA, one of the Evangelical millionaires around Holy Trinity, Brompton (HTB), writes occasional articles for the Telegraph. My eye was caught by one on Monday urging the readers to vote Conservative: “Many Conservative supporters, activists, business owners, donors and core voters are angry and frustrated. Most grapple with being supportive of Tory policies but furious with the party for not implementing truly conservative values. . .

“Traditional party faithful and undecideds are threatening to punish the Conservatives by either not voting or by backing the Lib Dems or Nigel Farage in protest. And the beneficiary of both will be Labour.”

Sure looks like he’s been given a word of knowledge.

The irony, of course, is that HTB is doing to the Church of England exactly what Reform UK is doing to the Conservative Party. It takes a more subtle mind than mine to understand why this is terribly wrong in one case but not in the other.

Perhaps it is the quality of the messianic leader that makes a difference. But never mind that when there’s money to be made. Mr Costa’s most frequent subject in the paper is the need to suck up to Saudi Arabia: he has written three pieces all explaining that Pecunia non olet, which every properly educated schoolboy knows is the Latin for “Oil has no smell.”

Oh, and he also claims that “Sunak is right: National Service is just what Generation Z is crying out for”. That was the only policy that drew a ripple of spontaneous laughter at the hustings I attended in Ely Cathedral. Mr Costa’s view is perfectly normal by the standards of the Telegraph these days. Today’s Opinion page offers “Joe Biden’s presidency has been a conspiracy against the world”; “Tory Remainers are the authors of their party’s defeat” (savour that one for a moment); “Britain is about to be pushed over the edge”; and “Armageddon is upon us, and Britain will never be the same again”.

Still, the Telegraph was also the only national paper to notice the Alliance’s announcement of de facto schism (News, 28 June). Even with an election on, I had not thought the Church had drifted so far out of the mainstream.

FERGUS BUTLER-GALLIE had a tremendous blast in The Spectator, provoked by the decision to sell off the church where Dick Whittington was buried (News, 28 June).

“The Diocese of London is now, in Church of England circles, a byword for the worst excesses of the culture which is slowly killing the Church,” he wrote. “The leadership — its bishops, archdeacons and faceless grey managers — are hopelessly out of their depth. They are devoid of pastoral instinct, practical talents or any sense of the profound beauty of the glory of God. I know, as I used to work for them. There are some good talented clergy on the ground, but they are largely undermined or ignored. Those in power crash from blunder to blunder, then move from cover up to cover up, before finally coming up for air and repeating the same process again. They cannot broach any criticism, they do not want to hear from people who think differently. It’s the scene from the end of Downfall set to Gregorian chant.”

All this may be true, but it does nothing to suggest how the diocese can restore its finances except by selling off its assets. That’s also true of the dioceses that have no assets to sell. The problem is only going to become more pressing if the “Alliance” churches start directing their money to their own organisation.

All of the respectable mainstream Anglicans with whom I have discussed the split think that I am alarmist, and put their trust in the same institutions they would not trust in other contexts to manage anything important. But the national Church has no whips to crack, only a handful of broken reeds.

HOW different are the affairs of the Vatican? Both The Guardian and the Financial Times carried reports on the civil case in which Raffaele Mincione, an Italian businessman based in London, is suing for a declaration that he acted in good faith over a property deal which ended up costing the Holy See £100 million.

This was not the opinion of the Vatican court, which sentenced him and six others to substantial prison terms; among his co-defendants was a Cardinal, Angelo Becciu, who got five-and-a-half years, as did Signor Mincione. All of them are appealing, though none of the others have hit on Signor Mincione’s ingenious wheeze of a fresh trial in London. I’m glad he managed to find the money to pay the lawyers here, somehow.

Apparently, the rules were changed four times in the course of the Vatican trial, a circumstance which remands me of a battered old policeman who told me that “Justice is when someone gets his just comeuppance, even when it’s for something he didn’t do.”

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