The resignation of Ruth Kelly is a murky business. Supposedly, of course, she merely wants to spend more time with her family. But no-one really believes this. After all, when her children were very small she didn't seem to spend that much time with them. It could be, of course, that she realised her career wasn't likely to go very far in the future and decided to get out before she was sacked. But still, the timing was very bad for all concerned. If she did resign in the middle of the night on the instructions of Downing Street insiders, then things in Gordon's bunker are clearly very bad indeed. The Mail reports open warfare in the government. Bendedict Brogan has been speaking to a minister who said "Downing street must be stopped". "This has the potential for disaster for Brown", thinks Brogan. Michael White agrees:
I have no knowledge of how the story came out. But if you ask the "cui bono?" test, it is Brown who is most damaged by it. It bigfoots the aftermath of The Big Speech and it messes up his on/off reshuffle, pencilled in for next weekend
Cui bono? indeed.
Clearly Kelly's resignation is part of a wider Catholic conspiracy to destabilise the government. Not only is she herself famously a member of Opus Dei, a sinister cult whose inner workings were memorably exposed by Dan Brown a few years ago, but several other conspirators have papist affiliations also. There was Siobhain McDonagh, whose resignation the other week kicked off the latest round in the long miserable death of the Brown government. She's a Catholic. Her longstanding political friend David Cairns, who resigned a few days later, used to be a priest. Perhaps, secretly, he still is. Both are protegés of John Reid, Catholic chairman of that notorious hotbed of Fenianism in days gone by, Celtic football club. Reid is said by some to be weighing up whether he can topple Broon himself.
Moreover, as Jim Pickard pointed out on the FT's blog last week (milling over Kelly's possible departure),
Is it just a co-incidence that two other Catholic cabinet ministers with misgivings over the bill - Paul Murphy and Des Browne - are also rumoured to be for the chop?
Well, is it? Remember, too, that behind all these papistical plotters (one of whom is even called Greg Pope) stands the eminense grise and lost leader Tony Blair. Every so often a hint is dropped that Tony is disappointed with Gordon's performance, or had predicted it; or he is seen deep in conspiratorial conversation with David Miliband; or some ancient memo is leaked in which Tony is revealed to have described Gordon as "vacuous".
Remember this picture?
Was he receiving Instruction? Or instructions?
Superficially, there's much for Ratzinger and his creatures to feel annoyed about in Brown's political programme. There's the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, for a start, which Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brian described as "monstrous". There's the failure to toughen the abortion laws. Not to mention the new Papilloma jab, the none-too-secret purpose of which is to encourage teenage girls to sleep around by removing the fear of early death from cervical cancer. No more can the horrible example of Jade Goody be set before them to inculcate habits of nunly chastity. According to leading Catholic blogger Damian Thompson, there was also "the sustained attack on faith schools by Ed Balls, who has effectively accused the Catholic Church of going against the teachings of Christ by seeking to exclude disadvantaged pupils". And (Thompson again) it doesn't stop there:
One of the Prime Minister's first decisions last year was to shelve plans to repeal the 1701 Act of Settlement, which allows the heir to the throne to marry a member of any religion except Roman Catholicism.
Thompson wrote that back in March, in a post which claimed that Gordon Brown was "turning into the most anti-Catholic Prime Minister of modern times." Strangely, it is now being reported that the government is looking at changing the Act of Settlement after all. Can the timing be purely coincidental? Or is it a last, desperate attempt to contain the rebellion? Thompson went on:
Not since the reign of Queen Victoria has a Government harassed the Church on so many fronts, to the extent that it becoming impossible for a devout Catholic to hold office in this administration....
The noses of Scottish Catholics, in particular, have been twitching: they wonder whether, as the son of a Presbyterian minister, Mr Brown has been influenced by the ancient prejudices of his community.
More than enough reason for a well-placed Catholic cabal in government to want to undermine Gordon Brown. Indeed, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the Pope's dastardly plan goes further still. With Brown deposed and Labour humiliated in England and Scotland, can the final destruction of the United Kingdom be far behind? Will the British state, ancestral foe of popes since the 16th century, finally be toppled, the remnants to be enfolded within a new Catholic empire of Europe? Will the great work of Edmund Campion, Guy Fawkes, the Old and Young Pretenders, the Bourbons and the Bonapartes finally be achieved in this generation?
You have been warned.
I wrote this yesterday in a spirit of irony. Yet Damian Thompson has also noticed the strange timing of the plan to amend the Act of Settlement. He thinks it is a blatant attempt to buy Catholic votes - though he also notes that, fine though the plan sounds, a "fourth term Labour government" isn't going to be around to implement it.
Damian also says this:
I'm convinced that Ms Kelly's conscience no longer allows her to serve in a government that attacks faith schools and forces Catholic adoption agencies to close. She may even have been given a nudge in this direction by Opus Dei.
Titus Oates, you should be living at this hour.