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The Coalition rides roughshod over the Constitution

By Adrian Hilton, Mailonline

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’.

I also received a personal letter from Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor – then leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales – which was rather critical of his more zealous journalist co-religionists. But neither my reasoning nor the intercessory pleas of moderate Roman Catholics was able to sway the leadership of the Conservative Party, and so I had to go. I refused to resign, so Howard duly sacked me (by text, though I actually found out via the BCC a few hours before). Charles Moore was incredulous that a Tory candidate ‘should be cast out for defending the current, legal form of our monarchy’, finding my view ‘an educated and thoughtful one, certainly not that of a “bigot”’.

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