Gordon meets the Pope – the next king is anointed
The visit to Rome was officially to promote a scheme to provide life-saving vaccines to children in the developing world. Very laudable, and just the sort of high-profile global initiative Mr Brown uses to affirm his presence on the world stage. The Chancellor gave the Pope a book of sermons by his father, who was a Church of Scotland minister (though Cranmer doubts very much that this will end up in the Vatican library), and he also reiterated the invitation given by Mr Blair last year to visit these Protestant shores.
The timing couldn’t be better for the Chancellor. Labour has alienated much of its core Roman Catholic electorate in recent arguments over faith schools and gay adoption. Mr Brown needed a media coup to reinvigorate his campaign and affirm his own traditional Labour values, and he has found it in Pope Benedict XVI.
The Scottish Presbyterian may be more a theological soul-mate of the Pope than the Anglo-Catholic Blair. Conveniently, Mr Brown has failed to vote on every occasion that issues of ‘gay rights’ have come before the House of Commons. He failed to support (among other things) the abolition of Section 28, civil partnerships, and the Government's Equality Act. He is not therefore tarnished with Mr Blair’s ‘anti-Catholic’ equalities agenda.
The Chancellor will therefore be content to let this run its course. He will sit and watch passively as the dying months of Mr Blair’s premiership are marked by the desertion of hundreds of thousands of Roman Catholic voters, and the humiliation of Labour in some of its traditional heartlands. And then he will enter No 10, and the Holy Papa will arrive on the shores of the United Kingdom, and the Papists shall return to their Labour home - just in time for the General Election.