Clergymen or Bookies?

Enjoyed Richard Ingrams in today’s Independent who quotes Malcolm Muggeridge’s suggestion that all Prime Ministers fall into one of two categories – clergymen or bookies. He cites Atlee as clergyman and Wilson as bookie. On that basis, I suspect that there have been more clergymen than bookies – Thatcher, Major and definitely Blair. Bookies – Home, possibly. Which brings us to the great bookie tradition of Irish Prime Ministers – Charles Haughey certainly – and Bertie Ahern who resigned this week because of the continuing enquiries into his finances by the Mahon Tribunal.

It is a tragedy that it should end like this for Bertie Ahern because his contribution to the achievement of the Belfast Agreement was immense. The fact that he left the negotiations at a critical stage early one morning to attend his mother’s funeral and returned to Belfast later that day won him immense sympathy and respect among people on all sides in Northern Ireland.

Ingram’s conclusion is that we are better off with bookies – quoting George Bernard Shaw who described ‘the worst of all political scoundrels – the conscientious high-principled scoundrel.’

Sadly, he fails to ‘go the extra mile’ by asking how many clergy [and bishops?] of our acquaintance are actually bookies … Father ‘Money just resting in my account’ Ted, of course. But not, I think, Bishop Brennan.