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27 June 2010

Ann Widdecombe to be Britain’s next ambassador to Vatican?

The current occupant broke the mould.

By James Macintyre

Jonathan Wynn-Jones at the Sunday Telegraph has a good scoop about how William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, has endorsed Ann Widdecombe, who once served under Hague as shadow home secretary, as the UK’s next ambassador to the Vatican.

This will doubtless result in much howling among liberal leftists who see Widdecombe as representing everything they hate. But it should be remembered that she also represents five to six million Roman Catholics in this country, and — according to a senior Whitehall source — is a good choice because she is “high-profile” and “passionate, and gets the link between religion and politics”.

That a high-profile appointment is needed is a tribute to the current occupant, Francis Campbell, about whom I first wrote in the NS in 2005.

The first Roman Catholic, and Irish-born, ambassador since the Reformation (not to mention the youngest), Campbell was a record-breaker when he started. He then hugely boosted the profile of the job, hosting repeated visits from Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. (Will David Cameron go out?)

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And now, though friends say he will not take the credit, he has excelled himself by instigating the papal visit this September that will be his final act of work in this job.

He will be a tough act to follow.