Three weeks after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, condemned the “frightening” Coalition, David Cameron’s wider family is lending him support.
Viscount Astor, who is married to the Prime Minister’s mother-in-law, Annabel, has made a rare speech in the House of Lords, calling for an end to the Church of England’s privileged position in public life.
Lord Astor proposed that in any reform of the Upper House, the Church should lose its unique position on the Benches Spiritual. “Other churches and faiths should be represented here,” he said.
The intervention by William Astor, who married the mother of Samantha Cameron in 1976, is significant as he has kept a low political profile since Cameron became leader of the Conservative Party in 2005. Astor was a junior minister in Sir John Major’s government.
In April, The Sunday Telegraph disclosed that Tory officials had drawn up a paper which called for a wide range of different churches to be represented once reforms to the Lords are carried out. This is, however, the first indication that the suggestion has Cameron’s support.
Currently 26 Anglican bishops have seats in the Lords, but Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, is drawing up a draft bill setting out wholesale changes to the Lords that are expected to include provisions for hundreds of existing peers, including the bishops, to be evicted while at least 80 per cent of new members are elected.