The Old Vicarage, Framley,
Nr Barchester

Re: The Archbishops’ Council

Dear George and David,

You can’t imagine how delighted I was to see your advertisement and to realise that at long last you are taking the sensible – and inevitable – step of getting on board real business people (like me!) to run CofE plc.

I hope you don’t mind my not filling in your clever little application form (one of you is getting nifty with the DTP!); but I always prefer a personal approach in matters like this. And, of course, I want you to know that I will help you in any way I can. Without false modesty I think I can say that I am well-known in many quarters for my charitable work. I am sure that you already know the basic details of my CV from the various television documentaries. But perhaps you will allow me to outline the particular aspects of my career which, in my view, make me ideally suitable for the post you have in mind.

In the first place, I am available.

By all accounts your Archbishops’ Council is going to take up quite a lot of a fellow’s time. But don’t worry! Even if I become London’s first elected mayor I shall make rescuing the dear old CofE my first priority.

The Church of England and I, as you must have noticed, have a lot in common – not least the shady financial dealings and sudden bankruptcy which has marked both our recent careers. I think the way we both put a brave face on it and came bouncing back, brazen as ever, does us credit. It will be a pleasure to join forces with an institution which shares my values.

Then again, I live in a Vicarage. Those of us with social pretensions, money to burn and nothing much by way of inheritance cannot but express our gratitude to an institution which, over the years, has introduced an element of real class into the rural property market. We all live in ‘Old Vicarages’ now! I for one want to say a big ‘thank you’ by being of service. And if the asset stripping is going to extend to episcopal palaces in the near future, and you need a quick cash injection from the sale of Bishopthorpe, say; I have every confidence that I can find a buyer, if the price is right.

Of course, you will be in no doubt that my literary abilities will come in useful.

I have read your ASB, and some of the new services you are knocking up at the moment. But take it from me they are not best sellers – certainly not the sort of thing you would cram into your hand luggage for a long haul flight. What you need is the common touch – and a twist in the tale. And, of course, packaging is important. Don’t make it look like a boring old religious book! A fat paperback with an embossed cover and lots of gold is what I would go for if I were you; something between Ellis Peters and Susan Howatch.

Then again, a homely, family touch is a good idea. The middlebrow thing with heritage overtones is what you Anglicans do best; but you should never loose sight of the fact that your real paying punters are in suburbia. A preface by Eileen (loved the first book!) followed by some ecumenical input and a recipe from Delia Smith would be just the ticket!

Lastly, if we are to work together, then I think the three of us have to be clear about our attitude to failure.

We high-ranking Tories know what it is to see popular support just ebb away. Like you we are at an all-time low. I have been looking at your recent figures – the one’s you wouldn’t publish. I am afraid the message is not good. Despite all the euphoria over the women thing (take it from an old hand, never trust a panacea!), you still seem to be in free fall. That’s where I could help.

What you need is a bit of skilful re-packaging. The simple rule in politics is that if the punters don’t take to what your peddling; just peddle something else. Blair turns Labour Tory; so we have to shift our ground to rebuild our market share.

You people have to get used to the idea that everything in a free and pluralistic society – politics, religion, morality – is consumer-led. We’ve simply got to turn it round; to turn the the dear old CofE into the ‘Come-back Church’. I think I can do that for you – after all, I’ve done it for myself several times!

Well, David and George, I suppose by now you’re anxious about money. What will I charge to propel your particular bit of English Heritage into the new millennium? And the answer is – NOTHING!! “Not a penny more, not a penny less!” I got where I am today with help from nothing more than a fibre-tip pen and an HB pencil. (Though the odd nod or wink from Millbank would not go amiss, from time to time, if you follow my drift.)

With all good wishes,