2 FEBRUARY 2002, Page 28

Thatcher theology

From Mr Timothy O'Sullivan Sir: Paul Johnson (And another thing, 26 January) can hardly blame Harold Wilson for landing us with 'the dreadful Bishop of Durham'.

It was not until 1984 that a vacancy at Durham, traditionally the seat of one of the Church's more luminous bishops, called for a figure to stiffen the apparently flaccid theology of the bench. To Margaret Thatcher, the academic David Jenkins, who had in his time also held a commission in the army, looked a reliable pair of hands. York Minster presently went up in flames.

While Harold Wilson certainly placed David Sheppard in the trendy see of Liverpool, his preferred prelates were often of a more patrician caste. John Bickersteth. at Bath and Wells, comes to mind, and Simon Phipps at Lincoln.

Timothy O'Sullivan

Winchelsea, East Sussex