Justin Welby is yet to be announced as the new Archbishop of Canterbury, yet his appointment is already in risk of being overshadowed by a supposed gambling ring in one of London's wealthiest neighbourhoods.
The 'suspicious betting', as London's Evening Standard coined it, included 'a number of people in south-west London' opening accounts online with the specific purpose of waging their flutter on the Bishop of Durham.
Yesterday, Labour MP Chris Bryant added fuel to the fire, suggesting that it was "pretty shabby" if someone with foreknowledge of the appointment had the initiative to "put a bet on it".
But should this be a surprise to us? I will be lead from the temptation to suggest that all religions are in their own way a risky gamble, with some punters backing Roman Catholicism, others orthodox Islam, and a precious few even tying their colours to the Jedi Church. Meanwhile I, raised in the Methodist community, have over time learned that gambling in all its form is wrong, so am happy to sit on the fence with my copy of the latest tract by Richard Dawkins.
I have, however, risked a stake or two in the past. Once, noticing a discrepancy across three online betting sites that allowed fans of a particular football match to bet for a win, a lose, and a draw and still walk away with guaranteed winnings worth 10% above their initial stake.
The reward I received? My accounts were immediately frozen for want, I was informed the following day, of 'further confirmation of your identity'. When I supplied the relevant information, the response was simple: not good enough. Maybe, if I had come forward with a Kensington postcode my venture would have been a little more productive.
Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, has now called for an inquiry. (Into this week's supposed collusions, rather than my own past misdemeanours). But I doubt that anything will come of it.
The only way to punish such people is to hit them where they hurt most: in the wallets. If the root of this scandal concerns wagers that Bishop Welby will be the next man to head the Anglican Church, then the prime minister can today banish the issue by announcing an interim appointment to occupy the position until Christmas.
My vote would be for esteemed man of letters Roger Lewis, ex-Fellow of Wolfson College and failed candidate for the Oxford Professorship of Poetry. That would teach the gamesters of Kensington and Chelsea. Bunch of stupid Canterburys!
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