Tory MP who thanks God he’s still alive

Quentin Letts


22:34 GMT, 14 December 2012



00:05 GMT, 15 December 2012

Anglican faith: Previously a sporadic churchgoer, Mr Opperman has become an 'enthusiastic' member of the Church of England

Anglican faith: Previously a sporadic churchgoer, Mr Opperman has become an 'enthusiastic' member of the Church of England

A backbench MP has undergone a religious transformation after recovering from a brain tumour.

Guy Opperman (Con, Hexham), 47, was taken ill last year and told that even if he lived he might lose his speech, his eyesight and be paralysed.

His good fortune in making a recovery after two operations, including a craniotomy, has, he says, ‘changed my view on many things’.

Mr Opperman, a convivial barrister and former jockey, spoke briefly in the Commons this week about how he has reverted to his Anglican faith.

He tells me more: ‘I am not “born again”, but I now have a genuine sense of faith, a sense of purpose. My abiding memory of before and after the operations was the desire to be “of use” if I was given my life back. This provides the backbone to everything I am now doing as an MP.’

Previously a sporadic churchgoer, he has become an ‘enthusiastic’ member of the Church of England and intends to worship at the more than 50 churches in his Northumberland constituency.

‘The morning after one of my operations, as I awoke at 7am in the high dependency unit at the National Neurological Hospital in London, I found the Canon of Hexham Abbey, Graham Usher, seated quietly at my bedside. He had travelled there to give me support. We talked and prayed together. It was a moving spiritual experience.’

Mr Opperman says his illness, and the experience of being in a ward where several of his fellow patients died, has left him with a better understanding of the NHS. He says he also now has a greater sense of empathy and a belief that it is possible to be Right-wing on Europe and other matters, but Left-leaning on what one might broadly call ‘social issues’.

His jockeying days may be over but that, he says, will only generate further allelulias — from racecourse punters.

Bumbling along platform ten at Paddington station, I collided with an electric trolley saying ‘rail gourmet’. It was taking a consignment of sandwiches to the train’s buffet compartment. What hurt most, I think, was that word ‘gourmet’.

Salad Days of Mac the lad
Mac the lad: Sir Cameron Mackintosh 'fell in love' with Salad Days on his first trip to see a musical

Mac the lad: Sir Cameron Mackintosh 'fell in love' with Salad Days on his first trip to see a musical

Theatre producer Sir Cameron ‘Mary Poppins’ Mackintosh describes his first trip to a musical. It was Salad Days and he was seven.

‘I was dragged along by my Aunt Jean,’ he says, publicising a revival at London’s Riverside Studios. ‘I thought it would be very cissy and didn’t want to go, but I fell in love with it immediately and promptly demanded that, three weeks later on my eighth birthday, we see it again.

‘Dressed in my wee kilt, I marched down the aisle to meet its composer, Julian Slade. He was playing the piano in the pit. He took me backstage and showed me how the flying saucer worked.’

Innocent days. Any entertainer trying that sort of thing now would be swooped on by some feverish rozzer.

Those jammy swine at headhunters Egon Zehnder — sorry, Egon Zehnder International — have been at it again.

They’re the ones who were paid 180,000 by the BBC to find its last director-general (who was already working for the Beeb, and duly lasted about ten minutes).

Whitehall discloses that the Egon Bacon crackshots did a job in 2008 for the International Development Department. Sum paid for their services A not inconsiderable 40,000 of our money.

Hancock’s extra half hours . . .
Retrieved: Two 'long-lost' Tony Hancock scripts are to be staged in London

Retrieved: Two 'long-lost' Tony Hancock scripts are to be staged in London

‘long-lost’ Tony Hancock scripts are to be staged in London. They were
retrieved by Hancock fan Rachael Hewer from the cellar of Ray Galton,
who co-wrote much of the late comedian’s material.

Hancock episodes were never stored by the BBC and it was presumed they
had gone the way of all flesh. But Miss Hewer, 27, from Lincolnshire,
heard about the trove in Mr Galton’s cellar.

She approached him and will now stage two of them at the White Bear theatre, Kennington, later this month.

has Hancock’s morose character holidaying in Brighton in November. In
the original, Sid James played a crook. In the second script, Hancock
and the Sid James character vie for the attention of a maid (played
originally by Italian bella Marla Landi.)

Miss Hewer says she is drawn to Hancock because ‘he is a dreamer with false hopes’.

It’s a car crush

Amid the tumult of the gay-marriage debate in the Commons — how terribly cross the Right sounded — there was a comical sight. Tory Whips John Randall and Greg Hands watched from a little two-seat box at the end of the Chamber. They were squashed so tight, they could have been a couple of newlywed chaps riding away from the church in a cabriolet’s dicky seat.

Tory traditionalists write to me in a frightful bate saying: ‘No good will come of this gay marriage gambit!’ But have you noticed how the policy has confused the BBC And Labour peers this week struggled to disguise their irritation that David Cameron has stolen their pro-gay ‘USP’.

Drugs minister Jeremy Browne, a Lib Dem, is off to Amsterdam on a ‘fact-finding’ mission. Uh-oh. A source close to the Home Office says: ‘Jeremy already has terrible trouble mastering policy detail. Please keep him well way from those Dutch spliffs.’

A moggie mess

More from Quentin Letts…

A blatant porkie, no blushing… that takes skill, Mr Clegg

By 'eck, Gromit, mocking politicians isn't just fun – it's essential

Not even that Evan Davis at the BBC can bend these statistics

Early to bed for a week for you, Mr Balls

Mr Fabricant, in custardy wig, loudly cheered pro-gay speakers

MPs play the martyr over expenses check

Oh, please! Don’t play the victim card, Mr Balls

Sir David has a manner as wet as a half-sucked fruit pastille


King Abdullah of Jordan visited David Cameron on Tuesday and it went well, though no thanks to Downing Street cats Larry and Freya. News photographer Steve Back arrived in the street early that morning and noticed moggy droppings near the position where David Cameron would greet the king. Lensman Back knocked politely on No 10’s door to ask for a dustpan and brush, only to be treated with airy indifference. Nothing was done.

Shortly before the scheduled arrival, Back called the No 10 press office and said: ‘Look, you’ve got the King of Jordan about to arrive and there’s cat poo in the street.’ A female member of staff came scurrying out with wet wipes and removed the offending items.

Red Ed points the finger . . .

Ed Miliband often mocks the PM for
blushing. But Mr Miliband is not without his own quirk. He has an
increasing habit of wagging his (remarkably long) forefingers at the
Government benches. He could almost conduct an orchestra with those

Labour MP
Thomas Docherty (Dunfermline) has cottoned on to the joys of foreign
freebies — sorry, I mean ‘hard-working election-monitoring missions in
the Commonwealth’.

This week, he explained the heavy duties one of his colleagues had to undertake while observing an election in the Caribbean.

spent a day on an island that had 30 voters. He had to take a good book
with him to get through the 12 hours while the polls were open.’