Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Albert Park

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Albert Park

Article excerpt

Well, it's been another year when that buff envelope from the Queen failed to show, and yet again I will be sitting bereft of an OBE or CBE.

Still, there's always a silver lining.

When us Albert Park regulars met on our bench this week to discuss the usual weighty affairs, there was only one subject on most lips - the Knighthood given to a certain stalwart MP, our very own Stuart Bell.

Opinion was sharply divided. Some felt that the award was for his tireless work for constituents and much-fabled accessibility.

Others were - how should I best put it? - more doubtful.

Still, there can be no doubt that he has accomplished much in his career.

He has, for instance, written a number of interesting books. All are highlighted on his website ( and one has a particularly fitting title, Tony Really Loves Me (surely nothing to do with his honour?).

And Stuart was, after all, a diligent junior shadow Northern Ireland Spokesman in the 1980s.

But perhaps his most glorious period - and one, I guess, that will appear in one of his forthcoming books - has been his stint as Second Estates Commissioner to the Church of England since 1997.

In this role he has ensured that the weft and warp, not to mention the stonework and wood panelling, of the established Church has been safeguarded for succeeding generations.

Although some dissenters would see the Church's silver disseminated among the poor and dispossessed, Stuart has played his part in preserving its property and investments so that resulting revenues are applied to the eradication of poverty among retired clergy.

This has been so successful that distressed Deacons, broke Bishops and penniless Parsons are now very rare sights indeed in this land.

Yet nagging doubts are still voiced by some on the park bench.

Surely other local former and sitting MPs might consider that they too could have expected the preferment that has come Stuart's way. …

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