BY FREDDY GRAY
THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY has selected a parliamentary candidate who believes that the European Union is a Papist plot to undermine Britain’s Protestant identity.
Adrian Hilton, the new Tory candidate for Slough, believes that “a Catholic EU will inevitably result in the subjugation of Britain's Protestant ethos to Roman Catholic social, political and religious teaching”.
He also claims that Catholics regard the Pope as “supreme ruler of the world”.
Mr Hilton, a 41-year-old teacher adopted by the Berkshire constituency association two weeks ago, is strongly opposed to repealing the Act of Settlement, which forbids monarchs from becoming or marrying a Catholic .
“Such an amendment would eventually create an exclusively Catholic royal dynasty, whose primary allegiance would be to the higher spiritual and temporal authority – the Papacy,” he wrote in The Spectator magazine in 2003.
Mr Hilton has already been denounced as a “conspiracy theorist” by a spokesman for Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.
Austen Ivereigh, the Cardinal’s chief spokesman, compared the would-be MP’s opinions to those held by Protestant bigots and farright nationalists.
“These views are bizarrely unhistorical and fundamen tally erroneous,” he said.
“His case rests on an assumption that the English nation came into being only after the Reformation,” he said.
“This is entirely false. The English nation pre-dates the Reformation.” Mr Hilton’s opinions have shocked Catholic Spectator readers.
Sean Armstrong, a Catholic economic consultant who has complained to Michael Howard about Mr Hilton, said: “It is not the individual particularly but the strand of opinion that he represents that I object to.
“A sectarian candidate of his divisiveness is precisely what the Conservative Party does not need if it is to shake off its ‘nasty’ reputation. Hilton’s candidature can only strengthen such allegations and bring the party into disrepute.” Senior Catholic commentators are bemused by Mr Hilton’s assertions. They argue that, far from being a Papist plot, the EU seems to be moving away from its Catholic roots and becoming an anti-religious institution.
Mr Hilton this week defended his views. “The article was published in 2003, and two years later things have been taken totally out of context, making me sound like an extremist,’ he said.
“My concerns in this arti cle were constitutional, not doctrinal. It was about an unaccountable, bureaucratic philosophy of government in the EU.
“A Protestant view of history is every bit as valid as the Cardinal Archbishop’s. In this day and age, if one expresses an Islamic perspective it has to be accepted, if one expresses a Roman Catholic perspective it has to be accepted – and yet an assertion of the constitutional position of the Queen and Parliament with regards to Protestantism is greeted with derision.” Mr Hilton was selected as the Conservative candidate for Slough after the tabloid press published photographs of his predecessor, Robert Oulds, showing off his gun collection.
The new prospective candidate is single and lives in Beaconsfield, Bucks. He is the head of politics and philosophy at Slough Grammar School.
His website boasts that his writings – many of them critical of the Catholic Church – “have placed me on a national speaking circuit with many high-profile engagements, including Oxford and Cambridge universities and invitations to address political ‘support clubs’ ”.
He holds the world record for the fastest recitation of the complete works of Shakespeare. He has a degree in theology. “My favourite drink is water,” he reveals.
Mr Hilton’s supporters include Spectator editor Boris Johnson, who describes him as a “highly talented man who promises to be an exceptional spokesman for Conservative principles”.
Thriller writer Frederick Forsyth says he is “very sound on all the principal attitudes that mark out a British Conservative”.
Mr Hilton’s opponent in the general election will be Home Office minister Fiona Mactaggart, the MP for Slough. Her majority is 12,508 votes. She was unavailable for comment.
However, Labour’s deputy campaign co-ordinator, Fraser Kemp, attacked Mr Hilton.
“His offensive opinions would not matter if he were simply a private citizen,” he said.
“But he is a candidate of a major political party trying to win a seat the Tories only lost in 1997.” The Catholic faithful in Slough are equally unimpressed with Mr Hilton’s articles. Monica Sidebotham, a Slough resident, was appalled at what she read.
“If he wants my vote, he will have to come to my house and explain himself,” she said.