I was in Westminster when I heard the news; first an excited email from my Mum in Sutton Valence, and then one from my friend Cllr Louise Brice in Staplehurst. The appointment of Rose Hudson-Wilkin as the next Bishop of Dover was the subject; their joy was in seeing another bastion of inequality and discrimination evaporate into the heavens from one of our country’s pillars of establishment – the Church of England.
Such enthusiasm is a sign of healthy public opinion about the remaining vestiges of racism and shines a powerful light at a critical time in our country’s modern history.
It was only in 1994 that women were first allowed to become ordained as priests in the C of E and Rose ‘took the cloth’ that year, answering a calling she had felt since the age of 14.
21 years later in 2015 the first female priest was consecrated as a Bishop and now Rose has smashed the glass ceiling of diversity by becoming the first black woman to achieve that level in the Church’s hierarchy.
It shouldn’t be such big news in this day and age, but race discrimination is still persistent and when another block is removed from the barricade to opportunity, there is great reason to celebrate, particularly in such an entrenched institution. I give credit to Archbishop Justin Welby for his part in this elevation and also to Speaker John Bercow who insightfully appointed Rose as his Chaplain in 2010, just when I too first entered Parliament.
Rose has been a good friend to me in my nine years in Westminster and we have both fought some personal battles together, forming a bond I will always treasure.
She’s set a high bar for her successor and will be hugely missed in Parliament. London’s loss, however, is Kent’s gain and we will again be neighbours.