Justin Welby '98% certain' to be Archbishop of Canterbury
Bookies suspend betting on who will replace Rowan Williams; announcement is thought to be imminent
TWO BOOKMAKERS have suspended betting on who will be the next Archbishop of Canterbury following a flurry of bets on Justin Welby, the current Bishop of Durham. It is thought the Church of England will officially announce Dr Rowan Williams's successor as early as tomorrow.
Ladbrokes was the first to close its book yesterday following what it called on Twitter a "very significant move for Justin Welby" which had made him joint favourite to become Archbishop of Canterbury. Soon after, Ladbrokes suspended betting, tweeting: "Money suggests that Bishop of Durham has got the job."
Alex Donohue, of Ladbrokes told The Daily Telegraph: "The market had been dead for a couple of days… he had been joint favourite with [Bishop of Norwich] Graham James and then people just completely ignored James and backed Welby."
William Hill quickly followed suit. Spokesman Graham Sharpe told the BBC: "In the space of less than an hour we had to cut the odds three times so we took the decision to close the book. We know a decision is already overdue and it seems word may have leaked out."
The Daily Mail quotes a "well-placed source" who says Welby, 56, is "98 per cent certain" to get the job. The paper explains that the elevation of the Right Reverend Welby "would represent a significant swing to the right for the Anglican church, following the controversial liberal stance of his predecessor".
Welby, an Old Etonian who left his job as an oil executive in 1987 to join the Church, is an opponent of gay marriage and supports measures to allow priests who are against women bishops to stay within the Anglican Communion.
However, on financial issues, Welby is more left-leaning. Last month, he suggested that before the financial crisis, banks had been serving "no socially useful purpose" and were "exponents of anarchy". He called for the financial industry to be "rebuilt from the ruins".
Welby might yet be beaten to the Church of England's top job. The Telegraph says there have been conflicting suggestions "from within Canterbury itself" that the Crown Nominations Commission might have backed a "surprise" Archbishop.
This is thought to refer to the Bishop of Norwich, Graham James. The 61-year-old is grammar-school educated, and, says the Telegraph, his experience could represent "a safe pair of hands to help steady the 77-million-strong Anglican Communion through a turbulent period".
The official announcement is expected tomorrow or Friday. ·