A LATE cancellation by foreign correspondent John Simpson saw the Winchester Dialogues arrange a hasty – and by all accounts successful – replacement speaker.

Mr Simpson, the BBC’S world affairs editor, was diverted to Crimea and unable to appear at the Guildhall on Friday (March 28). Lord Wakeham, who lives near Alresford, stepped in at the request of the cathedral’s dean, The Very Rev James Atwell.

A former Commons chief whip, he is the only living politician to have been both Leader of the Commons and the Lords, and was known as a fixer rather than a philosopher.

He spoke with John Miller on the internal workings of government, as well as sharing humorous stories about parliamentary contemporaries as varied as Ken Clarke, Alan Clark, and Barbara Castle.

Asked about the 1984 Brighton bombing by the IRA, he talked briefly but movingly of the night his wife was killed, describing how he was trapped under rubble for seven hours, and how he only narrowly survived falling the depth of four floors of the hotel.

The Dean said that John Simpson had sent a message promising to come to Winchester at a later date.

The latest addition to the series was announced recently, as Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow, a former chorister at Winchester Cathedral, confirmed he will speak on April 25.