Would you buy a used faith from this man

I ONCE met car dealership tycoon Peter Vardy. He seemed quite a nice bloke, as multi-millionaire businessmen go.He certainly didn't strike me as barking mad, which is a little worrying now I know a bit more about him.

I ONCE met car dealership tycoon Peter Vardy. He seemed quite a nice bloke, as multi-millionaire businessmen go.

He certainly didn't strike me as barking mad, which is a little worrying now I know a bit more about him.

His is the money behind the Vardy Foundation, which runs a school in Gateshead and this week announced plans to open five more around the country.

Vardy has pledged £12million so far to set up these schools under the government's "city technology colleges" scheme.

Never can the word "technology" have been so misused.

Vardy's schools will teach Creationism – that is, the belief that the story told in Genesis is literally true.

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So, the earth was created in six days, about 6,000 years ago. (God planted those dinosaur bones to fool us, you know.)

And – would you Adam 'n Eve it – the first woman sprang fully formed from the first man's spare rib.

I now confidently expect some philanthropist somewhere to set up a school devoted to Blytonism – the belief that you can get to Fairyland by shinning up the Faraway Tree.

Our man Vardy may be away with the fairies, but he's not just plain Peter any more.

His schools call him Dr Vardy, after he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Sunderland. This was of course in no way linked to the £1million he kindly gave the university.

More often he is referred to as Sir Peter, having been knighted in 2001 for "services to education".

Apparently the prime minister is happy to regard the propagation of fundamentalist piffle as "education". As long as some rich car salesman is footing the bill.


ISN'T the internet great? You get to hear from so many interesting people you'd never encounter otherwise.

And you get so many opportunities you'd miss out on if you weren't online.

I received a very kind offer this week.

Someone who may or may not be Mr Steven Okoro offered me almost £3million to help him out.

He claims to be "the director in charge of auditing and accounting section of First Bank Plc". First Bank of where, he doesn't say – but he picked on me as a random foreigner who can help him get his hands on a windfall of £15m without breaking the law of his unnamed country.

He intends, he says, to retire after he and I split the unclaimed inheritance left by a plane crash victim.

Mr Okoro advises me – not surprisingly, I suppose – to keep our "partnership" top secret. Sorry, Steven.

He concludes a well-spun tale with the words: "All other necessary information will be sent to you when I hear from you."

No doubt the information he will want in return will include details of my bank account – purely so he can pay my millions into it, of course.

There may be one born every minute, but I have some necessary information for Mr Okoro: "I ain't that sucker."

This little scam does have one thing going for it. Anyone so easily swayed by greed deserves all they get. Or all they lose.

I can't quite work out whether the same applies to the little missive I just got from "Dr Rev Okorie Ikell, a Pastor of Redeemed Pillar Fire Ministry" – sounds great, doesn't it? – originally of Sierra Leone, but now resident in Amsterdam.

He appeals to me as "Dearly beloved in-Christ" and adds: "During a prayer and fasting session I demanded from our Lord Jesus Christ to give me the opportunity to redeem my life and purify what remains of my wealth amount of $10.5Million."

Does this mean he wants me to add to his wealth amount, or help him spend it?

Either way, I reckon you can do too much of this prayer and fasting lark.

Then there is the request from "Pastor Jacob Oluwasesan", who appeals for cash help in his troubled ministry in Nigeria.

I've had so many of these over the years that they scarcely get a glance now on their way to the wastebin. But something drew my attention to a footnote on this one.

Pastor Jacob – or whoever it really is – writes: "I will be very happy for quick response because I am presently in china and I don't want to stay here longer because of the diseases of Sars."

Nothing like covering all the angles. Oh, and top marks for topicality.


SO now they tell us.

Tony Blair, Jack Straw and David Blunkett were all poised to resign if the Labour rebels had managed to defeat the government in the vote over war with Iraq.

What a great opportunity missed.