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BEING a Member of Parliament involves being all things to all men, and women.

For almost 13 years the member for Reading West has largely succeeded in that mission with his cheeky chappy, kick the Tories, often knockabout image.

Regularly outrageous, rarely dull, a pithy quote never far from his lips, Martin Salter has always made good copy with his willingness to take up the cudgels on behalf of the downtrodden and marginalised.

Unlike his party's former spin doctor Alastair Campbell, who once stressed that Labour "doesn't do God", Mr Salter has put in many an appearance at festivals and services across the religious spectrum and treated them with decorum and respect. Whether he agreed with their teaching in private was never a public issue and he has always been admired for that.

Whether he's feeling a little demob crazy, or his party's given up hope of retaining the Catholic vote after widely publicised divisions over gay adoptions and proposals to nationalise faith schools, is anyone's guess. But his remarks about the Pope in his blog for a national newspaper were unnecessary at best and grossly insulting at worst.

Writing for a newspaper once described as the Conservative Party's house magazine is one thing, but the many Catholics who voted for him and his party, and have admired his ability to 'get things done' during more than 25 years in politics will be feeling more than a little ambivalent today.