“But where idealism and salesmanship fail, sheer pluck may stand a chance. In 1906, Britain’s Liberal party nominated man of letters Hilaire Belloc to stand for election as an MP in Salford. It was a throwaway nomination — Belloc was a French immigrant to the UK, only recently naturalized, and he was a Catholic running in an area that was heavily Methodist and that had never gone Liberal.
“Rather than trying to work around his religion, as his campaign manager had advised, Belloc took the occasion of ‘papist’ taunts to make a memorable point.
“According to literary journalist William Bryk, Belloc announced to a ‘packed hall’ of constituents: ‘Gentlemen, I am a Catholic. As far as possible, I go to Mass every day.’ He reached into his pocket, pulled something out, and told them, ‘This is a rosary. As far as possible, I kneel down and tell these beads, every day. If you reject me on account of my religion, I shall thank God that He has spared me the indignity of being your representative!’
“An ‘absolute silence’ was soon ended when the crowd ‘exploded with applause.’ Belloc won, first as a Liberal MP then as an independent candidate.”