Regarding leather used for AS-made shoes, I've not come across anyone sharing my opinion on the relative softness compared to Loake's leather. That being said, there definitely are some other AS appreciators to be found here and there, and it would be interesting to hear other opinions, whether negative or positive.
As for suede, I'm quite happy to wear Herring Classics made by Loake and even own a pair made by Loake in India with which I'm perfectly satisfied, aesthetically and construction-wise. The only downside of these shoes is that the insoles don't wear as comfortably as my "proper" English shoes, and leave my feet a little tired by comparison. I avoid wearing them on days that I know I'll be in my shoes for a long time. I don't own any C&J suede, so cannot really comment whether I think they're worth the extra cost. My AS-made Herring shoes in suede have lasts identical to calf versions, and while they're nice to have, the suede doesn't look or feel any different to my eye alongside the suede used in my Loake-made shoes.
You're correct about my source for C&J shoes. I was very excited when I had the chance to visit Double Monk for the first time having walked away from McClouds feeling rather peeved with the advice that "The style you want (country brogue boot) is not popular here (Australia) and you won't find them anywhere without a special order..." In less than an hour I was walking out of DM with C&J Islays in tow. Needless to say, I don't have a particularly fond opinion of McClouds and even if I did, DM gets my patronage for range alone. Though you make a good point that C&J from Pediwear is looking more tempting than ever. Aside from the 'aggressive' city styling of C&J, the other problem is that Pediwear just don't carry a style of shoe in the colour I want at this time.