I read with some concern about the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is "leading" the opposition to new plans to make benefits claimants to do work. I strongly support the right of the clergy to speak out on political issues, but this interventions (more here from the BBC) tells us a number of things.
Firstly that the Labour Leadership are very wary of jumping in with both feet first. I should imagine that Ed Miliband's team are doing some very fast and very serious polling on this. My feeling is that they leap too fast on Housing Benefit and got caught on the wrong side of the debate - backing high-claiming benefit claimants over "hard working families" - and won't do that again. Maybe the lack of Labour opposition may have led the BBC to blow the comments of Dr Williams out of all proportion?
Secondly it is very brave of the Church to take on this sort of issue. I would imagine - though stand ready to apologise if polls suggest otherwise - that this policy will be popular indeed. The vast majority of people, rightly or wrongly, don't want people to be idle on benefit. It is very dangerous for the church to be seen as the organisation backing the right of people to do nothing whilst claiming public money.
Now I am not for a moment saying all benefit claimants are lazy scroungers; for me this plan isn't about making people work for the sake of it but giving people a reason to get up, some pride in their day and getting into a routine for work. These have to be good things. When you are out of work you need all the support you can get; this is one very good way of the government supporting people.
I am worried that by making these remarks, Dr Williams sets himself up against Work & Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith; and that IDS is going to win, hands down.
I doubt Dr Williams wants to increase the disconnect between the church and the people - so please, and I blog as a christian, think very carefully before making these remarks.