Thursday, June 09, 2011

Archbishop Fail

We expect in this country, quite rightly, that everybody ought to have their say. If Joanna Lumbly is an expert on Gurkha rights, the Prince of Wales can speak forth on architecture and Piers Morgan is allowed to tweet, then pretty much anybody can have a view on anything. With the exception of the Monarch, it is a positive thing. But you have to ask how far some people, the Archbishop of Canterbury being one of them, should be allowed to go.

The Church have a duty to provide moral leadership for its followers. I would expect Dr Williams to have views on issues, maybe as diverse as tackling poverty in Africa to the use of contraception for teenagers. As a Christian, I am interested in what he has to say. But moral leadership is where it ought to stop. And writing a political blast at the whole government, from the safety of his desk via the New Statesman is a cowardly, wrong & dangerous act. Over the top, you are thinking? Well, no.

Firstly whatever happens Dr Williams has to work with this government. I believe he'll have to work with Mr Cameron as Prime Minister for potentially 2 or 3 terms of government. Downing Street, who knew nothing of the attack (and it was an attack) will be rightly weary of the Archbishop after this. And with current debates about the continued representation of the Church of England in the Lords this is perhaps not the right time to be stepping on government toes.

But the more dangerous part was the attack on the democratic legitimacy of the government itself. Now you could argue that we have an elected legislature and not an elected government anyway in this country so all governments are "unelected". Or you could argue that if you add together the votes of the Conservatives and LibDems you finally have a team with over 50% support. The Archbishop himself is not in a position himself to be throwing stones about who is elected and who is not (although if he advocates more democracy that's a good thing and I look forward to a directly-elected Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops giving up their seats in the Lords). The coalition agreement is the best mishmash we have given the parliamentary maths. It is 75% of the LibDem manifesto and 60% of the Tory one. What is the alternative, Dr Williams, are we to assume you want to force another general election perhaps?

And what now for Dr Williams? Well clearly this is a church vs government issue. And I look forward to Dr Williams himself accepting that with the right to speak out comes the right to accountability. All politicians carp - Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband have been in the position of simply opposing everything, but sooner or later you have to come up with your own proposals. Eventually the electorate says "we know what you are against but what are you for?". The same is true of all who seek to have their say. I don't deny, for one minute, the right of extremists such as Ms Lucas or Mr Griffin to have their say. But even the most bonkers of British politicians - yes, even the Communist Party of Great Britain - have their own blueprint for how the country ought to be run. And Dr Williams is no exception. So you are against the government, Archbishop, so what are you for? Don't give me the soft-soap platitudes of freedom, equality, tackling poverty etc - if you want to see these things, how will you achieve them?

Come on Dr Williams, do you think tax is currently too low? How will we get a better health care system? What should we do to stop so much drug dependency? Do you have any ideas to help cut crime?

I defend your right to speak out Sir, but when you do, expect people to ask you questions in return. And if you choose to speak out about politics, expect political questions in return. You have taken a very dangerous path, Dr Williams, and as a supporter of both the church and the government, it worries me about how this will now turn out.

No comments: