Three cheers for Rowan Williams!

Feb 8, 2008
Peregrine Worsthorne

The standard of debate in this country is deplorably flat, stale and unprofitable, as anybody who listens to or watches Any Questions and Question Time has come to regret. Never an original idea or a memorable phrase. The effort by panellists to say nothing which might be taken amiss is quite tangible.

It is better in the print media, but not much. There, too, rigorous or demanding thought, as against facile rodomontade, is pretty well eschewed.

That is why the Archbishop of Canterbury deserves three cheers. Once again he has chosen to express interesting and complicated ideas in difficult and sophisticated language. But instead of the media rising to the challenge and continuing the debate at the same high level, they mostly have reacted with at best over-simplification and, at worst, personal abuse.

Multicultural Britain is bound to require painful changes in its system of law; and it follows that this arduous process must necessarily involve a quality of debate maddeningly difficult to follow by all but a highly intelligent elite - like the one the Archbishop was addressing.

That he should recognise this is much to his credit. Not all debate can be accessible to all. Would that some of our politicians took his cue and also refused to dumb down.

Dr Williams is a good and holy man, with a subtle intelligence, earnestly seeking to lighten the path ahead. Is such a contribution now unacceptable in modern Britain? I fear so, and this is a far more dangerous development than any small concession about sharia law.

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