Archbishop ‘wrong’ to say coalition has no mandate
First reaction: Archbishop of Canterbury should mind his own shop rather than lambast the government
The Archbishop of Canterbury has launched a blistering attack on David Caneron's coalition government, complaining that it is committing Britain to "radical, long-term policies for which no-one voted".
He believes the lack of "proper public argument" behind the health, education and welfare reforms has created "anxiety and anger" among the British people. And he says that David Cameron's Big Society idea is viewed with "widespread suspicion".
Dr Rowan Williams used the chance to guest-edit the New Statesman, out today, to get his views across. As the BBC's religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott says, this is by no means the archbishop's first attack on government policy, "but it is extraordinary for its breadth and it is the most overtly political yet".
There is bound to be a backlash against the archbishop using his position to make such a political statement. In the meantime, does he have a case?
No, Cameron does have a mandate. Benedict Brogan at the Daily Telegraph says David Cameron can "afford to be vehement" in his response to the Archbishop. "He can start by asking for evidence of this public fear the Archbishop of Canterbury mentions: the polls don¹t seem to show it.
"He can also nail the democratic legitimacy argument, not by asking where Dr W gets his from by the way, but by pointing out that the coalition has a mandate and its policies have been approved by Parliament (and in the case of health the Commons will get to vote again).
"But he will also want to consider the PR perils of taking on a priest, however troublesome."
Toby Young on Twitter makes a similar point: "How can Rowan Williams claim 'no one voted; for Gove's education reforms? They were front and centre in the Tory manifesto."
Anyway, the coalition is working. Tim Montgomerie at Conservativehome argues: "We can't beat poverty by endlessly spending more and more money. We can beat poverty by strengthening the family, ensuring every child has a good education, by creating jobs for the British working class and by building a social network of innovative poverty-fighting groups. The coalition is beginning that work and it is a tragedy that Dr Williams isn't celebrating it."
Is Williams seeking to deflect attention from his crisis-ridden Church? Brogan gives Rowan Williams some credit - saying that "beneath the wild eyebrows is a fierce mind driven by a passion for justice and truth". But Damian Thompson, also writing for the Daily Telegraph, doesn't hold back - and claims there's another agenda behind the Archbishop's attack.
"This is displacement therapy, designed to take Dr Williams's mind off the shocking crisis of morale in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.
"He can't hold his Church together. His authority diminishes by the day. So what does he do? He retreats to the comfort zone of guest-editing the New Statesman and left-wing scaremongering over the government's modest reductions in planned spending."
Thompson, a former editor-in-chief of the Catholic Herald, concludes: "When Pope Benedict is confronted by a major crisis in his Church, he doesn't take time off to guest edit a secular magazine in the hope of impressing his mates."
Stick to the day job, Archbishop. Michael White of the Guardian makes a similar point, saying "The divided church, itself a coalition, seems to be going through a destructive Bennite phase under his ineffectual supervision."
As for Williams's questioning the coalitions mandate, White says: "Polls suggest that there is still majority support for the coalition and its cuts package if not for the practical consequences of their impact, which are still unfolding."
White argues that "the coalition parties took 59 per cent of the vote between them and most of its policies were visible in some form."
He concludes: "Stick to the day job, archbishop, I'd say. There's plenty of peacekeeping work to be done inside the church." ·
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