Archbishop row: Norman Tebbit backs Dr Williams
Tebbit and Blair both defend Dr Williams's right to speak his mind on politics
The former Conservative party chairman and cabinet minister in the Thatcher era, Norman Tebbit, has defended the Archbishop of Canterbury's right to attack the coalition government in a magazine article titled 'The government needs to know how afraid people are'.
Amid a chorus of disapproval for the intervention of Dr Williams, who used the article to say the coalition is committing Britain to "radical, long-term policies for which no-one voted", Lord Tebbit said the Archbishop does have the right to speak his mind. Indeed, it is part of his job to "make comments of a political kind in this area".
Tebbit told the BBC Today programme: "He is quite right that there are policies of the coalition for which nobody seemed to vote, and policies for which people voted which are not being carried through by the coalition. But that is the problem of coalition."
Dr Williams made his provocative remarks in the New Statesman, which he guest-edited this week. He complained that the lack of "proper public argument" behind the coalition's high-profile health, education and welfare reforms had created "anxiety and anger" among the British people.
Number Ten reacted today with this comment: "This government was elected to tackle the UK's deep-rooted problems. Its clear policies on education, welfare, health and the economy are necessary to ensure we're on the right track."
Meanwhile, another former government big-hitter has also given Dr Williams his backing. Tony Blair said: "I seem to remember, going back to when I started in Parliament in 1983, that bishops attacking government is a pretty recurrent headline. He is entitled to speak his mind."
In response to those commentators who say the Archbishop should be looking after the crisis in his own Church, rather than sticking his nose into politics, a Norfolk rector, Stephen Thorp, has written to The First Post to say: "Of course the Anglican Communion has it's problems but Rowan Williams has done remarkably well in the light of issues that simply didn't exist for any of his predecessors.
"But the significant point is that the Church through it's many parishes has a remarkably good ear for the 'feeling on the ground' and, as Archbishop, Rowan William is not only entitled to express an opinion but he does so with a real concern for the many people who might not otherwise have a voice - and that, in any society that values free speech should be appreciated!" ·
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