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ABC guide to controversial politics – for those with short memories

2011 June 9
by Paul Vallely

Turbulent priests have a long tradition within the Church in England. You don’t have to look back as far the original one, Thomas à Becket, murdered at the whim of King Henry II. The history of church and state in far more recent times has been one of horns being locked on a far wider ranger of issues than the ones the Archbishop of Canterbury rather gently raised yesterday in his guest editorial in the New Statesman.

Those who suggested that Rowan Williams has made the most baldly political intervention by a serving Archbishop of Canterbury clearly have short memories. Robert Runcie, of Faith in the City fame, often pitched himself in opposition to the Thatcher government – on everything from the Falklands War to the Tories “lunatic” nuclear arsenal and propensity to refer to their opponents in the miners’ strike as “scum”. His successor George Carey, who dressed archiepiscopally to the right, attacked judges for their ignorance of the church and called for stricter controls on immigration to preserve “our values”. Rowan Williams himself has been forthrightly critical of  the war on Iraq and the extrajudicial killing of Osama bin Laden, not to mention the role of bankers in provoking global recession.

Few in the government seem to have noticed that the man acronymically known in the Church as the ABC also lamented the fact that the nation is “still waiting for a full and robust account of what the left would do differently”. Dr Williams’ intervention is as embarrassing for Ed Miliband as it is for David Cameron. It is, after all Labour, rather than the church, who should be providing the Opposition.

One Response
  1. Chris Allinson permalink
    June 11, 2011

    I do like it when churchmen upset the applecart and rattle the Daily Mail, though we didn’t hear too much from the C of E (or the RCs or Methodists) when the moneylenders made such a complete mess of everything at so little cost to themselves. Or when that Christian Socialist Mr Blair went off crusading on his moral high horse with Mr Bush. Nonetheless, I guess coalition ministers are as sensitive to the Christian constituency as they are to that of Islam but my guess is they don’t give too much of a toss about pronouncements from someone who derives his authority from an imaginary friend. I think you must be right about the opposition failing to make the case, but the opposition seems to have lost its mojo, however superficial that was with New Labour. I wonder how current policies will affect Whinney Banks or Berwick Hills? What will be the sermon at St Francis or St Pius X this Sunday?

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