Life imitates art…

By DeusExMacintosh

The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned that the government is committing Britain to “radical, long-term policies for which no-one voted”. Writing in the New Statesman magazine, Dr Rowan Williams raised concerns about the coalition’s health, education and welfare reforms.

He said there was “indignation” due to a lack of “proper public argument”.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “This government was elected to tackle Britain’s deep-rooted problems.”

“Its clear policies on health, welfare and the economy are necessary to ensure we are on the right track,” he added.

The article was written for the latest edition of the New Statesman, which Dr Williams guest edited. The magazine is on sale from Thursday and the article is also available on its website.

In the piece, Dr Williams said the Big Society idea was viewed with “widespread suspicion”. Talking specifically about the government’s key health and education policies, he said they were being introduced at a “remarkable speed”.

“At the very least, there is an understandable anxiety about what democracy means in such a context,” he said.

In a wide-ranging attack, he accused the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition of creating “anxiety and anger” in the country by introducing reforms without sufficient debate.

Dr Williams was critical of Prime Minister David Cameron’s flagship Big Society initiative, which aims to shrink the state and hand more control of services to volunteer groups, describing it as a “stale” slogan, viewed as an “opportunistic” cover for spending cuts.

The archbishop’s article also said there was concern that the government would abandon its responsibility for tackling child poverty, illiteracy and poor access to the best schools.

He also criticised the government’s welfare reforms, complaining of a “quiet resurgence of the seductive language of ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor” and the steady pressure to increase “what look like punitive responses to alleged abuses of the system”.

And remember, you saw it here first.


  1. Patrick
    Posted June 11, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Except, unlike the poor Australians who voted for an anti-carbon tax labor government, the UK did vote for a government that was always going to reform welfare – this is kind like a greens voter (ok this is a greens voter haha) being surprised that the greens are backing carbon tax because their campaign devoted more time to carbon trading.

    As for the dear lovely’s stupid fear about what democracy means, it means that the government of the day is the one that gets to make the laws, not an extremist fringe of the losing party (i.e. the Archbishop).

  2. Posted June 11, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    Lots to like about this meddlesome priest.

    On the party thing, if politicians think electronic voting is technically clean enough to use (and I’m a geek who thinks IT isn’t up to it yet), then there is no good reason to keep representative democracy at all – we could return to the original notion of democracy with each citizen voting on individual bills. To my mind, the sooner we can iron out the kinks in the technology (and management) to the standard required for medical records, and rid ourselves of so-called representatives, the sooner individual initiatives might pass or fail on the merits of the voters, prosperous societies reliant on well-informed citizenries. Um… Ahh… There may be a transition problem…

  3. Posted June 12, 2011 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    Well Patrick, as an Ystradgynlais boyo there’s an outside chance Williams might have been Plaid but in that case he’d have been CHAPEL.

  4. Posted June 12, 2011 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    It would be more impressive if they raised the income-tax free threshold substantially: that would do more to get rid of perverse incentives than any amount of cracking down on fraud.

    It should also be possible to differentiate between the hale of working age and other folk.

  5. Posted June 12, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    The Archbishop’s comments on politics were probably inspired by Muslim leaders who are often in the news giving their opinions on a wide range of topics. I find it paradoxical that he criticizes the government when the same divisions exist within the Church itself especially when it comes to the question of whether women and men should be equally able to serve in the ministry.

  6. Posted June 12, 2011 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    It should also be possible to differentiate between the hale of working age and other folk.


    It’s not, Lorenzo – that’s the problem. ‘Hale’ is subjective. At the moment they’re basically moving the goalposts for what qualifies as ‘disabled enough to receive state support. There’s no magic cut-off point.

    Previously the rough guide was “disabled is if you can’t work full time” but apparently that’s more generous than we can afford so it is now moving to “disabled is if you can’t even work part-time”. That leaves a whole heap of people who used to receive support who won’t in the future. They won’t be any less ill or disabled or face any less barriers to employment of simply achieving a decent quality of life but they won’t have any benefits to help them any more.

    It’s going to be ugly.

  7. Jacques Chester
    Posted June 14, 2011 at 6:27 am | Permalink


    You and I both know that no e-voting system could be made trustworthy enough for such a purpose.

    And that’s leaving aside the watchful husband problem and good old-fashioned demagoguery. Do you want the day-to-day legislative business of this country almost directly controlled by ACA and shock jocks? Because I don’t.

    Representative democracy is a workable balance of power, a compromise between the elites and the masses.

  8. Patrick
    Posted June 14, 2011 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Sorry, LE, not my point whether you actively preferred policy Z or L, but rather that you voted knowing that, as you say, Z or L was part of the package.

    Unlike some Australians who voted for Labor thinking that L was part of the package but that Z was definitely not (which applies equally to immigration as to carbon but with the rider that anyone who voted for Labor over Liberal on immigration is just stupid).

  9. Patrick
    Posted June 14, 2011 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Stupid to have believed that there was a difference, that is, and stupider to believe that they had any semblance of a plan.

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