9 Jun 2011

Archbishop of Canterbury criticises Coalition

The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned that the Coalition is committing Britain to fundamental reforms “for which no one voted”. The Prime Minister says he profoundly disagrees with the comments.

Archbishop of Cantebury criticises Coalition (Getty)

In an article for the New Statesman magazine, Dr Rowan Williams raised concern about a range of policies.

He described people’s “bafflement and indignation” with the Tory-Liberal Democrat Coalition’s decisions.

“With remarkable speed, we are being committed to radical, long-term policies for which no one voted,” he writes.

His comments are some of the most critical to come from an archbishop since Robert Runcie’s comments on the policies of Mrs Thatcher’s government in the 1980s.

David Cameron passionately rejected the criticism. The Prime Minister said Dr Rowan Williams was free to express his concerns, but he “profoundly disagreed” with many of the comments.

I profoundly disagree with many of the views that he has expressed. David Cameron

Speaking at a press conference on a visit to Northern Ireland, Mr Cameron said: “I think the Archbishop of Canterbury is entirely free to express political views. I have never been one to say that the Church should fight shy of making political interventions.

“But what I would say is that I profoundly disagree with many of the views that he has expressed, particularly on issues like debt and welfare and education.”

Read more: Archbishop urges rich to shoulder their load in economy

‘Suspicion of Big Society’

The archbishop warned that there is a feeling that “not enough has been exposed to proper public argument”, causing “anxiety and anger” among voters.

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

He was also critical of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Big Society vision, calling it a “stale” slogan that is viewed with “widespread suspicion”.

“Government badly needs to hear just how much plain fear there is around questions such as these at present,” he writes.

The Archbishop’s comments were described as “a little unbalanced” by the Work and Pensions Secretary.

Iain Duncan Smith said “We’re trying to reform a complex benefits system and get people back to work … I think the Archbishop knows very well that’s what we’ve been trying to do from the word go.”

The piece was written for the latest edition of New Statesman, which Dr Williams has guest edited.

He said Westminster politics “feels pretty stuck” and he wanted to stimulate “a livelier debate”.