Archbishop of Canterbury criticises 'delinquent' politicians
Cranmer is a little distracted and pressed for time. This from Martin Beckford in The Daily Telegraph:
Dr Rowan Williams said that the “remarkable” general election shows the historic identities of the country’s political groups “are not making much sense to a lot of the electorate”.
He claimed that in the past 30 years both left- and right-wing administrations have created “odd growths” that either took too much power for the state or gave too much away to unaccountable private interests.
The Archbishop, the most senior cleric in the Church of England, also said that one of the “tragedies” of the past 30 years has been the reduction of every interaction to one of producer and consumer.
He hopes that the Coalition might lead to the development of “strong citizens” and “shared dignity” in society, and the restoration of trust in politics following the MPs’ expenses scandal.
His comments in a sermon to the new Parliament at St Margaret's, Westminster, on Tuesday mark the first time Dr Williams – a self-styled “hairy lefty” who nevertheless was critical of Gordon Brown’s attempts to tackle the recession through higher state spending – has discussed politics publicly since the election was called.
He said: “We react against certain kinds of strong government or ‘big’ government on the grounds that we don’t want to be patronised or bullied or stripped of the fruits of our own work. And the mistake is then to hand over all responsibility to non-state agents – which in practice often means non-accountable interests. Or, on the other hand, we try to make sure that government controls all outcomes and averts all risks by law and regulation. And this produces a culture of obsessional legislation, paralysis of initiative and pervasive anxiety.”
Referring to Margaret Thatcher’s economic guru and one of the founding fathers of the Labour Party, the Archbishop said: “The last three decades have seen plenty of both these odd growths – the delinquent children of Milton Friedman and Sidney Webb.”
“Is it a fantasy to think that we just might be on the verge of discovering another register for talking politics and doing politics? One thing that the remarkable recent election has surely told us is that some of the historic party identities of British politics are not making much sense to a lot of the electorate; party loyalties are not what they were, because people have been unclear about what the arguments really are (despite the high-profile debating).”
Dr Williams said the new Government has the chance to create strong citizens by encouraging them to co-operate rather than just consume goods from the state or private enterprise.
In an apparent reference to the much-debated moment during the election campaign when Gordon Brown described a widow who complained about immigration as “bigoted”, the Archbishop said: “here were telling points in the election campaign where it was clear that the relentless negativity of coverage and the relish with which individuals, including individuals of stature and integrity, were demonised or trivialised or both began to repel the public. No one should look back on the campaign as a good moment for the dignity of our public life.”