Rowan Williams is right to speak out, and right on the substance.
As I know from my time in government, Archbishops can provoke and anger from time to time, but why shouldn’t they? They are people in important positions of moral and religious leadership, and part of their role must be to contribute to political and policy debate.
As a statement of fact, he is absolutely right to say the government is implementing policies nobody voted for. Now there is a political argument for that – the public could not make up it’s mind – but it is a statement of fact. The NHS provides the clearest of many examples where the government has used the existence of the coalition to bring in policies which were in neither manifesto and not in the coalition agreement.
Neither of the parties fought on a mandate for moves to a free market in schools, universities and health, but that is the clear direction of travel. As Tony Blair has been pointing out over the last few hours, Labour reforms were always made with a view to pursuing progressive values, and for making sure the less well off were given opportunities previously denied.
The Archbishop is right to point out that George Osborne’s economic strategy does not have that insight at or even close to the top of his strategic priorities.
‘We don’t do God’ is one of my most quoted and often misunderstood statements. It does not mean there is no place for faith in politics, or politics in faith. And even if politicians do not do God at all, those who do God for a calling and a living have not just a right, but a duty, to speak out when they have concerns about what a government is doing. It happened to us from time to time. It is now happening to the coalition, and long may Rowan Williams and his successors feel they can and should speak out.