Criticism of the Archbishop masks our own shame….
I was inspired to write this following a tweet from a Labour comrade questioning the intervention of the Archbishop of Canterbury into the welfare reform debate. I am a democratic secularist and think that religion has no place in politics. However, lets be clear; he has the right to express a view – the real democratic travesty is not that Rowan Williams holds an opinion and expresses it, something which he is perfectly entitled to do, but his presence within the legislature in the House of Lords. It beggars belief that his excision of the right to freely speak is a problem but this isnt.
Secondly, he is actually completely right in what he said and his courage in speaking out against this government should not be chafed with cold counsel. He told the BBC that regarding Iain Duncan Smith’s frankly barbaric workfare plans he had “alot of worries”:
“I don’t immediately think it’s fair,” he said. “People who are struggling to find work and struggling to find a secure future are – I think – driven further into a downward spiral of uncertainty, even despair, when the pressure is on in that way.”
Lets cut to the chase shall we? This governments proposals will lead directly to people dying and probably killing themselves – already the Sheffield Star reports a massive increase in calls to the Samaritans:
FEARS about job losses and cuts to benefits are driving increasing numbers of people to the brink of suicide, Sheffield’s Samaritans warned today.
Williams is thus essentially totally right in what he says; that these proposals are brutal and will lead to lives being destroyed. We don’t expect this government to care because it doesn’t; its willing to pay any price to achieve its prized deficit reduction. However, what does Labour offer in response? It’s response is to criticise the proposals not on the grounds of the human cost and what should be obvious criticisms of what is slave labour but essentially on grounds that we have already implemented them in any case. This is simply not good enough – if this leadership hasn’t got the spine to speak out with so much at stake on this then what makes us think its got the sheer guts necessary to win an election?
Its all very well carping about the clergy intervening in politics but is the real issue not its intervention but what its intervention, in comparison to ours, says about us and the state of our Party? I can’t help but feel bitter criticism of Williams from Labour comrades has nothing to do with consistent commitment to democracy but masks our feelings of shame at our own parties inability to show similar courage in our convictions….and if it doesn’t then it damn well should.