It was the most overtly political speech from an Archbishop of Canterbury for many years (although incumbent Justin Welby, and others, have often commented on individual issues before). Here’s part of it:
The Archbishop of Canterbury calls the gig economy and zero hours contracts the 'reincarnation of an ancient evil'.
The country's political mood has transformed. This is the most decisive intervention by a leading public figure you'll see.pic.twitter.com/TpXGxY0D3K
— Aaron Bastani (@AaronBastani) September 12, 2018
The Archbishop’s attack on Universal Credit and zero-hours contracts was welcomed by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who was mentioned in Justin Welby’s speech.
Mr McDonnell said: “The Archbishop of Canterbury has set out a bold vision for a different society, one without the evils of the gig economy, the exploitation of workers and tax dodging of the multinationals.
“I welcome his speech, and the growing movement against the failures of austerity and neoliberalism. Labour will end zero hours contracts, clamp down on the tax avoiders, and ensure everyone has access to sick pay, parental leave and protections at work.”
But – oh dear – just look at the hypocrisy from the Conservative Party.
Days after Tories supported former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in his highly-political attack on the Labour Party over the anti-Semitism row that has been fabricated against it, they were lining up to condemn the Archbishop for what they said was interference in politics.
Tory MP Ben Bradley tweeted: ‘Not clear to me when or how it can possibly be appropriate for the Archbishop of Canterbury to be appearing at TUC conference or parroting Labour policy.’
He added: ‘There are a diversity of views as to what is best for the economy, but [he] only seems interested in presenting John McDonnell’s point of view.’
Mr Bradley is, of course, famous for tweeting a lie about Jeremy Corbyn that resulted in the most-publicised apology ever to appear on Twitter.
Of course there was no way the hypocrisy would go unnoticed. This is just one example of the responses:
Rabbi Sacks: "Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite."
Tories: "Listen to the holy gentleman."
Archbishop of Canterbury: "Tories have increased poverty."
Tories: 'Must keep religion out of politics."
— simon maginn (@simonmaginn) September 12, 2018
And the Archbishop? He said in his speech that he would make no apology for discussing politics. “The Bible is political from one end to the other,” he said.
His intervention is to be welcomed.
The Church of England is often seen as a haven for Conservatives and it will be interesting to see what happens to those Tories’ attitudes, considering this new direction from the pulpit.
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