Carey defuses 'little nation' clash: Archbishop's controversial interview in new book will be changed. Stephen Ward reports

Click to follow
CONTROVERSIAL statements by the Archbishop of Canterbury about the state of Britain, leaked yesterday from a forthcoming book, will have been removed or altered by the time it is published.

Last night, following criticism from a Cabinet minister, the Archbishop moved to try to defuse the controversy.

A statement from Lambeth Palace said: 'The Archbishop has a high regard for his country. When you see the full text and its context, you will see that he is concerned that we have a tendency to talk ourselves down at all levels. What he said must remain between himself and the author until the book comes out.'

In the leaked version, Dr Carey suggested he intended to retire early, and not stay on to the age of 70. This comment has been removed from the public version.

Dr Carey, whose Easter sermon provoked anger in the Conservative Party by talking of a 'shameful' widening gap between rich and poor, appeared to have developed the theme in two extended interviews. The transcripts came from an early proof version of Revelations: The Clergy Questioned, by Mary Loudon, to be published in June. After months of negotiations, she was given interviews with the Archbishop in November and December on the basis that he could read a transcript and alter anything he chose.

According to yesterday's Daily Telegraph, Dr Carey said in the interviews, which were tape-recorded, then transcribed: 'The kind of picture I'm describing is one of a fragmented, divided society which has lost its empire. The Commonwealth doesn't really mean very much any more; we're not quite yet Europeans and committed to it.

'We're in a very big world and we're now very lonely; we have lost nearly all our navy and air force and so on. We're a pretty ordinary little nation and yet we don't realise it.' He said the education system was once the best in the world, but had become mediocre.

John Gummer, Secretary of State for the Environment, who left the Church of England over the issue of women priests to become a Roman Catholic, said: 'Most countries in the rest of Europe look to Britain as the nation which is leading the way.

'We have low inflation, we have low interest rates, we have falling unemployment and growth. If the Archbishop doesn't agree with that, I must say I think the facts show differently.'

Ms Loudon, 27, said the manuscript of her interview had been sent to Dr Carey. 'I interview people in the way that they always get to see what I have written. The Archbishop got to see the chapter I'd written about him, based on his own words. He asked me if I would delete some of it. He also asked would I expand some of it. There was nothing in the interview that was deleted or expanded that doesn't exist in the interview in another form.

'There were certain remarks that he'd made that he felt that in the form in which he'd said them, would either be misunderstood or would be unhelpful.'

She said anybody, after four hours of interview, could come back and say they could express some of what they had said in another way.

Leading article, page 17