Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams dismisses David Cameron's Big Society as a 'ploy'
Sunday 24 June 2012
The Archbishop of Canterbury has dismissed David Cameron's Big Society as a ploy to conceal a "deeply damaging withdrawal of the state from its responsibilities to the most vulnerable."
Dr Rowan Williams, who will stand down in December, denounces the concept as "aspirational waffle" in a new book being prepared ahead of his retirement.
In further criticism of the Government, he suggests ministers have fuelled doubts over the Prime Minister's flagship policy by failing to clearly set out the role of British citizens within the Big Society.
In one passage, obtained by The Observer, he writes: "Introduced in the run up to the last election as a major political idea for the coming generation, (it) has suffered from a lack of definition about the means by which such ideals can be realised.
"Big society rhetoric is all too often heard by many therefore as aspirational waffle designed to conceal a deeply damaging withdrawal of the state from its responsibilities to the most vulnerable."
Casting further doubt on David Cameron's vision, he adds: "If the big society is anything better than a slogan looking increasingly threadbare as we look at our society reeling under the impact of public spending cuts, then discussion on this subject has got to take on board some of those issues about what it is to be a citizen and where it is that we most deeply and helpfully acquire the resources of civic identity and dignity."
It is not the first time the Archbishop has weighed in on the subject.
Last year he condemned the policy as a "stale" slogan which, he said, was viewed with "widespread suspicion".
In his new book, Faith in the Public Square, Dr Williams also condemns military expenditure.
The Archbishop, who has never been shy about expressing political opinions, writes: "The adventure in Iraq and its cost in any number of ways seems to beggar the imagination".
He caused controversy last June when he warned the Government was committing Britain to fundamental reforms in health and education "for which no one voted".
His comments, in an article for the left-wing New Statesman magazine, drew a furious response from Conservative MPs who described his attack as "ill-judged and unacceptable".
International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell defended the Government's Big Society concept on BBC1's the Andrew Marr Show.
Asked if he thought it was a 'cover for the withdrawal of the state under a Conservative-led Government', he replied: "Well it is absolutely not that, it is the reverse of that and we don't always explain it perhaps as well as we should.
"But it's about crowding in all parts of society, the Government, local government, the voluntary sector, civil society to tackle these big endemic problems, which the Prime Minister and all of us have tried to articulate and tackle."
He added: "The Archbishop and I will be announcing this week a joint effort between the Government and all faiths on tackling poverty in the poorest parts of the world, we've been working on this for the last year.
"I think the headline belies the extraordinary amount of agreement on tackling poverty here and abroad which exists between this Coalition Government and the Church of England."
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned
Peaches Geldof: Her final day – and her fatal decision
Chief Ebola doctor in Sierra Leone has contracted the deadly disease himself
Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
Israel-Gaza conflict: Israel may have committed war crimes, says UN human rights chief
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains
£20000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Company...
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This really is a fantastic chance to joi...
£45000 - £53000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: **MS DYNAMICS N...
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Purpose of Role: The SAP Data Migration ...