Archbishop battles ‘Big Society’ - Macleans.ca

Archbishop battles ‘Big Society’

The Archbishop of Canterbury is at odds with PM David Cameron’s vision for Britain

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Archbishop battles ‘Big Society’

Ho New/Reuters

Touching off a decidedly old-school debate, the head of the Church of England took Britain’s coalition government to task last week, accusing it of imposing “radical policies for which no one voted” on its electorate. In an article titled “The government needs to know how afraid people are” in last week’s issue of the New Statesman, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, criticized reforms to health, education and welfare being implemented by the government led by Prime Minister David Cameron. The PM shot back in a news conference: “The Archbishop of Canterbury is entirely free to express political views,” but “I profoundly disagree with many of the views that he has expressed.”

Williams was particularly critical of Cameron’s “Big Society” policy—a plan to have volunteer and charity groups play a crucial role in delivering social services—insisting that key questions about how it would work remain unanswered and calling the slogan itself “painfully stale.” Cameron was unmoved: “I’m absolutely convinced that our policies are about actually giving people greater responsibility and greater chances in their life, and I will defend those very vigorously.”