WRITING in this newspaper earlier this week about a new biography of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, I quoted the author's comment that although the Archbishop is very clever, he sometimes lacks “a capacity to see how his words will be received”. Indeed, indeed. Whatever was Dr Williams thinking of yesterday when he allowed himself to be drawn into giving his views on the global economic crisis during an interview on BBC Radio's Today programme that was intended to be about the possible disestablishment of the Church of England? He made some appropriate and valid points about the “huge moral issues” involved in the pursuit of wealth but when he chose to describe Gordon Brown's fiscal stimulus policy as seeming “a little bit like the addict returning to the drug” he was both unwise and unnecessarily offensive. By acknowledging that “I am not an economist by any stretch of the imagination” and that it was “suicidally silly” to get involved in the debate he said all that needed to be said about his incapacity to pronounce on this subject as he did.

Of course, that did not stop the Conservative shadow chancellor, George Osborne, from blundering into the debate by saying that the Archbishop had “raised the moral issue of whether it can be right for Gordon Brown to saddle future generations with huge debts.” It seems that Mr Osborne is someone else who lacks “a capacity to see how his words will be received”.


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