Coffee House

Justin Welby, a very political Archbishop

13 July 2013

In this increasingly secular age, you would expect the Archbishop of Canterbury to be a figure of diminishing importance. But Justin Welby is fast becoming the most politically influential Archbishop since the war.

Part of Welby’s influence stems from the fact that both the Conservatives and Labour think that he is, secretly, one of them. I remember within days of his appointment being approacedh by a Tory minister and then by one of those closest to Ed Miliband. They both wanted to explain how Welby was going to help move public debate in their direction. One never had this kind of conversation about Rowan Williams whose views were thought not to be of this world. What was particularly striking was that Welby was being noticed at Westminster by those interested in power rather than prayer.

Claim your gift

Welby’s interview with Charles Moore in the Telegraph today shows just why he keeps both sides of the political divide interested. Welby tells Charles, ”I am a classic floating voter – and now I don’t vote.’

When Charles, Thatcher’s biographer, asks him what he thinks of Thatcher, Welby replies: “Genuinely, I don’t know the answer. When I was in the oil industry in the Eighties, I thought she was brilliant. When I was a clergyman in the North [Liverpool and Durham], I had a different view. But I think she had a discontent with drift which is really important, and an optimism about this country.”

Answers like this mean that Welby will keep on interesting politicians in all parties. I suspect that we’ll hear plenty more about this world from the Archbishop in the coming months. His decision to stay on the Banking Commission even after he had been named as the next Archbishop showed that he wanted to have a real influence on political debate in this country.

Give the perfect gift this Christmas. Buy a subscription for a friend for just £75 and you’ll receive a free gift too. Buy now.

Show comments
  • Michael990

    I’m afraid the man’s a loony. This article omits the reference in the original to his pride that he is able to ‘speak in tongues’.

    • glurk

      Umm…Did any of us vote for him? Being looney seems to be permissable when it comes to affecting people’s lives…as long as we voted. Put money on none of us having that pleasure!

  • Smithersjones2013

    Part of Welby’s influence stems from the fact that both the Conservatives and Labour think that he is, secretly, one of them.

    Clearly with God on their side Cameron and Miliband think that the ‘economic miracle’ is more likely.

    • Makroon

      Ha-ha, Welby is clearly a UKIPper, take a butchers at that geeky, slightly deranged boat !

  • the viceroy’s gin

    OT: That double door that Welby is stepping through in that photograph is simply magnificent. Please God that it’s not a product of China, that would surely shake my faith.

  • Alexsandr

    I left a post earlier wondering why the opinions of religious leaders get so much prominence in the MSM. I think most done care what they say. But it was modded

    • John Jefferson Burns

      You folks are indeed fortunate.

      I was reading that the Irish Archbishop told MP’s that if they did not vote for his wishes they would be denied Communion.
      Meanwhile Jeremiah Wright’s bawlings almost cost Obama his presidency (not that that would have been all bad)

      • Paul

        Archbishop Martin actually said that it would be wrong to use communion as a political weapon …quite controversial as the catholic church has always taught that you must be in communion and a state of grace to receive the blessed sacrament. The church has also taught that involvement in abortion results in excommunication automatically (as long as you understand the importance of the issue etc etc) and that giving communion to those who are public dissenters is banned (normally it is for the individual communicants to determine if they can receive but for those who are publicly persisting in sin the situation is different) as it can cause harm to / mislead the faithful.

      • Paul

  • the viceroy’s gin

    “Part of Welby’s influence stems from the fact that both the Conservatives and Labour think that he is, secretly, one of them.”


    Why wouldn’t they think that way? They’re clones of each other. They think the same way. They do the same things. Their budgets turned out to be nearly identical.

    Why would you be surprised that they’d view this guy in the same way? It’s inevitable that they’d do so, I should think.

    • HookesLaw

      More rubbish.
      They don’t think the same way and their budgets don’t turn out the same way.
      You spout this rubbish because you support extremism.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Yes, they do think the same way, and their budgets do turn out the same way.

        See, I can assert things as well, laddie.

        Oh, and you spout rubbish and support extremism, like all socialists.

        • tolpuddle1

          So no one on the Right is an extremist ? Compare UKIP with the Socialist Workers – both extremist, but only one of them possessed of supporters.
          With the UK economy flatlining (because Thatcher and Blair destroyed Britain’s industries and the British working-class) tax revenues are down and welfare spending up. Osborne has no leeway, whatever anyone on Right or Left may pretend.

          • Colonel Mustard

            I think you need to lie down in a dark room if you think the SWP have no supporters.


            Or maybe you meant that UKIP have no supporters?

          • HookesLaw

            The UK economy is not flat-lining. Despite the loss of hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs we see employment at an all time high.

            The UK currently builds large numbers of motor cars is taking on significant numbers of car jobs and exports 4 out of 5 cars it makes.

            • tolpuddle1

              Overall it is flat-lining; exports and manufacturing are ropey (inevitable when everyone else is trying to export) and small businesses still struggle to get finance.

              The ghostly “recovery” now being shouted from the housetops, is due solely to Ben Bernanke and his policies of QE and cheap money. These will cease – what happens when QE stops or when interest rates have to rise ? Answer: Armageddon.

          • SimonToo

            ” Compare UKIP with the Socialist Workers – both extremist”. Tolpuddle1, you need to be well over to the left to believe that those two are equidistant from your position ! Whatever UKIP might be, it is not extremist.

        • HookesLaw

          Facts do not support your assertions. They support mine.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            No, they don’t support your assertions. They support mine.

      • Colonel Mustard

        I’m afraid that they do really. The so-called Conservatism pursued by Cameron and Co is absolutely nothing like the Conservatism that preceded it. It is a surrendered, appeasing kind of Conservatism, afraid of its own shadow and on the back foot nervously planted in the enemy’s territory. The irony is that Labour are still able to score points by characterising them as being across the central divide when they aren’t.

        As for budgets not an ounce of difference between them except that Labour call their “cuts” caring or pretend they don’t exist and the Conservatives pretend their “cuts” are real. Behind both is the notion of being absolutely wedded to big state spending and meddling, a tax and spend regime and nanny knows best.

        Sometimes those clichés like Lib/Lab/Con are rooted in a perception of the tangible that the dim-witted idiots inhabiting the troika cannot or will not comprehend. They collectively delude themselves about the level of discontent and pretend their wishy-washy solutions to real problems and draconian solutions to non-problems will really work.

        • tolpuddle1

          Perhaps the Tories shouldn’t have lost the 2010 Election then ?

          • the viceroy’s gin

            What are you talking about? LibLabCon won that election. Congrats.

          • Colonel Mustard


        • HookesLaw

          Nope – I remember Major I remember McMillan I remember RAB Butler I remember Home. I remember Willie Whitelaw.

          I remember facts
          Conveniently here is a nice extended definition of a nutjob

          • the viceroy’s gin

            Well, I think the nice short definition of nutjob, at least as defined by you Cameroonian socialists, would be that group of conservatives who refuse to vote for any of the wet mob of clones and who will watch grimly as Call Me Dave’s head is mounted on a spike in May of 2015 (if not sooner).

            • HookesLaw

              Calling me a socialist shows how far you have to travel into fantasy to make your world view fit your warped mind.

              • the viceroy’s gin

                No travel required, laddie, unless it involves you and your socialist fellow travelers, like Call Me Dave.

          • Colonel Mustard

            Yes, I remember facts too but it is becoming much too easy to write off anyone that doesn’t buy into the groupthink as a nutjob. I believe the Soviets did much the same thing to deal with the inconvenience of their dissidents.

            Not long now.

            • HookesLaw

              There is only one direction the groupthink is coming from and you do not have to spend too long reading the pages of Coffeehouse to see from where.

              • Colonel Mustard

                That is to very sadly underestimate the situation.

    • 2trueblue

      Welby should stick to his job, guide his flock, fill the churches. His ego is too big, obviously he feels his remit is too narrow.

  • HookesLaw

    The Bishop of wishy washy thinking and hand wringing.
    Why not ask him what he thinks about corruption in the trade union and labour movement?

    • tolpuddle1

      Or in the City Of London and the business world generally ?

    • HurstLlama

      Or maybe ask His Grace why it is that his church is losing active members faster than any political party whilst other denominations and religions are gaining adherents hand over fist. For example an effectively defunct church in a town near me has been taken over by a “happy-clappy” sect and now regularly gets 400+ for evensong (evensong ffs) on a Sunday.

      Maybe the good archbishop could concentrate on his religious role, reviving the Church of England and stop feeling publicly guilty about going to a nice school and wittering on about politics.

      • Drabble

        Success breeds success. As the Anglicans, Catholics, Methodists, Baptists and other Christians lose adherents hand over fist, Allah goes from strength to strength. 57% Muslims regularly attend the Mosque. Maybe that is because they provide services relevant to the community including legal services, housing advice, welfare advice, health advice, activities for senior citizens and even training to be an Iman. We should take a leaf from their book.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          Yes, but the problem is, if you reach over and try to take a leaf from their book, they might just cut your hand off.

        • Curnonsky

          Islam is unapologetic. Anglicanism is reflexively apologetic.

          • Tom Tom

            Islam is not uniform or monolithic. Anglicanism is not Christianity – it is an English Social Contruct based in Southern England. The only redeeming feature of Welby is that he has lived in Durham and seen the world from the oldest cathedral in England

        • HookesLaw

          Only 57%? Thats a lot lower than I would have thought.

        • Tom Tom

          A Mosque is NOT a Church. You know little about Islam in Britain. A Mosque is the CENTRE of Muslim society not peripheral like the Church in modern Britain. It is also a bank, a community centre, a school, and it is run by Men not women and it is patriarchal. The Christian Churches are feminised and socialised and do little for their own people but focus on Non-Christians and Non-British in keeping with the Upper Class disdain for the Plebs.

Can't find your Web ID? Click here