Magazine article The Spectator

The People's Primate

Magazine article The Spectator

The People's Primate

Article excerpt

Lord Carey on why the Anglican Communion must reconnect with the working classes.

Lord Carey of Clifton isn't the retiring sort. He stood down as Archbishop of Canterbury ten years ago, but he wasn't ready to end his days in quiet contemplation. At 76, he is still a public figure - more so, perhaps, than ever.

He used to be dismissed as a plodding liberal; a typically ineffectual Anglican primate.

Today, he is recognised as perhaps the leading British voice of Christian conservatism.

He speaks out against mass immigration, multiculturalism, gay marriage and militant secularists.

He makes headlines. He's recently fulminated against a High Court ban on prayers at council meetings, and attacked his fellow bishops in the House of Lords for their opposition to the government's benefits cap.

'I think some people were a bit upset with me about that, ' he says. Indeed they were. Bishop Stephen Lowe accused him of peddling 'Tory dogma'. Dr Giles Fraser, the former canon chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral, called him a 'Thatcherite' - a swear word in most Anglican circles - and one of 'yesterday's men'.

Lord Carey doesn't look like a troublemaker or a bull-headed reactionary. When I meet him in the lobby of the Landmark Hotel in Marylebone Road, he resembles other passing guests: wheeled suitcase in one hand, mobile phone in the other. (Closer inspection reveals the dog collar and pectoral cross, and a large ecclesiastical ring. ) He comes across as a gentle soul . He wants to talk about football and pop music so as not to seem out of touch. 'If you were to look at my iPod, ' he says, rather sweetly, 'you'd see a strange eclectic mix with Supertramp, the Carpenters . . . Coldplay even.'

He isn't soft, though. The son of an East End hospital porter, he has a toughness to him. He shrugs off the insults of his fellow clergy. 'Giles is Giles, ' he says. 'You've got to have a thick skin in public life. He is wrong to call me a Thatcherite. I loved the film The Iron Lady . But I've always thought that she was draconian in some things, with the miners for instance. I've always tried to resist being labelled politically.'

Has he not moved to the right, then, since leaving Lambeth Palace? 'People may say that. . . but my political affiliations have doing some things right, but I think it is also making many mistakes.'

He does, however, feel that in recent years Britain has shifted away dramatically from its spiritual foundations, and that Christian values are being brushed aside. He has written a new book, with his journalist son Andrew, called We Don't Do God: The Marginalisation of Public Faith, and he hopes it will 'raise a few eyebrows'.

'What I am getting at is that we have gone too far on human rights legislation, ' he says.

'Now equality trumps freedom every time.

Homosexual rights trump religious rights. It is almost as if we find no way of accommodating differences.' He partly blames duplicitous politicians. 'Everyone knew where Tony Blair stood as a Christian. But it's almost as if the arguments and policies he pursued were consciously at variance with the way the Church wanted to go. It's the same for David Cameron. He makes very chipper speeches about the King James Bible and how our country needs the Christian voice and yet he makes decisions, especially about marriage, that seem to run in a different direction. …

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