We at 22 Old Queen Street have never been great fans of Rowan Williams. At a time when strong ecclesiastical leadership was needs he served up abstract, pew-emptying waffle. But as this week’s leading article in the magazine argues, his successor Justin Welby has taken a more subtle, serious and successful approach — which bears fruit, as we saw last week with the government’s crackdown on the most sharkish of the payday lenders.
‘Welby’s intelligence on financial matters stands in direct contrast with that of his predecessor, Rowan Williams, whose pronouncements on current affairs so often came across as those of a lofty professor who had found himself in the wrong lecture hall. Straying from divinity to economics in a piece for this magazine in the middle of the 2008 banking crisis, Williams resorted to a generalised attack on markets and went on to demand a ban on short-selling. This rather missed the point that the traders who had been making money short-selling the shares of banks were only able to do so because they had spotted that the banks were in trouble before anyone else had. Their activities were a symptom, not a cause, of the banking crisis.’
Who’d argue with that? The answer, it seems, is the Archbishop of Canterbury himself who has taken to Twitter to defend his predecessor against such unkind remarks, describing Williams as ‘one of our best ever Archbishops’:
— Justin Welby (@JustinWelby) November 15, 2014
As the Good Book says: ‘speak ill of no man’. Not quite a rule we adhere to at the Spectator, but it’s good to see it being upheld at Lambeth Palace.