The Archbishop of Canterbury hits the headlines with an attack on money-lenders and gets bruised in the first week of battle
The story broke this week as the newly appointed head of the Church of England declared war on the so-called payday credit firms. Interestingly, the remark was part of a far more widely-ranging interview for Total Politics magazine. The story that hit the headlines [July 2013] was seized upon from one paragraph:
A plan for the church to develop credit unions has been floated, with Welby proud that the church is “putting our money where our mouth is” in developing an alternative to payday money-lenders. The plan, he says, is to create “credit unions that are both engaged in their communities and are much more professional – and people have got to know about them.”
It will, he adds, be a “decade-long process”, but Welby is ready for the battle with the payday giants. “I’ve met the head of Wonga and I’ve had a very good conversation and I said to him quite bluntly we’re not in the business of trying to legislate you out of existence, we’re trying to compete you out of existence.” He flashes that smile again. “He’s a businessman; he took that well.”
Battle had been declared
Within days the militant archbishop was on the defensive, as it was revealed how the Church had investments which were with dubious ethical operations. Protests that the investments were very tiny hardly quelled the storm in an ecclesiastic and financial teacup.
The shallowness of the debate was illustrated by BBC Newsnight’s weary efforts [Friday 26th July 2013] with church spokesperson, payday-loan spokesperson and Jeremy Paxman’s stand-in contributing to an inept effort to offer any reasoned contribution.
Fighting for the moral high ground
Welby, going the rounds of the media, had admitted to being embarrassed. It takes more than four months to master the art of avoiding the pitfalls of interviews when seeking to achieve the moral high-ground. His unusual background as a financial executive was not sufficient training.
The archbishop presumably wanted to introduce his visionary plans for the church under his leadership. He finds himself fighting his first hand-to-hand pitched battle with the forces of darkness.