The Church of England (CoE) may not be thought of as an organisation whose principals’ pronouncements are likely to provoke controversy, but this weekend they have done just that: as the BBC has reported, Rowan Williams and John Sentamu have urged voters not to endorse parties who might foster "fear and division within communities, especially between people of different faiths or racial background".
Who might they mean? Ah well. There’s only one party that does racial division in a serious and unequivocal way, and that’s the British National Party (BNP), an organisation born out of a split in far right politics some years ago. In the beginning there had been the National Front (NF), amongst whose leading lights had been Martin Webster and John Tyndall. Webster was outed as a homosexual by Private Eye, and Tyndall later split from him, allegedly because the latter’s vision of racial purity had no room for gays.
Nowadays the BNP is led by Oberscheissenführer Nick Griffin, who paints the party as being focused on British values, rather than the racist bigotry of old. However, the old far right creed lurks beneath the surface: their campaign for the Euro elections talks about the “Islamification of Britain”, which manages to be wildly inaccurate, potty, and total crap all at once. Also, Nick and his fellow stürmers do tend to bang on about “ethnics”, which is the latest hate word for anyone who isn’t white.
Griffin and his chums are not happy about the noises coming out of the CoE. Had those noises emanated only from Archbishop Rowan, they might not have been so miffed. After all, he’s just a wishy-washy intellectual, and they can easily shrug off his comments. But with Archbishop John, well, it’s different: Archbishop John wouldn’t be easily let into a BNP meeting, but he’s a charismatic and very popular bloke. Nick Griffin and his pals clearly don’t like being preached to by a mere “ethnic”.
Tough. Griffin would like us to accept his right to free speech, and I do. What he must do in turn is to accept the rights of Archbishops Rowan and John to their own freedoms. The two of them – the head and heart of the Anglican Church – make a formidable team, and merely whingeing that they should “stay out of politics” is not good enough. The CoE intervention has exposed the BNP for what it is – just the old bigoted race-hate masquerading as mainstream politics.
That can only be a good thing.