Matthew Dancona

An Arch row

An Arch row
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In the Sunday Telegraph today, I argue that the Archbishop's speech is a sort of liberal book-end to Enoch Powell's infamous 'Rivers of Blood' outburst 40 years ago. Let us call Dr Williams's lecture 'Rivers of Blather'.

One comic aspect of an otherwise deadly serious row has been the extent to which it has started to assume all the characteristics of a political controversy.

So: the embattled principal (in this case, an Archbishop rather than a Cabinet Minister) makes a speech of huge complexity, but - fatally - previews it in a BBC interview. He says things that cause outrage even before he has begun the lecture itself. By the time he does, the row is already up and running on the 24 hour news channels and in the blogosphere.

Merry hell breaks out in the papers the next morning. The embattled man issues a 'clarification' on his website. His defenders allege that he has been misquoted, caricatured, taken 'out of context' etc. It is all the fault of the media, encouraged by his enemies.

But then his predecessor weighs in (in this case, George Carey) to attack what he said, playing Thatcher to Williams's Major, a 'back seat Primate'. Members of the General Synod - the ecclesiastical equivalent of the PLP or 1922 Committee - say that he should go, first anonymously then on the record. Bishops of ever greater seniority - the equivalent of ministers - twist the knife, exploiting the preparatory work done by junior members of the Church.

And, as in all good rows, a show-down looms. Will the Synod unite behind Williams this week or decide that enough is enough? For all the prayers, and hushed tones, this is politics red in tooth and claw.