The words of Henry II are echoing down the centuries today as yet another Archbishop of Canterbury continues to stick his nose into things that should not concern him…
Faced with a civil war amongst his own clergy about what to do about the protesters outside St Paul’s Cathedral, Williams has decided that this is the time to embrace the Papal viewpoint that all financial transactions should be taxed as a way of punishing the greedy and enriching the poor.
This is not a new idea. In July of this year the idea was taken up by President Sarkozy of France and Angela Merkel of Germany at their Paris summit where they proposed that such a tax should be levied across the European Union.
The proposal, which has become official policy of the countries within the euroland area, was widely interpreted as punishing Britain for playing host to financial speculation. Some 70 per cent of financial transactions in Europe are conducted through banks and exchanges based in the City of London.
Needless to say, the government is wholly opposed to such a tax although Cameron has fallen short of saying so by fudging his way out of it by saying that would only work if it was adopted globally – which, of course, he knows will never happen.
Williams does not seem to have a clue on the likely impact of such a tax on Britain. Financial services in the City of London account for 10 per cent of the nation’s total output and hundreds of thousands of jobs.
These would move overseas at a drop of a hat turning the South-East of England – its most prosperous region – into an area as deprived as the North East which has still to recover from the loss of heavy industry.
Not only that, but it would deprive St Paul’s and the Church of England of the donors who keep the cathedral together and the fund management skills which look after its own assets and pension funds and might plunge in value.
It would, in the crude words of football supporters, be an ‘own goal’ which could change the face of Britain.
But the more important issue here is that the church and politics should not be mixed. It is not the place of the unelected head of a failing and rapidly shrinking Anglican Church to dictate policy to the elected government of this land.
He would do well to remember what happened to Becket when he tried it…