There is so much going on in the Rowan story that most will be forgotten by Tuesday, when I come to write a proper press column, so I thought I would put some disorganised notes on the Sunday papers here.
- First, from the Sunday Telegraph, the sound of a news desk biting on granite: Dr Williams sought to defend his comments yesterday, but is fighting to survive calls from politicians and members of his church demanding his resignation. The vast majority of the Church’s ruling body believe he was wrong, a Sunday Telegraph poll shows. The survey of the General Synod found that only three per cent agreed that aspects of Islamic law should be adopted. Four per cent said he should resign, but two thirds rejected claims that he had lost credibility. Let’s just rephrase that a little — two thirds of the Synod’s members think his credibility is undamaged by the row. 96 per cent think he should stay in office. 97 per cent disagree with what the papers have claimed he said.
- I wasn’t sure myself whether he should resign (though obviously certain that it is fatuous to say he should), but I am now sure that he shouldn’t: to be patronised by Lord Carey in two national papers simultaneously is a humiliation far more excruciating than mere martyrdom.
- The two best comments on the matter of his speech came from Matthew Parris and Simon Barrow. Niether of them liked it.
- Yesterday’s Sun had a front page urging readers to “Bash the Bishop” and in case they had forgotten how to, a picture of a pretty girl in her underwear right above it.
- The Daily Mail has an online poll asking readers whether Dr Williams or Abu Hamza pose the greatest threat to Britain. As of this morning, Dr Williams is leading by 2:1. I think we can take this as a sign that the story is turning into a joke.
- The thoughtful and well-informed Ali Eteraz also thinks Rowan is wrong.
- If the row has any lasting effect, this will be to make disestablishment inevitable.
- There is a tendency to think that Rowan is being beaten up because the world is a brutal place and he is clever and right. But this is not the explanation. He is being persecuted because his speech was silly and wrong—and the world is a brutal place. He’s not going to change the last of these conditions, and he alone is to blame for the first two. This may seem heartless, but a world in which folly was not punished would be even more terrible than one in which it is.