During the Thatcher government I was at a dinner for Japanese guests. The junior minister giving the after dinner speech tore up the notes written for him by his civil servants and proceeded to launch an attack on Anglican bishops. The Japanese gentleman next to me and turned me and asked, 'why minister attack bishop?'
The Church of England gave the Thatcher government a torrid time and for a while was the only effective opposition, alongside the House of Lords. Now a number of Anglican bishops have turned on the Labour government and accused it of being 'morally corrupt'.
This is a pretty direct attack on Gordon Brown's 'son of the manse' image (Mrs Thatcher wore her nonconformist affiliations very loosely). It has drawn a robust response from government ministers and MPs. John McFall, chairman of the Treasury select committee, commented: 'I don't know if at the bishops' palaces there has been too much mulled wine passed around over the last few days.'
The bishops would no doubt claim that their faith requires them to pronounce on public policy, especially when there is a social dimension. However, their grasp of economics is less sound that their understanding of theology. A central part of their argument is that people should consume less, but if that happened even more jobs would be lost.