Christian churches in this country have an honourable record, at least in recent decades, of getting up the noses of governments, particularly of the Tory kind. I can remember a Church of England report in 1985 called Faith in the City, which really annoyed Margaret Thatcher. The right's response is always to tell the church to keep out of politics. And that's no doubt what they are doing now. On Monday we read about the report of an independent commission chaired by the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, on poverty and the need for the "living wage". This was reported in the Independent, which carried an interview with the Archbishop. He warned that, "Millions of low-paid workers are trapped in an unbreakable cycle of poverty, and are even turning up at food banks in their lunch breaks asking for help to feed their families." This is in vivid contrast to the government's mantra of "making work pay". But last year IDS accused the bishops of ignoring the concerns of ordinary people!
Perhaps more embarrassing to Iain Duncan Smith, a Roman Catholic, is the intervention today of Britain's most senior Catholic cleric, Archbishop Vincent Nichols. The Telegraph carries an interview with him, in which he says that the government's reforms have destroyed even the most basic safety net, and have become increasingly punitive. He talks of a "crisis" and a "disgrace". But up pops the anonymous DWP spokesperson to parrot the familiar lies (why does no one ever name this person?).
We've known for a long time that Duncan Smith tries to silence criticism on the BBC, but on Tuesday we learned that he, or his minions, tried to shut down a spoof Twitter account called "UKJobcentrePlus not". You can read the story in the Independent. The DWP's brand (?) and public information manager, Jon Woodcock, complained that it was set up "with deliberate and malicious intent to devalue and criticise the work of Jobcentre Plus" and that its tweets were "rude and potentially libellous". The account was taken down. But its creators won on appeal - and gained a lot of followers in the process. Well done.