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Austerity has got worse over past decade, Welby says

20 December 2019

The Archbishop told Big Issue that rough sleeping had gone up


THE country is not “in a crisis”, but the “direction of travel is not what we want”, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

In an interview conducted last month with the magazine Big Issue, Archbishop Welby said that it had got worse over the past nine years: the length of time that the Conservatives have been in power. The interview was published this week.

He told the magazine: “It [homelessness] has got worse over the last nine years. Rough sleeping has gone up. That is a matter of fact. People will argue about the causes, but it is a fact it has gone up.

“Foodbank use has risen. There has been a huge rise in the client base of Christians Against Poverty, the debt-counselling charity. Also, people’s tolerance for minorities has gone down.

“Minority groups have had a much harder time: asylum-seekers, immigrants. The use of vitriolic language has gone up significantly. We have had an MP murdered. I am not saying we are in a crisis, I am just saying the direction of travel is not what we want.”

When asked whether he thought politicians were conscious of the impact of austerity, he said: “Yes. Not all of them, obviously. But the vast majority do, and they are really concerned about it. They have different approaches to it of course but I have a huge respect for our political leaders — the vast majority of them.

“I think people who expose themselves to that world have to be quite brave because they will be treated terribly by a lot of people. I might disagree with them very strongly but they are on the pitch trying to kick the ball and I am just in the stands observing them.”

During the interview, he was asked about the Duke of York, who has been widely criticised for his connection with the convicted sex-offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Prince Andrew has denied allegations that he had sex with Virginia Roberts-Giuffre, and appeared on television to defend himself, but was criticised for not showing remorse for his friendship with Epstein.

Archbishop Welby said: “I think, generally speaking, they do serve in a way that is extraordinary in what is literally, for them, a life sentence.”

He continued: “I think to ask that they be superhuman saints is not what we should do, because nobody is like that.

“Everybody makes mistakes, everybody is human. I am not commenting on any member of the royal family except to say that I am astonished at what a gift they are to this country.”

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