Anglican Church clears the way for gay bishops
Anglican Church clears the way for gay bishops REUTERS

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams has launched a fierce criticism of the coalition government's education and health reforms as well as questioning whether the coalition government has a mandate to govern.

The severity of the attack on the government took Prime Minster David Cameron and other senior ministers by surprise, with last summer's Conservative-Lib Dem coalition agreement coming under severe public scrutiny. Whilst the government accept that the Archbishop has a right to air his grievances, senior members of the coalition believe that Dr Rowan Williams attack was one step too far.

The Archbishop's attack on the government was mainly focused on Andrew Lansley's controversial health reforms and the coalition's educational reforms; something that has already caused friction within cabinet. Writing for the New Statesman, Dr Rowan Williams called for the government to slow down their reforms of these two key areas in a bid to protect the most vulnerable people in society.

The Archbishop commented that the reforms were being taken with "remarkable speed" and would only serve to cause "anxiety and anger" across the country. With the Liberal Democrat's looking to exercise a greater force in government, Liberal Democrat supporters will hope these attacks pave the way for leader Nick Clegg to exert pressure on David Cameron to concede further ground on the health reforms in the form of further concessions.

The Archbishop has caused further controversy by implying that the government had no democratic mandate to govern. The coalition deal has been a sensitive subject for the coalition - the health reforms and the rise in tuition fee's plus further educational reforms were not in either party's election manifestos. The Archbishop took the unusual step of questioning the legitimacy of the government claiming the coalition was heading down a road of "radical, long-term policies for which no-one voted."

The criticisms of the coalition government will only serve to alarm the public. The Archbishop may be a senior figure in British society but does his position allow him to openly attack the government in such a way? Does the Archbishop of Canterbury really have any credibility on the issue of legitimacy when he himself sits in the House of Lords and opposes the Liberal Democrat's proposed reforms of the second chamber?

The Archbishop has the right to question the government and as a representative of 13 million followers, he has the responsibility to hold the coalition to account in terms of policy. However, this government is the first since 1935 to be governing with over 50 per cent of the votes cast. In the halls of Westminster, the felling is the Archbishop has gone one step too far in his latest attack on the coalition government.