Justin Welby, the new leader of nearly 80m Anglicans around the world, has won a respectful hearing for his ideas on banking and the British economy. Even if they disagree with the details, people have generally not reacted by saying “this man hasn’t a clue what he is talking about” or “he should go back to singing hymns.”
On April 21st, the archbishop of Canterbury suggested that big, unhealthy banks should be broken up into regional ones, as part of a “revolution in the aims” of banks designed to make sure that they served society as well as their own narrow interests. That sounded very like the proposal made last month by Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, for local lenders modelled on the German system. It comes at a time when the government faces hard decisions about the future of the Royal Bank of Scotland after its rescue by the tax-payer. Given the immediacy of the issue, some people will accuse the archbishop (who lists his hobbies as French culture, sailing and politics) of making narrow political points rather than broad moral ones.
But he also had some longer-term ideas on the financial sector. Drawing on his experience as a member of a parliamentary Banking Standards Commission, he said senior positions in banking ought to form a regulated profession which required qualifications.