The British Government was embroiled in another row with the Church of England after bishops condemned its policies as morally corrupt. Five senior Church figures delivered a scathing assessment of Labour's record in power, warning that the country was suffering from family breakdown, an addiction to debt and a growing gap between rich and poor.
The bishops of Durham, Winchester, Manchester, Carlisle and Hulme accused ministers of squandering their opportunity to transform society. The interventions, in separate interviews with the Sunday Telegraph, came after the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams described Gordon Brown's plans to tackle recession by spending more as like an "addict returning to the drug". The Rt Rev Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham, berated ministers for not doing enough to help the poor since 1997. "Labour made a lot of promises, but a lot of them have vanished into thin air," he said. "We have not seen a raising of aspirations in the last 13 years, but instead there is a sense of hopelessness. While the rich have got richer, the poor have got poorer. When a big bank or car company goes bankrupt, it gets bailed out, but no one seems to be bailing out the ordinary people who are losing their jobs and seeing their savings diminished." However the comments drew a furious response from senior Labour figures. The Chairman of the Commons Treasury Committee, John McFall, suggested the bishops may have had "too much mulled wine" over the festive season. Cabinet Office minister Liam Byrne echoed the Prime Minister's response to Dr Williams, citing the Biblical exhortation not to "walk on by" when someone needed aid. "We are determined not to walk on by. We want to put real help on the table for families and businesses now," he told the BBC. "We want to invest in our economy for the future because that is how we will get a fairer and richer country in the years to come