Leader: In praise of Rowan Williams

There is an admirable fearlessness about Rowan Wil­liams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Whether it is guest-editing the New Statesman, as he did in June, and using his platform to offer a cogent and dispassionate analysis of the failings of our political leaders - left and right - or challenging Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, he understands that, as the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, he has a duty to be heard and to offer ethical guidance. As well as being a tyrant, Mr Mugabe is a bigot.

He loathes homosexuals, and hates anyone who dares to question or confront him, as Dr Williams did by travelling to Zimbabwe to preach to embattled Anglicans there and to seek a meeting with the president. A proud liberation leader, a determined opponent of colonialism and apartheid South Africa, Mr Mugabe once showed wisdom. That was before the massacre of thousands of ethnic Ndebeles in Matabeleland by the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade in the early 1980s. From that point, the move towards authoritarianism in Zimbabwe, once a symbol of hope, was inexorable.

This article first appeared in the 17 October 2011 issue of the New Statesman, This is plan B