Politicians should be concerned with more than just Brexit - Rowan Williams

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan WilliamsAndrew Winning/Reuters

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has called on politicians to think beyond the short-term and offer a long-term vision for a more sustainable global order.

Writing in The Times, Dr Williams warned that while the election campaign is occupied with domestic issues like Brexit, the world at large "is crying out for stability and dignity". 

He said that both individual voters and parties campaigning ahead of the December 12 election should look beyond the UK's domestic woes to consider the global challenges presented by factors like economic uncertainty, conflict, poverty and climate change. 

"So much of the language around election campaigning promises quick and decisive action: Get Brexit Done, massive infusions of money into public services, and a bidding war between the parties as to who is ready to be more generous; millions of new jobs overnight in a revitalised green economy," he wrote. 

"There's nothing wrong with aspiration and certainly nothing wrong with a sense of urgency. But there is something seriously wrong if we fail to put those promises in the wider context of a world desperate for stability and equity.

"A chaotic global financial system is manifestly failing to deliver the most basic kinds of security for poorer nations — food security, freedom from civil war, alternatives to policies that bring environmental degradation." 

Dr Williams, who is also Chair of Christian Aid, called for "an intelligent and independent" Department for International Development "embedded in a government that thinks about long-term global stability". 

He challenged the logic of government spending on development while selling arms to "states pursuing aggressive and brutalising wars with their neighbours".

"We know the role of arms sales in prolonging and intensifying the suffering of Yemen. A new government should not hesitate in suspending such sales," he said. 

He went on to say that any development programme should also address the causes and effects of climate change, which he said was contributing to "dramatic and dangerous instability" in the form of conflict over resources and migration away from less inhabitable or economically viable areas. 

With the UK hosting the UN's COP26 climate talks in Glasgow next year, Dr Williams challenged the political parties "to show true leadership" in committing to a "carbon-neutral future", and come up with an investment plan to develop a net-zero emissions economy. 

But he also called for a more "grown-up" approach to tackling domestic and global issues instead of making politics "more and more a matter of advertising and entertainment". 

"In our response to and involvement in the election campaign, as in our actual voting, we should be prepared to look at these global realities as much as our domestic troubles – simply because there is no middle or long term security for us that is not also a secure future for the entire global neighbourhood," he said.

He added: "Grown-up planning and negotiating take time. We have good reason to be sceptical of reckless promises."