Sunday, 17 July 2011

George Pitcher to leave Lambeth Palace


The Guardian’s Riazat Butt reports Archbishop of Canterbury dismisses spin doctor.

The archbishop of Canterbury’s spin doctor is to leave after just nine months in the role and following Tory protests over a controversial magazine article condemning the coalition.

George Pitcher, an Anglican priest and former journalist, was hired last October as public affairs secretary at Lambeth Palace and engineered Rowan Williams’s stint as guest editor for the New Statesman last month, which saw the archbishop launch a sustained attack on the coalition.

His criticism, seen by Whitehall as the most outspoken by an archbishop in a decade, pitted him against the government and left Lambeth Palace scrambling to minimise the damage as Conservative politicians and peers berated the archbishop either through the media or through channels at the Church of England.

Sunday, Lambeth Palace confirmed that Pitcher was leaving, but refused to say whether the New Statesmen stint had anything to do with his exit. “George was contracted to advise the archbishop on public affairs issues and that contract expires on 30 September when he will have completed projects he was asked to undertake. “When approached by the Guardian about his departure Pitcher said: “I am returning to journalism, a culture to which I am better suited…”

Later, Tim Ross at the Telegraph had Archbishop of Canterbury fires advisor Rev George Pitcher over outpoken attacks on coalition.

Dr Rowan Williams is understood to have lost confidence in the Rev George Pitcher, his public affairs secretary, and agreed that he should leave his post at the end of the summer.

It is understood the situation came to a head when Mr Pitcher made a crude joke about the Archbishop in the Daily Telegraph’s diary column following criticism of Dr Williams’ attacks on the coalition…

…Lambeth Palace confirmed that Mr Pitcher’s contract would end in September, one year after he started, and would not be renewed.

A Lambeth Palace spokeswoman said: “George will have finished the project he was working on and he wished to return to journalism.”

Mr Pitcher said: “I have decided to bring things to an end but it is true that I would have stayed with the Archbishop for the duration [of his time in the post].”

Here’s his piece in the Sunday Express Church Must Engage Us All (h/t DW)

Updated Wednesday

Jerome Taylor in the Independent has Who will rid us of turbulent PR man George Pitcher?

His departure will leave Lambeth Palace bereft of a charismatic operator who was keen to see the Church engage with the public on key political issues. In a recent piece for the Sunday Express, he wrote: “The middle classes and MPs are keen to tell bishops to butt out of politics when they’ve something to say about health or education or treatment of our elderly. But our Church isn’t outside politics, only party politics.”

Others say Rowan Williams will now need to find a replacement for Mr Pitcher who will do more to protect him, rather than promote him. “Rowan needs advice, he really does,” said one Westminster lobbyist at a prominent Anglican group.

“His background is thoughtful academia and he doesn’t really spend enough time working out how his words will be perceived in the mainstream press. But at the same time his press team should be encouraging him to get out there and talk about issues, not duck behind safe headlines.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 17 July 2011 at 10:00pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

Well I nominate Riazat Butt for the role, who would be much more suited to the ABC's endgame.

Posted by: A J Barford on Sunday, 17 July 2011 at 10:34pm BST

Let's be Frank: selling Williams to the media was always going to be a loser. When the base product has no redeeming features any attempt to make it look better is bound to fail

Posted by: Mike Homfray on Sunday, 17 July 2011 at 10:37pm BST

There are a couple of jobs open at NewsCorp--he could try there.

Posted by: Charlotte on Monday, 18 July 2011 at 5:36am BST

And what was the joke that cost him his job?

Re: Sunday Express article. It will take more than relevant comments from bishops to get people back to church. They are necessary but generate thanks rather than support.

Posted by: Dave on Monday, 18 July 2011 at 11:51am BST

Poor George! I suppose - even though he didn't get ecclesiastical preferment for his recent job with the ABC - he must now be perceived to have attained the pospective title of 'Loose Canon'. Perhaps he is now seen to be a possible threat to the stability of the Church of England?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 18 July 2011 at 11:52am BST

Some very good comments on this at

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 18 July 2011 at 12:36pm BST

Oh no! The day ++Rowan's comments in the New Statesman were reported was about the only day in the last year when I've woken up to a C of E news story that made me think 'Well at least we're in the news for something other than being sexist or homophobic.' And speaking up for people who are experiencing hardship seems like something we should be doing as a church.

Posted by: Cathy on Monday, 18 July 2011 at 5:06pm BST

An Episcopalian wants to know:

What is the strange animal sitting on top of George Pitcher's head in the photograph at the top of the article Simon links to on

Or is it a new style of the wigs worn by English lawyers? Perhaps a wig for clergy who work for the ABC?

Inquiring American minds, etc.

Posted by: jnwall on Monday, 18 July 2011 at 8:51pm BST


Perhaps it's a wild March Hare?

Posted by: Dave on Tuesday, 19 July 2011 at 9:59am BST

So what's this all about? The ABC must have known that his editorship of the NS would draw the fire of the Conservative Party. He isn't the first and he won't be the last to do so. That's part of the job description, or should be. He is after all an adult and knows (or should know) the way of the world. Many outside party politics welcomed and applauded the article and its sentiments. So is the ABC blaming George Pitcher for getting him into such a scrape?

Or is it the joke? In which case the ABC shows himself to be petty minded, lacking a sense of humour and acting like a child. I think the image of him taking Christin Odone 'roughly over the canapes' rather amusing and no doubt she did too.

Colin Slee's postumous revelations about the CNC machinations over the Southwark nomination show the ABC as someone who seems in serious danger of becoming a manipulative control freak. This report just seems to confirm this impression.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 19 July 2011 at 10:06am BST

Nobody can say that Pitcher's brief tenure hasn't been interesting. A searching resume comes from The Independent's Jerome Taylor in his "Who will rid us of turbulent PR man George Pitcher?":

Posted by: A J Barford on Tuesday, 19 July 2011 at 11:02pm BST

"seems in serious danger of becoming a manipulative control freak"


No danger. Already done.

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Wednesday, 20 July 2011 at 5:12am BST

'"seems in serious danger of becoming a manipulative control freak" ?????? No danger. Already done.'

Malcolm, when you read the article about the C of E's national fee schedule, don't you get the impression 'manipulative control freak' describes the entire centralised C of E bureaucracy? I don't know what it's like in the Diocese of Qu'appelle, but in the Diocese of Edmonton we don't even have a diocesan fee schedule, never mind a national one!

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Thursday, 21 July 2011 at 9:00am BST

You have a good point, Tim. In Qu'Appelle, I think the only set fee we have is the surplice fee for clergy doing services in parishes to which they are not licensed.

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Thursday, 21 July 2011 at 5:41pm BST

The points here on fees are a complete distraction from the main topic, and reflect a problem within the Anglican Communion - that the easy assumption to make is that we are all the same and operate under the same constraints. Fees in the Church of England are an issue with General Synod, and wide representation, rather than with dictatorial leadership. Arguments from ignorance are rarely compelling, as The Episcopal Church knows only too well. Let's not compound the felony ...

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Thursday, 21 July 2011 at 11:54pm BST

'Arguments from ignorance are rarely compelling'

Not quite sure whose arguments you're talking about here, Mark.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Friday, 22 July 2011 at 6:35pm BST
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