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)
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.”