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Nick Clegg tells archbishops: I did not use the word ‘bigot’

By on Thursday, 13 September 2012

Nick Clegg wrote to Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, as well as Archbishop Vincent Nichols (Photo: PA)

Nick Clegg wrote to Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, as well as Archbishop Vincent Nichols (Photo: PA)

The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has written to the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales to distance himself from the claim that he considered the opponents of same-sex marriage to be “bigots”.

He has told Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, and also Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, that the phrase was neither written nor approved by him.

The Liberal Democrat leader had earlier faced severe criticism for the opinions contained in the speech, circulated to the media, which pointedly referred to supporters of traditional marriage as “bigots”.

The speech was to be given at a government party for gay rights campaigners and celebrities to mark the end of the public consultation on the redefinition of marriage, but was withdrawn and amended amid the immediate furore.

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, described Mr Clegg’s remarks as “very offensive”.

But in a letter to Christian leaders, Mr Clegg said: “Those extracts were neither written or approved by me.

“They do not represent my views, which is why they were subsequently withdrawn. While I am a committed advocate of equal marriage I would never refer to people who oppose it in this way.”

He said: “Indeed, I know people myself who do not support equal marriage and, although I disagree with them, clearly I do not think they are bigots. Nor do I think it is acceptable they, or anyone else, are insulted in this way.”

He added: “My views on this issue are no secret but I respect the fact that some people feel differently to me about marriage, often because of their religious beliefs.

“I hope this explanation helps clarify what happened yesterday as well as my position, and I hope that the serious error that occurred will not cause lasting offence.”

An unnamed aide has been blamed for drafting and releasing the speech on Tuesday afternoon.

The original words complained that “continued trouble in the economy gives the bigots a stick to beat us with as they demand we ‘postpone’ the equalities agenda”.

Following instant controversy a new version was issued with the word “bigots” replaced by “some people”.

The manoeuvres of Mr Clegg have done little, however, to allay widespread concerns that the speech was in fact an accurate representation of the attitude of the Coalition Government to Christians.

Colin Hart of the Coalition for Marriage has questioned why public money was spent on a party to mark the consultation but only one side invited, particularly when more than half-a-million signatures opposing the law have been gathered.

The commitment to the cause of gay marriage by Mr Clegg and the Prime Minister, David Cameron, has also been questioned by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities, who said that Church fears over legal attacks were “legitimate”.

The Catholic bishops have warned the Government that the promise of safeguards allowing them to refuse gay weddings were worthless in the light of European equality law.

Mr Pickles, writing in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, apparently agreed with their analysis of the proposed legislation.

“There are legitimate fears of European Court of Human Rights challenges and churches being forced down the line to conduct such ceremonies against their wishes,” he wrote.

“These concerns need to be explicitly addressed in any legislative reform to provide safeguards against such coercion.”

  • Charles Martel

    Too late, Clegg. We know who you are; an unelectable dimwit and a thoroughgoing Christophobic. There’s only one place fit for you: the European ‘Parliament’ (i.e. the backslappers’ paradise, where no one has to answer any real questions).

  • Sweetjae

    The people including this nut politician Mr. Clegged think that those who disagree with their standard of moral behaviour as bigots. Under the name of “tolerance” they are being intolerant to people who differ from them…..Well now we have adult people petitioning the removal of minority age law (in the U.S. it’s 18) for sex and also advocating marriage to whomever or whatever they want in the name of “love”, their dogs, siblings, next of kin, etc.

    What a bunch of loons.

  • Charles

    The shallowness of government sanctioned Protestantism in the UK inevitably leads to lack of belief in the truth of Christianity. The logical conclusion of lack of belief is for society to consider Christians as irrational for believing that which is untrue. So long as the church of England remains the established church, watered down Christianity inevitably leading to agnosticism and then persecution will continue. The solution is the dis-establishment of the Church of England, return of stolen churches and Cathedrals to the Catholic Church, and the independence of the Anglican Evangelical wing from the C of E government control.

  • orapronobis

    Should Mr. Clegg not have written to the Jewish and Muslim hierarchy as well?

    Surely he was calling them bigots by association?

    Come on Mr. Clegg. Man up and appologise to everyone you insulted! 

  • Benedict Carter

    As the West sinks ever deeper into the abyss of its moral apostasy, in all other areas too matter and spirit decline. 

    The mediocrity of those who purport to rule over us is such such example. If a man with the intellectual capacity of a blackbird such a Clegg can reach the heights of British political power, what does this say about the masses of the nation who gave him enough votes to reach a position for which he clearly  has neither the temperament nor the intelligence to adequately fill? 

    After forty years of Shirley Williams’ comp education and decades of BBC propaganda, one does wonder whether the peoples of Britain will ever again be able to see clearly enough to put these knaves and fools out of their sinecures. 

    Clegg is a straight-forward liar. Remember this those of you who like his “progressivism”.

  • Lucy

    Although your a bigot Clegg we still love you with the strength that God’s gives us. We wont come down to your level with petty insults and mud slinging.

  • whytheworldisending

    Nick Clegg is acting as if the word, “Bigots” was not in his vocabulary, but I seem to remember that in the run up to the last general election (in which he and his party came third), he used that term, along with the terms, “nutters” and “homophobes” when referring to certain political groupings he didn’t like in the European Parliament. Has he forgotten about that, and have his standards really risen because he is now in government, or is his penitential demeanour simply a facade? Isn’t he now himself simply a closet bigot, afraid to speak his mind for fear of being sacked by David Cameron? By the way, when he said “nutters” I assumed he meant people of religious faith, and when he referred to homophobes, I think he meant people of religious faith. Apparently in the Liberal Democrat Party, some are more equal than others. The term “Hypocrite” comes to mind.

  • Alexander VI

    You can always stand for election yourself……I’m sure that would raise a laugh…..

  • Alexander VI


  • Pavlov

    “The Catholic bishops have warned the Government that the promise of safeguards allowing them to refuse gay weddings were worthless in the light of European equality law.” I think Alex Salmond and the Scottish Govt should be acquainted with this opinion, which clearly runs contrary to their views, with similar worthless  “guarantees” on offer. The SNP plan to be the first administration in the UK to legislate on SSM – this will be the final nail in the coffin of “Independence” come autumn 2014 with so much opposition in Scotland to SSM proposals from C of S, RC Cardinal/Bishops, and Muslim faith groups. The recent S Govt “consultation” received nearly 70,000 responses with the majority (66%) against. The SNP Govt choose to ignore this … not even in their Manifesto when elected with such a majority.  Ignore the wishes of the electorate at your peril (the problem however for the electorate is that all major political parties in Scotland say they support this legislation!).  Is there now a groundswell of opinion clamouring for a new political party based on christian values and beliefs?

  • Rizzo the Bear

    Clegg, here’s the skinny….

    We don’t give a flying flea-bitten cat’s behind for your spluttered denial. You’ve been caught like a rabbit in the headlights bang to rights, mister!

    It’s no use backpeddaling now because the chain was never there on your bike.

    Jog on!

  • Guest

    Brits don’t need couples who can reproduce, they have enough Poles and Pakistanis doing it for them. Say bye bye and Czesc :)

  • Benedict Carter

    I’d perhaps win. You wouldn’t be laughing then. 

  • teigitur

    You would have more chance than “Alex”. Who adds nothing here, and possibly anywhere.

  • Furry Animal

    Also, the moon is made of cheese…

  • scary goat

     I don’t know much about Scottish politics, but I certainly agree that we need a political party of our own.  Preferably a Catholic party rather than Christian, because the C of E has some pretty strange views on some things.  It may not actually get anywhere, not in the current climate, but at least it would give us a voice.  Somewhere we could go with our votes in good conscience.  At the moment there is no-one fit to vote for but at the same time, if you don’t vote you are just handing it over to those who do. 

  • scary goat

     And talking of politics and media and education, someone mentioned on another thread that a historian had written a new book about the reformation period.  Can’t we try to do a bit of “public education” of our own?  A historical book is all very fine….for those who are interested.  What about reaching the masses?  Is there someone out there who could write some “historical novels” showing the reformation from the Catholic perspective, full of lots of REAL history, but dressed up in an attractive, easy to read, “best-seller” type book? Open the eyes of the public to our stolen heritage. The English mindset tends to be a bit “no catholicism please, we’re british”. What about trying to show them that for nearly 1500 years “Catholics ‘R’ us.” Can’t we paint back in the history that has been airbrushed out of the English consciousness? 

  • Sean

    His a liar – it is well documented he did you the word bigot in his first statement release, then got bad publicity and changed the official version to not include liar. I wonder if the liberal democrats will get 1 vote at the next election?

  • Benedict Carter

    Agree entirely. A Catholic Party. 

  • ninoinoz

    OK, so you never said “bigot” did you, Nick?

    Funny, I don’t see any mention of the person who did being fired from your office.

  • Scots boy

    I wonder why he did not write to the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland. After all, despite what we may thing, he is our Deputy PM as well and his ‘bigot’ comments also deserve an apology to the Church in Scotland where this debate is a bit more advanced. 

  • Ronk

    So Clegg’s position is that those who defend marriage as being between a man and a woman are not “bigots” (or at least he won’t call them that publicly if they make such a fuss that he fears it might hurt his electoral prosects) but they ARE “people who oppose equal marriage”.

    How is it possible to be (supposedly) opposed to equal human rights and NOT be a bigot?

  • Ronk

     A “Catholic Party” would be opposed to Chruch teaching, which is that Catholics should make the Catholic voice heard in political affairs but not form a specifically Catholic party.

    Even back before Vatican II, an attenmpt to form a “Catholic Party” in Australia, which had the blessing of several prominent bishops, came to nought when the Holy See ruled it out of order.

    Of course theer would be nothing against a group of Catholics founding a party whose principles were in line with Catholic doctrines, and inviting all men of goodwill from all religions and none to join it as full and equal members.

  • scary goat

     Well, yes, that’s fair enough.  I didn’t mean it has to actually be called “The Catholic Party”.  I meant a party formed by Catholics to represent  Catholic interests.

  • scary goat

     The important word here is SUPPOSEDLY. 

  • Benedict Carter

    Such a party in Germany WAS called “The Catholic Party” and did much good, until it threw away its Catholic ethos and became the Christian Democrats. 

  • Jon Brownridge

     That reminds me of the monk who insulted his Brother by saying, “You don’t have the manners of a pig”. When he was required to apologize before evening prayer he said, ” I take back what I said. You do have the manners of a pig”.

  • scary goat

     Aha, that’s interesting.  I was thinking about all that a lot today.  It’s quite complicated.  It would be a bit of a balancing act between having a clearly Catholic ethos, representing a Catholic position, promoting the common good and accepting its limitations in a highly secularized society.  As Ronk said, in a way it should be open to all people of good will, the idea being to bring about a transformation in society for the better, but at the same time it would have to be very clear about its Catholic foundations and ethos, because too much compromise (as you mentioned above) could easily cause a watering down of of ideas and principles.

  • spudbynight

    Hmm, Clegg seems to be more than happy to allow the Fathers of the Oratory in London to teach his children. You can rest assured they are not in support of the redefinition of marriage.

  • JabbaPapa

    Has he posted a Youtube video yet, explaining how sorry he is for being accused of using the bigot word ?

  • Siobhan

    I am afraid you are talking absolute claptrap. It is well known that the Oratory in London has a long history of being extremely sympathetic to the gay cause and many children who attended the school there will tell you that gays featured extensively amongst the staff, especially in the late nineties.

  • Siobhan

    Why remove my comment, that the London Oratory school has always been sympathetic to the gay cause. It is natural that Clegg and Blair send/sent their children there. Anyone who attended the school in the 90′s will confirm that more than a few teachers there were proudly if not openly gay

  • Garrick8000

    I don’t know why he didn’t use the word bigot, as it would have been particularly apt in describing most of the churches current impotent frenzy against gay people. Most of these supposedly good Christians would gladly call in the Inquisition to burn all gays alive if they could.