Church sides with protesters as City left out in the cold

By Ian Dunt

The Church of England moved decisively to side with Occupy London protesters yesterday, leaving the City of London isolated in its battle with the camp.

An eviction notice was shelved at the 11th hour, after St Paul's, which owns the land the protesters are camped on, pulled out of legal proceedings.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury nailed his colours to the mast with an article demanding a tax on financial transactions.

The move suggests a swing of power from conservative forces in the church to the liberal wing, following the resignation of Rt Rev Graeme Knowles, who had lobbied to have protesters removed from around the church.

Yesterday, a decisive intervention by Bishop of London Dr Richard Chartres saw theChurch change its stance, following two weeks of confusion and bad publicity.

Suddenly finding itself without an ally in its campaign to evict the demonstrators and in a weak legal position due to the church's ownership of the policy, the City of London quickly gave up on eviction proceedings.

Rowan Williams, seen as a leading liberal figure in the Anglican Church, wrote an article for the Financial Times today supporting a tax on financial transactions – a variation of which is currently being debated at a European level but opposed by the coalition for fear of its effect on the City.

"There is still a powerful sense around – fair or not – of a whole society paying for the errors and irresponsibility of bankers; of impatience with a return to 'business as usual' – represented by still-soaring bonuses and little visible change in banking practices," Dr Williams wrote.

"Many people are frustrated beyond measure at what they see as the disastrous effects of global capitalism; but it isn't easy to say what we should do differently. It is time we tried to be more specific."

Arguing for a version of the Tobin tax, Dr Williams continued: "This means a comparatively small rate of tax (0.05%) being levied on share, bond, and currency transactions and their derivatives, with the resulting funds being designated for investment in the 'real' economy, domestically and internationally.

"If religious leaders and commentators in the UK and elsewhere could agree on these… proposals, as a common ground on which to start serious discussion, questionings alike of protesters and clergy will not have been wasted."

The new stance from the Church means that demonstrators are likely to remain in the area into Christmas and possibly beyond.