Tis' the season for elections. Last week's council and European elections seem to have sealed Gordon Brown's fate. The parliamentary Labour Party are unlikely to try to topple him now, but most commentators agree that this is only because no-one else wants to lead Labour into the electoral rout that the general election is likely to be next year. An instant economic miracle seems to be the only thing that will save them.
The European results here were equally demonstrative, with the republicans topping the poll for the first ever time, whilst the Unionist cut each other to ribbons... the only thing that Unionism has to be thankful for is that they managed to get two representatives elected despite this. There was a very real possibility of SDLP taking the third seat. There are many lessons to be learned here. I only hope that it will not result in the DUP running further to the right again, stirring up yet more anti-republican/nationalist/Roman Catholic feeling as a means of rallying their grass-roots and clinging on to power in Stormont and Westminster.
I'm just back from the Irish Methodist Conference in Dublin and there were some interesting, if not historic, votes and elections there too. As is our tradition we not only installed our President for 2009-10, we also elected our President Designate for 2010-11, and this will be Rev. Paul Kingston (C)... so designated not because he is conservative (with a large or small c) but to distinguish him from his relatives Paul Kingston (A) and Paul Kingston (B). There's a lot of these Kingstons about... a point I shall return to later.
Thanks to another long campaigned-for decision, Paul (C) will be the first President of the Methodist Church in Ireland who will also be the President of the Annual Conference of the Methodist Church in Ireland. Since the time of John Wesley (apart from a few extraordinary cases) the conference has been chaired by the British Methodist President and our own President has been Vice-President of the Conference. So this confusing post-colonial anomaly is now consigned to the history books, although conference was very keen that we should make all efforts to retain a strong link with the British Methodist Church.
We have introduced a new point of confusion however, by electing, for the first time, a Lay Leader, of Conference. Its not the fact of electing a lay leader, which, in my humble opinion, is a positive step forward in breaking the stultifying clericalism which can tend to pervade Irish Methodism as with many churches, but the fact that we have elected Mrs. Gillian Kingston to that role. She is a worthy winner having faithfully represented the Methodist Church in Ireland in a number of roles previously. However, for the first year of her three year term she is going to spend more time than is necessary explaining that despite her being Mrs. Kingston, she is NOT the wife of the President.
But I wish both Mr. and Mrs. Kingston well as they prepare for their new roles.
However, of all the elections at this time, perhaps the most momentous is the one yet to come... The election for the President of Iran this coming Friday, where there is a real possibility that the radical President Ahmadinejad may be toppled by the reformist candidate and former Prime Minister Mousavi. Whether this is the case and the response of Ahmadinejad and his supporters if it is, may well dictate the political landscape, not only of the middle east, but also of America and Europe, for the next 4 years.
I for one, will be watching avidly and prayerfully...