Someone suggested that the “right candidate” had won the election for President of the United States of America. I suggested that surely the “left candidate” won. I have yet to read her reply…

Today I discovered that Puerto Rico voted by a very slim margin for statehood within the USA. The referendum is not binding, which is just as well since the pro-statehood candidate has lost to the status quo candidate in the Governorship election. I did wonder why independence, or statehood at least, were not a given for citizens of the colony. Is dependence to be preferred to independence or (with statehood) to inter-dependence? Thinking about it, I realise that working as equals can be harder (though much more rewarding) emotionally that in a dependent-independent relationship. To put it another way: taking turns is harder than playing follow-my-leader. Working as an equal means taking more responsibility (and more blame when things go wrong) than being a dependent relying on the generosity of a stronger partner. I don’t know what economic, tax and subsidy issues are at work here but I understand that one of the drivers for change is to be able to have a vote in US Presidential elections since whoever is elected is their president also.

Meanwhile in the United Kingdom some uncertainty surrounds the forthcoming Police and Crime Commissioner elections. PCCs are a recent innovation and there is a certain amount of scepticism about as well as a real danger of low turn out. For myself, I am not sure I want a crime commissioner – the title implies that they will commission crime, like commissioning a piece of art or a book, say. I know that is not what it means but it is symptomatic of the confusion some feel. To complicate matters further, in Northamptonshire, one of the candidates has had to withdraw because of a “minor offence” (whatever that is) from 22 years ago. Unfortunately, the ballot papers had not only been printed but were being sent out to those with a postal ballot and it was too late to change. You can still vote for him and he could still win the election – it’s just that he could not take office afterwards. Given that he represents one of the two largest political parties I suspect that he will still pick up lots of votes – especially if people vote along party lines. And that for an office that is meant to be non-party political. My guess is that whatever happens someone is likely to cry “foul”.

It all goes to show that even with the best will in the world, we never get perfect leaders and we often don’t even get our preferred ones. So what are we to do? As a Christian, one obvious answer is to pray for our leaders. Even the most moral will get it wrong sometimes and few, if any at all, of them will be morally pure and it is unrealistic of us to expect them to be so. But I think it is realistic for us to expect them to aspire to the great values of leadership: integrity, honesty, fairness in dealing with others. As a local leader I know that it is not easy – tiring at times – and I make no claim whatsoever to be a paragon, but I do aspire to those things.

I think it also an important leadership quality to understand that you are under authority – you are not the source of it – and that yours is not the only word on every matter even if occasionally it happens to be the last. For leaders who call themselves Christian, that means understanding that you are under Christ’s authority. That is, under the authority of one who chose to die rather than call in the armies of heaven to enforce his will. That is to be under the authority of one who calls us to high standards but also exercised compassion. It is a call to protect the vulnerable from the powerful – that is the only favouritism expected here.

And that is true whether one is President of a powerful nation or a holder of a significant local Office.

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