Methodist leader calls for change of government

THE incoming president of the Methodist Conference yesterday called for a change of government.

The Rev Leslie Griffiths, in his first presidential address to 700 delegates at the annual conference, held in Leeds, attacked the Government's record and warned that 15 years was too long for one party to hold power.

Dr Griffiths, told the conference, which represents more than a million worshippers in Britain, that he was hoping for change soon 'for the good of the country and the health of our civil society'. He told delegates: 'No government, of this or any other hue, can be allowed to hurt people or drive them to the margins of society.'

Dr Griffiths criticised the Government's record on unemployment, homelessness and student impoverishment and attacked the prevailing 'bewilderment' within the National Health Service.

He said that when church leaders put their heads above the parapet the predictable result was to be told to keep their noses out of politics and stick to spiritual matters.

'But what could be more spiritual than the way measures and laws passed in parliament affect the lives of ordinary people, defining their horizons, shaping their future, raising or crushing their hopes?' he said. Dr Griffiths added that it was 'the spiritual duty of the church to stand by those who suffer'.

The 51-years-old Welshman went on: 'The activity of the politicians directly affects the state of the nation, its soul, its well-being, its physical, moral, and spiritual health . . . Which is why church leaders must, as a matter of duty, monitor what politicians do with great care . . . It is a very dangerous thing to leave politics to politicians,' he added.

'In my view, 15 years is too long for one single party to hold power. So many people are longing for a change . . . Our political system is built on the assumption that power will be held from time to time by different parties. Surely this must happen, and soon.'

In a forthright speech, Dr Griffiths also called for electoral reform and espoused 'some form of proportional representation, so that we never again have the kind of situation we have at the moment'. He said that 'an over-long period where one party holds power weakens every part of the body politic'.

Yesterday's session took place 250 years to the day after the opening of the first conference which John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, convened in London on 25 June 1744.

Dr Griffiths' attack mirrored similar criticisms made five years ago by the then president, the Rev John Vincent.

In an open letter to Mrs Thatcher, which was delivered to Downing Street after the Prime Minister - the daughter of a Methodist lay preacher - refused to see church representatives, Dr Vincent said that Conservative policies had created an underclass of deprived people.

The Bishop of Durham branded Prime Minister John Major's stance on beggars as 'inhuman'.

The bishop, Dr David Jenkins, who retires next Sunday after 10 years in office, said government moves to rid the nation's streets of beggars were misguided.

In an interview broadcast on Radio 5 Live's Alistair Stewart's Sunday, he condemned Mr Major's statements on beggars.

He said: 'It sounded like an inhuman thing to say, you know 'these beings are causing us trouble, sweep them away'.

'That is wrong because all human beings are human beings and shouldn't be swept away. It is a pity that it is put in the context of thinking you can just sweep them away as if they are not also part of us and also symptoms of the society in which we've got the problems.'

The bishop also doubted whether a future Labour government would tackle society's problems.

He said: 'I am not at all sure how far the Labour Party has really got to grips with the need for serious alternative thinking about how . . . we get round to practical loving of our neighbour, which was the inspiration of socialism in the old days.

'I think if, as I hope, Labour or a coalition come into power then they've got a hell of a lot of thinking to do.'

Churchgoers are being urged to make today a day of rest for their cars to highlight the environmental damage caused by air pollution.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us