Saturday, 28 April 2012

Pentecost Did Not Happen At The End Of Acts why assume that it did?

Sunday morning I wasn't feeling well (perhaps a pre-cursor to being taken ill at work on Monday and having to be taken off to A&E). One thing I hate missing on Sunday is church.

Ideally, as an Above Barbarian, it will be my own church, but last Sunday, as I wasn't feeling well enough I decided that I would go along to a nearby Anglican church for its early morning 1662 Book of Common Prayer celebration of the Lord's Supper.

The presbyter preached on Acts 3, noting that Peter was almost nonchalant about the healing of the beggar- God does things like that. And that it was just after Pentecost.

Precisely- it was at Pentecost that we see the dramatic arrival of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2), (keep that webpage open as you'll need to refer to it again) and from that point, the Gospel being proclaimed and the church spreading. Pentecost kickstarted the church.

Now, no-one is going round declaring that Pentecost actually happened at the end of Acts, but sometimes we fall into the trap of acting as if it did.

Some years back, I went along to one church's men's group meeting, as it was opening that meeting to men from other churches. The speaker was a bit controversial, but generally good, and one issue was that the church, in general, has lost the young men. To cut a long story short, one reason he gave was the feminisation of the church and he noted that there are New Testament prohibitions on women performing presbyterial or preaching roles.

One vicar stood up to correct him. Yes, there are those passages, but they cannot apply as we now live in the Age of the Spirit. The Old Testament prophet, Joel, had prophesied that one day the Spirit would be poured out on men and women, (Joel 2:28-29) and this has now happened. In the Age of the Spirit God has given the same gifts to men and women, and therefore no ministry roles are off-limits to God's daughters.

Joel's prophesy is referred to by Peter, back in Acts 2:16-18 (you did keep that webpage open, didn't you?). And this leads to my problem with what the vicar said- those words of Joel, which can be used to set aside parts of the New Testament, are fulfilled at the start of Acts, before the events in most of Acts and in the Epistles happened. From Pentecost onwards, surely the Bible is referring to events in the Age of the Spirit. Let's face it- do we see the events of Acts happening today in the "Age of the Spirit"? Do we see these mass conversions, dramatic healings, people being struck dead in punishment etc.? Well, do we?

Let's avoid this arrogant nonsense that somehow, us in the "Age of the Spirit", have a greater experience of the Holy Spirit and know better than men who were merely Apostles and that in Heaven we can gently take Peter, Paul or John to one side and explain to them where they got it wrong.

Yes, there are controversial passages. Wrestle with them, debate them, question what Apostles meant when they wrote things, but don't airily assume that they were writing before the "Age of the Spirit" and so we can just dismiss what is written.

Where does this lead to?

Firstly, the New Testament is reduced to the writings of men rather than the Word of God. Basically, if we are now in the "Age of the Spirit" and can dismiss parts of the New Testament on those grounds, we are reducing it. Yes, it might be inspired, but no more than someone might be inspired to write a poem after seeing a sunrise. Take it or leave it.

How it all came across was that people wrote the New Testament as their own ideas, did missionary journeys in their own strength, and then the Age of the Spirit started, with the fire of the Holy Spirit sweepingt away some of their teachings.

Sometimes New Testament teaching is objected to on the grounds of culture- it offends the values of our modern culture, so therefore, the writers must hsve been prisoners of their culture. If there is a cultural problem, then it is we, rather than the Apostles, who are bringing the cultural prejudices to the table.

The Bible has many roles, and one thing we use it for is to examine our culture with it. We should not use our culture to judge the Bible.

Secondly, it creates the Jesus vs. Paul approach. We all hear the argument- Paul created his own religion, and scrabbled around to throw in some myths about an itinerant Jewish preacher who might, or might not, have ended up being crucified like a common criminal.

This creeps into the church. I had a bit of a Twitter discussion a few months back with one lady who is a bit narked that at her church she is hearing sermons of what Paul teaches, and would prefer it if they could be told what Jesus teaches.

Sounds good, doesn't it? Give us Jesus' teachings, not Paul's!

One of my pet hates are Bibles which put the words of Jesus in red. Because they don't go far enough- instead every single word in the Bible should be in red.

In the past few years, there have been loads of public debates over areas of sexual morality and bioethics. And, quite often, in newspapers, you will see letters that give the knock-down-bet-those-Bible-bashers-stuck-in-the-Middle-Ages-(who-only-believe-what-they-believe-because-this-man-in-the-Vatican-wearing-a-silly-pointy-hat-tells-them-they'll-go-to-hell-if-they-disagree)-won't-be-able-to-answer-that argument, which is simple: Jesus was silent on ...... And then argue from His silence that He would support whatever the liberal stance is, because, hey, Jesus believed in love.

Of course, Jesus was silent on some issues. After all, He was speaking to a Jewish audience, and there was no need to reinvent the moral wheel. If everyone felt that something was wrong, why should He repeat it?

And we need to bear in mind the role of the Holy Spirit. Before His crucifixion, Jesus reminded His disciples that the Holy Spirit would lead them into all truth (John 16:7-15) and that He (Jesus) had so much to tell them.

It is also clear that after He rose from the dead, Jesus continued teaching the Apostles (Acts 1:3) and John states that there is probably not enough room in the world for the books that would be written if we recorded all Jesus did even in that 40 day period between the Resurrection and the Axcension (John 21:25). So, basically, the teachings of the New Testament are Jesus's teachings. They are the Word of God. We can't pick and choose and go "Like that bit- that's from God. Don't like that- OK, the writers were culturally bound and we are in the Age of the Spirit so we can ignore it."

Thirdly, and closely associated withn this, it creates a Spirit vs. Bible dichotomy. Yes, we are in the Age of the Spirit, if you mean by that that the Holy Spirit is active in the church. We are also in the Age of the Word. Pentecost happened at the start of Acts. Let's reflect that in how we treat the New Testament.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Government Formation & House of Lords Reform

This week saw the Joint Select Committee on the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill produce their report on the Draft Bill.

Just a matter of terminology- looking at the future upper chamber I will use the term Senate to describe the chamber and Senators for its members. Easier to write than "House of Lords" and "members of the House of Lords". In addition, I will use the term "region" to refer to the European constituencies set up by the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1999 and will include Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the word "regions"- just to avoid writing "regions and nations".

The first issue I want to look at is that of elections. The Government's proposals were for an 80:20 split, with a 300-member House, so there would be 240 elected Senators and 60 appointed ones. The Committee favours 450 Senators- which would mean 360 elected and 90 appointed Senators. Electing and appointing in thirds would mean that at each General Election, there would be 120 Senators elected and 30 appointed for 15-year terms.

The Governmenr also proposes the use of the Single Transferable Vote system to elect Senators, with districts returning between 5 and 7 Senators. For comparison, the Irish Republic's Dail Eireann has constituencies electing between 3 and 5 Teachta Dala, and Northern Ireland's Assembly uses constituencies that all elect 6 Members of the Legislative Assembly.

Now, the obvious base for the districts are the regions. If the number of Senators is allocated by Saint-Lague, then we get:

  • South East England- 16
  • London- 14
  • North West England- 14
  • Eastern England- 11
  • South West England- 11
  • West Midlands- 11
  • Scotland- 10
  • Yorkshire & Humberside- 10
  • East Midlands- 9
  • Wales- 6
  • North East England- 5
  • Northern Ireland- 3
  • At first it seems simple- Wales, North East England and Norhern Ireland are all small enough to each form a single district (Northern Ireland is a bit too small, but there is nothing that can be done about that). South East England can be divided into a 6-seater and two 5-seaters. London and North West England can each be split into rwo 7-seaters. Eastern England, South West England and West Midlands can each be split into a 6-seater and a 5-seater. Scotland and Yorkshire & Humberside can each be split into two 5-seaters.

    Ah, East Midlands. Too big to be a single district, too small to be split into two districts. The logical solution is to have a Midlands region which would be split into two 7-seaters and a 6-seater.

    If the House of Commons is reduced to 600 MPs, then at each election, we would elect 1 Senator for every 5 MPs. So, these districts would have 25 to 35 constituencies in them. In a previous post I had a look whether the Additional Members System might be a way forward for elections to the House of Commons- if so, then Senate districts could function as the areas where the top-up MPs are elected (if we go for 15% of MPs being top-up, then each district could return 4 or 5 top-ups; if we have 20% of MPs being top-up, then each district could return between 5 and 7 top-ups).

    With that out of the way, we can then have a look at a possible result. There are some assumptions:

  • We treat West Midlands and East Midlands as a single region
  • The share of the vote for each party in a region matches the vote at the corresponding General Election
  • Within a region, the share of the vote for a party is the same in each district (e.g. if it got 40% of the vote across the region, it got 40% of the vote in each district in the region)
  • STV is tricky to model, so we will use the d'Hondt system as a first approximation.
  • So, the rough figures of Senators elected in May 2010 are:

  • Conservative- 48 (up 10)
  • Labour- 39 (down 19)
  • Liberal Democrats- 28 (up 9)
  • Scottish National Party- 2 (unchanged)
  • Sinn Fein- 1 (up 1)
  • Democratic Unionist Party- 1 (up 1)
  • Social Democratic & Labour Party- 1 (unchanged)
  • Ulster Unionist Party- 0 (down 2)
  • You may wonder what I am comparing the changes with. If a Senate is elected in thirds, then these are the changes from the May 1997 election- so, as Labour loses office, Labour Senators elected in the Blair Landslide leave the Senate.

    For comparison, the rough result for May 2001 is:

  • Labour- 54
  • Conservatives- 38
  • Liberal Democrats- 22
  • Scottish National Party- 2
  • Plaid Cymru- 1
  • Democratic Unionist Party- 1
  • Sinn Fein- 1
  • Ulster Unionist Party- 1
  • And for May 2005:

  • Labour- 48
  • Conservatives- 41
  • Liberal Democrats- 25
  • Scottish National Party- 2
  • Plaid Cymru- 1
  • Democratic Unionist Party- 1
  • Sinn Fein- 1
  • Ulster Unionist Party- 1
  • Hence, we would expect the current Senate to look something like:

  • Labour- 141
  • Conservatives- 127
  • Independents- 90
  • Liberal Democrats- 75
  • Scottish National Party- 6
  • Democratic Unionist Party- 3
  • Sinn Fein- 3
  • Plaid Cymru- 2
  • Ulster Unionist Party- 2
  • Social Democratic & Labour Party- 1
  • Mark Harper, the Minister for Constitutional & Political Reform, made an interesting point about the use of a proportional system:

    If you are electing a Government, my own view is that the challenge with voting systems is that the system which you choose should be one that is weighted towards getting a Government with a majority, who are able to take decisions and where the voters are then able to make a judgment at the end of the term of office ... But if you have a revising or scrutiny Chamber where you do not want the Government to have a majority, you need to use a different voting system. If you were to have first past the post for a second Chamber, all you would do is create a replica of the first Chamber and you would have one of two outcomes. Depending on when you had the elections, you would either give the Government of the day a majority in the second House, in which case there would be little point in having one, or you would give the Opposition a majority ... you would then set up a bloc in the upper House of people who were fundamentally opposed to the proposals that the Government were bringing forward because they were of a different political party

    So, the Conservatives- despite opposing proportionality- are fairly relaxed about its use for the Senate as a Senate does not support a Government. Basically, the House of Commons can ultimately bring down a Government, and indeed there are clauses in the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 which enable it to cause a premature general election. Harper's stance is quite logical- First Past The Post tends to lead to single-party majority Government (although, that statement might now be viewed as anachronistic!), snd if used for the Senate would either give s Senate controlled by the Government (so what's the point?) or controlled by the Opposition (so blocking the Government). Americans will be used to the gridlock that can occur, when- as now- the House of Representatives and the Senate are controlled by different parties.

    The House of Lords is, however, a permanently-hung Parliament by design. No single party controls it. To get legislation through quickly, you need to win the arguments, rather than the whipping system. Yes, there are whips, but what's the worst they can do? Deprive you of the whip? For an MP that is nearly always fatal, but someone in the upper chamber cannot seek re-election.

    There are a couple of things I need to mention on Harper's remarks. Firstly, we don't elect a Government- I wince whenever I read that so-and-so was elected as Prime Minister. We elect a Parliament.

    Secondly, if we are entering a period of hung House of Commons, then it is possible that the Senate is in the hands of the Government, and could this influence what shape a Government is?

    After the 2010 election, there were coalition negotiations between Labour and the Liberal Democrats- a majority Government wouldn't have been possible, and a minority Government would have been having to make deals with minor parties and one-woman bands to survive.

    But, now suppose Labour said something like this:

    Yes, of course you and the Conservatives have an overall majority in the House of Commons. But look at the Senate. There are all those Labour Senators elected when we had our 2001 and 2005 victories. You and the Conservatives only have 202 Senators between you- with Sinn Fein not taking their seats, there are 447 Senators and you need 224 for a majority. But our two parties have 216 Senators between us. We can form deals with Plaid Cymru, with the Social Democratic & Labour Party, with the Democratic Unionist Party, just as we can in the House of Commons. That's 6 Senators, bringing us to 222. And we only need a couple of Independents, or the Ulster Unionist Party would do- not all of them support this Ulster Conservatives & Unionists New Force twaddle, ....

    So, Harper might be wrong. If FPTP gives hung Parliaments, then a Senate elected by STV could be a carbon-ish copy of the Commons. Coalition-forming would look carefully at the composition of both chambers of Parliament.

    Monday, 23 April 2012

    I'm Not Ready

    Today has been an odd day- even by my standards.

    Over the past few months, I have had dizzy spells, which remain unexplained. One clue comes from a different angle- last year I had to have 24-hour blood pressure monitoring, which involves a cuff round your upper arm that inflates and takes the reading every 30 minutes during the day, and every hour during the night. Just before one of those times, I was feeling dizzy while out walking and had to rest against a building- and then the cuff inflated. A few days later when I was seeing my GP about the results, she noted that there was one blood pressure reading that was the lowest of the waking period, and that it was much lower than the ones either side, I pointed out that this was the reading taken during my dizzy spell.

    Just after lunchtime at work, I went off to the loo, but was feeling as if I might be sick. Returning, I felt I could't walk further and sat down on a chair. After a few minutes, as I was feeling hotter and dizzier, I made my way back to my office. Someone got me a glass of water, and fetched a First Aider.

    I felt that I was about to collapse, and on top of that, the left hand side of my chest had a sharp pain that was growing, and this scared me. The First Aider suggested I sit on the floor, which I did, but had a curious sense that I was going to fall over further (how you can actually do this while already on the floor is something I don't know). She suggested we make our way to one of the rooms off the canteen, which are cooler. I noticed one of my friends in the canteen and called him over, on the grounds (wussy I know) that I would feel better with someone I know well sitting with me. While sitting there, I felt it was going darker as if the room was closing in on me.

    The First Aider decided to take us through to Reception, and decided that as I was having these chest pains getting worse, that she would call an ambulance and sent my friend off to get the building defibrillator, just as a precaution. And when he had done that, he was sent off to guide the ambulance to the right entrance.

    The next stage was for the paramedics to take me into the ambulance, where I, of course, had to remove my shirt and lie on the stretcher. My blood pressure was measured, I had an ECG, and the most painful bit of all was having my finger pricked for some blood to measure blood sugar levels. I was given aspirin to chew (was told it is more effective chewed than swallowed).

    Then we were off. Two positive signs:

  • The blue light was not going
  • We were going to Accident & Emergency. This might not sound good at first, but if it had been a suspected heart attack we would have gone straight to Coronary Care
  • We get to A&E and I am put in a room. The nurse does another blood pressure reading and ECG and then tells me I need to have a blood test.

    This is the one thing that terrifies me. Don't know why- even hearing people talk about blood tests makes me feel queasy. I explained this to him (snd advised him, that when he writes up the patient notes, that "wuss" is spelt W-U-S-S), so he sprayed my arm with some sort of anaethsetic and prepared to put The Needle in.

    I always assumed that I would respond to having a blood test done by throwing up. I never suspected that, as he approached with The Needle, that I would get cramp in my right leg, leap off the bed and start hopping around.

    I get woken up with cramp quite often, and my immediate, almost unconscious, reaction is to leap out of bed and hop around.

    My right leg started to feel better, so I got back on the bed, and he approached again with The Needle.

    Then I got cramp in my left leg.

    After I finished my hopping around and was back on the bed, The Needle was..

    OK, I;ll skip that bit as I would feel queasy continuing. But I wasn't sick.

    Then the doctor turned up, and had a listen to my back and chest with his stethoscope, and did some pressing down on my chest and stomach and said he would be back after the blood test results were available.

    Spent the next couple of hours drifting in and out of sleep, my fear subsiding. Then the doctor arrived with the results- namely, nothing.

    Yes, the enlarged left ventricle that had been known about since I'd had a routine ECG at work a few years back is still enlarged, but nothing other than that. The chest pain is musculo-skeletal in all likelihood (perhaps I did more than dislocate my shoulder in my treadmill accident- and, as it was only the right side of my chest and right shoulder that got X-rayed, nothing on the left side would have been picked up; or perhaps it as I have been carrying my rucksack on my left shoulder rather than my back since the accident) and is not heart-related. The dizzy spells could be a variety of reasons, and today was just a combination of those chest pains with a bad dizzy spell.

    Now, some thoughts. For the first time I can remember- I was seriously thinking that I was going to die. I have had a couple of near-misses caused by other people, those moments when you realise that someone else's actions could have killed you. The first was several years ago when living in Andover and someone threw a stone through my bedroom window, sending glass flying (some onto my pillow and bedspread. If it had come through a few degrees one side or the other...). The second was a couple of years back when I was walking in Southampton and one of these aggressive footpath-cyclists felt I was not getting out of his way quick enough and shoved me into a main road (if I had not got back up and onto the footpath in time...)

    And with that has come the realisation that I am less ready than King Ethelred. For me, growing up (and being a Boy Scout), it was important to be ready.

    Now, you might think from what I have said that I have somehow lost my faith in the Resurrection of Jesus. Not at all- I remain confident that upon death I will end up in Heaven. However, for Christians there is that tension we live with, that we live in this world and the next.

    Just this feeling that I am not ready. A chance to think that, as I approach 40, have I actually achieved anything for God? Has there been any fellow Christian's life where I have actually made a difference? Is there anyone I have moved even a short way along the path of accepting Jesus as their Lord and Saviour? Would I die without ever having taken the opportunity to make a difference?

    Saturday, 21 April 2012

    Why I Cried At Bowling

    No, it wasn't the pain in my shoulder. Thursday evening I walked down to Millbrook to go tenpin bowling with a group of Christian men, most of whom I'd never met before.

    One of them I had met before, at an Christian men's camp which left me totally stressed out (and which I eventually fled) and he was one of the few who was supportive at that time.

    He was organising a bowling evening for his church's men's group and when I heard of it, I emailed to ask if I could tag along. And I could.

    I don't know why, but suddenly I looked round and thought of something. We read in Ephesians 5:25 that Jesús loved the church and gave Himself for her. But it's more than that.

    You can give your life for your country, but are unlikely to know the names of everyone in that country. With Jesus it is very different.

    You who are getting zeroes with most bowls- you're precious to Jesus, He knows you by name, and He died for you.

    Paul- you're precious to Jesus, He knows you by name, and He died for you.

    Tim- you're precious to Jesus, He knows you by name, and He died for you.

    Kevin- you're precious to Jesus, He knows you by name, and He died for you.

    You who I never got round to chatting to- you're precious to Jesus, He knows you by name, and He died for you.

    And that's why I started crying. If we are Christians, then we are precious to Jesus. We are not strangers to Him, He won't ask, "sorry, do I know you?", and He chose to die for us.

    The Thompson Paradox And How PR Suffers From Bad PR

    I was struck by an interesting post called I, for one, welcome our new UKIP overlords by Liberal Democrat blogger Mark Thompson.

    This can be summed up as:

  • Some opinion polls put UKIP ahead of the Liberal Democrats
  • The impact of this would be that UKIP would probably have no seats
  • What would the response be from the eurosceptic press and the Conservative party?
  • One thing to note is that in opinion polls, the Liberal Democrat vote has plummeted. My gut feeling is that Liberal Democrat voters who are opposed to the Government will have defected to Labour already, and what is left are those who are instinctively on the right of the party, those who are Liberal Democrats till they die, and those who feel that the Government is giving the Liberal Democrats that chance to show they are a serious power of Government.

    I was one of the few Conservatives to campaign in favour of the Alternative Vote and to vote in favour of it, with one my arguments being that on Friday 8 May 2015, Conservatives will see Ted Miliband stride into Number 10 after a meeting with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, and- as they reflect on the centre-right vote being divided between the Conservatives, UKIP and the Liberal Democrats, while (apart from a few Liberal Democrats, Respect and nationalist parties) Labour has the centre-left vote pretty much united- will regret the fact that they voted against AV as they think about all those lovely second preferences from UKIP and Liberal Democrat voters that under First Past The Post can never be cast.

    I note that UKIP backed AV, but I think, ultimately support the Alterative Vote Plus system recommended by the Jenkins Commission. Last year I noted how AV could help eurosceptic Conservatives who might be leaning to UKIP and actually help both the Conservatives and UKIP.

    One reason for hostility towards UKIP is the idea that they are vote-splitters. And that is one problem with FPTP- yes, you might vote UKIP, but in doing so, you are reducing the Conservative majority over a Labour or Liberal Democrat candidate in your constituency, and if enough others do the same, the Conservatives will lose the seat. The battle is between heart (backing UKIP) and head (wanting the Conservatives to win rather than Labour or the Liberal Democrats). One thing I would point out to eurosceptic Conservatives considering UKIP is that under AV you have the best of both worlds. When you enter the polling booth, your heart can seize the pencil and put 1 against the UKIP candidate and then pass the pencil to your head which puts 2 against the Conservative candidate. Result- you have sent a message about how strongly you feel about the European Union and you have helped elect a Conservative MP.

    There is one thing that causes confusion in debates over proportional representation, which is there is no system called "proportional representation". Sometimes, there is this attitude which can be summed up as Alternative Vote is Single Transferable Vote is List PR is Additional Members System is Supplementary Vote and it's all very-terribly-complicated with funny foreign names like d'Hondt and Saint-Lague, it's how Johnny Foreigner votes, and why-oh-why-oh-why can't we stick with the system which William the Conqueror introduced and has served us well since 1066, and by the way what the heck is a Droop quota when it's at home?. We saw this approach from the NO2AV lobby- I was always a bit perplexed that AV was so unpopular that only Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Australia use it, while it was AV which caused the political instability in Italy.

    It's this approach which bungs everything that is different together under the term "proportional representation"- and then hunts for the minority of cases where "proportional representation" gives an odd consequence to argue that we should keep the system we have been using since the February 1950 general election.

    No, I didn't mean to type "1850" or "1750". 1950- the first time that we had a House of Commons composed of single-member constituencies elected by FPTP, thanks to the Representation of the People Act 1948.

    The traditional, until well into the 19th century, method of electing MPs was in constituencies which generally returned 2 MPs by the Multi-Member Plurality method, familiar to people who vote in some local council elections. Vote for 2 candidates, and the 2 with the most votes are elected.

    The change was with the Representation of the People Act 1867 (covering just England and Wales) and the accompanying Representation of the People (Ireland) Act 1867 and Representation of the People (Scotland) Act 1867. At the November/December 1868 general election, this saw a change in two directions:

  • The rise of the single-member constituencies that we all know and love (?) today.
  • The rise of three-member constituencies and a four-member constituency, elected by the Limited Vote- whereby if a constituency returns n MPs, you vote for n-1 candidates.
  • The next big change was the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885 which meant that, from the November/December 1885 general election, one-member constituencies were the norm- and the Limited Vote's brief existence ended as the three- and four-member constituencies were either hacked apart or saw their representation decreased.

    AV enters the picture in the parliamentary process that led to the Representation of the People Act 1918, with a Speaker's Conference recommending the end of FPTP and MMP:

  • In urban areas the use of STV in consttuencies that would return 3 to 7 MPs.
  • In rural areas, single-member constituencies using AV to elect their MP.
  • The House of Commons rejected the use of STV (except for university constituencies) but backed AV by 1 vote. So, by the time the Bill went to the House of Lords, the form was:

  • University constituencies using STV
  • Multi-member non-university constituencies using MMP
  • Single-member constituencies using AV
  • The House of Lords had a different mind, and reintroduced STV but rejected AV, so the Bill that was returned to the Commons was in the form:

  • Multi-member constituencies (both university and non-university) using STV
  • Single-member consituencies using FPTP
  • One thing that is very important to notice is that both the House of Commons and House of Lords supported a preferential voting system- the clash was over how that was to happen. Similar to the House of Commons vote on reform of the House of Lords in March 2007 where a majority of MPs backed an elected element of the House of Lords, yet could not agree on what proportion of Lords should be elected.

    The Act was busy with introducing other things, such as an extension of the franchise (including, for the first time, to women), so- to avoid parliamentary deadlock- AV was dropped and STV was introduced for university constituencies.

    Rather than being a funny foreign invention, AV was a system chosen by the House of Commons. Not only that- for over a third of a century, its close cousin STV was actually used to elect a handful of MPs.

    That gets the British history out of the way. However, there are, of course, objections to any form of electoral reform. I was discussing this yesterday with someone who has- since the general election of May 1955, voted Conservative at every national, local or European election (except for voting Green at the June 2004 and June 2009 European elections as he feels Caroline Lucas was doing a good job as a Member of the European Parliament). And his objections to electoral reform are summed up as:

  • We have seen, since the May 2010 general election, what proportional representation would lead to every time, with "the tail wagging the dog" and Prime Minister David Cameron having to give in to the Liberal Democrats all the time
  • Supporters of proportional representation should look at Italy, the inevitable chaos which electoral reform leads to
  • Under proportional representation you cannot remove an unpopular government.
  • These are, of course, familiar examples, given as standard defences of FPTP. But, let's unpack them,

    UKIP appear to be doing better than the Liberal Democrats in the polls. Why, if the first point is correct, could this be? The thing is, the Liberal Democrats have seen their support fallen as they have had to make compromises. But, if Cameron is just their puppet Prime Minister, and the Lord President of the Council Nick Clegg is the man really in charge, with the ultimate sanction of forming a coalition with Labour, then why weren't tuition fees abolished? Why did Cameron exercise his veto at the European Council in December?

    And if Cameron is the Liberal Democrats' prisoner, then he can, at times, seem a willing and enthusiastic one, going way beyond the Stockholm syndrome. Evem as Leader of the Opposition, he was calling himself a "liberal conservative". Clegg wasn't even Liberal Democrat leader when Cameron turned into a devout husky-hugger. Environmentalism? That's in Cameron's philosophy, rather than foisted on him by the Liberal Democrats. Reform of the House of Lords- the latest hot potato? Yes, a long-standing Liberal Democrat dream, but the Conservatives promised "to build a consensus for a mainly-elected second chamber to replace the current house of Lords, recognising that an efficient and effective second chamber should play an important role in our democracy and requires both legitimacy and public confidence."

    Italy is, of course, the example, of what proportional representation is supposed to lead to. Unstable, permanently changing government, as parties throw a strop and bring down the government yet again. Whenver it is expressed, it may sound as if a minor party forms a coalition with left, flounces out, forms one with the right, then flounces out of that, being in a permanent crossing.

    But Italy is not like that. In some countries, there have been changes of government by the junior coalition partner changing sides. In the old West Germany, the October 1980 election to the Bundestag saw the sitting coalition of the Social Democrats (with 218 seats) and Free Democrats (with 53 seats) defeat the opposition Christian Democrats (with 226 MPs- Christian Democratic Union 174, Christian Social Union 52). However, in October 1982, the Free Democrats formed a coalition with the Christian Democrats- without a general election (which was not until March 1983).

    The 1983 election was interesting:

  • Christian Democrats- 244 (CDU 191, CSU 53)
  • Social Democrats- 193
  • Free Democrats- 34
  • Greens- 27
  • Note the arrival of the Greens, which changes everything. The Free Democrats no longer hold the "balance of power" as a Social Democrat/Free Democrat majority government is not possible. Once more than one medium-sized party is on the scene, or even a number of small parties, then what we find is that the parliamentary arithmetic, together with which parties cannot get on with each other, produce one possible government (e.g. a Labour/Liberal Democrat one after the Scottish Parliament elections of 1999 and 2003 was the only feasible option).

    The Irish Republic, our nearest neighbour, elects its Dail Eireann by STV, but rather than be unstable, there has been only one mid-term change recently. In November 1992, the election to the Dail Eireann gave this result:

  • Fianna Fail- 68
  • Fine Gael- 45
  • Labour- 33
  • Progressive Democrats- 10
  • Democratic Left- 4
  • Greens- 1
  • Independents (including the Ceann Comhairle- 5
  • The Ceann Comhairle is the Speaker of the Dail. They are automatically returned at the general election, and normally resign as Ceann Comhairle when the Dail meets for the first time and returns to their previous party affiliation while the Dail elects their successor. This election was unusual for two reasons. Firstly, the sitting Ceann Comhairle, Sean Treacy, a Teachta Dala for Tipperary South, was an Independent when elected Ceann Comhairle anyway, and he was also, unusually, re-elected by the Dail rather than stepping down.

    With 165 voting TDs, 83 are needed for a majority. The sitting Fianna Fail/Progressive Democrat coalition only had 78. Fine Gael and Labour, if they had re-created their traditional alliance, would only have had 78 TDs as well, but could have formed a majority with the Progressive Democrats.

    However, Fianna Fail and Labour formed a coalition. But, in November 1994, Labour pulled out and the following month a Fine Gael/Labour/Democratic Left coalition was formed. It may look as if this would be a minority one (only 82 TDs), but at by-elections in June 1994, Fianna Fail lost one seat to each of Fine Gael (Mayo West) and the Democratic Left (Dublin South Central), and in November 1994 Fine Gael won Cork South Central from the Progressive Democrats in a by-election.

    The next election in June 1997 gave:

  • Fianna Fail- 77
  • Fine Gael- 54
  • Labour- 17
  • Progressive Democrats- 4
  • Democratic Left- 4
  • Greens- 2
  • Sinn Fein- 1
  • Socialists- 1
  • Independents- 6
  • This was an unusual election, in which the sitting Ceann Comhairle retired and did not exercise his right to automatic re-election to the Dail. After the Dail assembled, Labour's Seamus Pattison was elected Ceann Comhairle.

    The combined Fine Gael, Labour and Democratic Left total was 74 TDs- not enough for a majority, and the result was a Fianna Fail/Progressive Democrat minority government.

    The 1992 and 1997 elections are both ones where sitting coalition governments lost their majority and were replaced just after the election- the first one where the junior (not the senior) coalition partner was replaced, and the second one where there was a complete change.

    Back to Italy. Does Italy show that proportional representation is a motorway with no exits heading to complete chaos? Does the Italian example show that if we ever had proportional representation, we would see a Conservative/Liberal Democrat government, then the Liberal Democrats flouncing out after a few months and forming a coalition with Labour, then having a strop and returning to the Conservatives, etc. etc. etc.?

    Well, no. Because that wasn't the Italian example. Note that in the Irish election of 1992, the senior coalition partner could ditch its junior partner and find another- and indeed, from 1997 to 2011 Fianna Fail dominated Irish politics and chose its partner(s).

    From the founding of the Italian Republic in July 1946 to Silvio Berlusconi becoming Prime Minister in May 1994, the Italian government was basically the Christian Democrats and friends. The Christian Democrats were the major player, and produced most of the Prime Ministers, sometimes allowing a junior partner to hold the premiership for a few months. Yes, junior partners came and went. but the Christian Democrats simply found others or continued as a minority government alone.

    Of course, once you point out that Italy was actually stable, you get a response along the lines of "Proves it! You can't kick the buggers out under proportional representation".

    Well, let's look at that again. And let's return to the Bundestag, and look at the September 1998 election, as the sitting Christian Democrat/Free Democrat coalition (the one formed way back in 1982) sees if the German people will let it see in the new century:

  • Social Democrats- 298
  • Christian Democrats- 245 (CDU 198, CSU 47)
  • Greens- 47
  • Free Democrats- 43
  • Democratic Socialists- 36
  • With 669 representatives, 335 are needed for a majority. And, with 288 between them, the sitting government has been defeated. The Germans have, indeed, kicked the buggers out.

    But there's more to it than that. The Social Democrats need another 37 representatives- and it can do that by either forming a government with the Greens or the Free Democrats. The Social Democrats have clearly won- and rather than the tail wagging the dog, this dog gets to choose its tail.

    The supreme example of kicking the buggers out is the Irish example. The May 2007 general election saw the Fianna Fail/Progressive Democrat coalition that had been in power since 1997 seek a third term:

  • Fianna Fail (including the Ceann Comhairle)- 78
  • Fine Gael- 51
  • Labour- 20
  • Greens- 6
  • Sinn Fein- 4
  • Progressive Democrats- 2
  • Independents- 5
  • The coalition had 79 TDs, and the Greens joined the government to give it a majority of just 5. But things started going badly. In June 2009, Fine Gael win the Dublin South by-election from Fianna Fail (which had been vacant for 11 months!). In November 2009, the Progressive Democrats ceases to exist, with its two TDs, Noel Grealish in Galway West, and Mary Harney (at the time the Minister for Health) in Dublin Mid West, becoming Independents. In November 2010, Sinn Fein win the Donegal South West by-election from Fianna Fail (which had been vacant for 17 months!!). In addition, there were Fianna Fail TDs choosing to become Independents.

    Yes, a party may dominate the system under proportional representation. But when its time is up, it goes down the tube, whether Italy's Christian Democrats or the Irish Republic's Fianna Fail.

    And in January 2011, the Greens pulled out of the coalition. Theoretically, a Fine Gael/Labour/Green/Sinn Fein coalition (with a majority of 1) was possible at this point, but there was an election in February 2011:

  • Fine Gael- 76
  • Labour- 37
  • Fianna Fail (including the Ceann Comhairle)- 20
  • Sinn Fein- 14
  • Socialist- 2
  • People Before Profit- 2
  • Workers & Unemployed Action Group- 1
  • Independents- 14
  • The Fianna Fail meltdown appears not to be over- in October 2011, they lost the Dublin West by-election to Labour.

    What conclusions can be drawn about "proportional representation"?:

  • In a two-large two-medium party system, it can lead to there being only one viable government
  • Once you get to the stage of a two-large three-medium party system, it can lead to a clear winner which then has its choices as to coalition partner(s)
  • In line with the above, it can lead to stable long-term goverments
  • A government can be kicked out- either partly (where it has to look for additional coaliton partners, or where the senior coalition partner has to look for an alternative to its junior psrtner(s)) or totally (where a new government takes over)
  • Is there actually a future for electoral reform? Possibly- but what form would it take?

    Note that there has been loads of electoral reform- just not for the House of Commons. The process was started with the Scotland Act 1998 and Government of Wales Act 1998 introducing the Additional Members System for their devolved legislatures. It seems that electoral reform is following two trajectories.

    It is in the Greater London Authority Act 1999 that we see those two trajectories happen in tandem. The first is the Assembly itself- 14 elected by FPTP in constituencies, and 11 by AMS. That Act- unlike the Scottish and Welsh ones- created a 5% threshhold, so a party that got less than 5% of the vote wasn't entitled to any top ups. In May 2000, the Christian People's Alliance would have got a seat if it weren't for the threshhold (it went to the Conservatives) and in June 2004 it was the British National Party and Respect that were hit by it (the seats they would have won without the threshhold went to Labour and the Liberal Democrats instead).

    But that Act created the first directly-elected Mayor in the United Kingdom, elected by the Supplementary Vote. Not perfect, but it deals with one of the common objections to AV- namely that third-placed (or lower candidates) can be elected and that some people end up seeing their third (or lower) preferences used to elect MPs. SV prevents this- the winner will be the person who comes either first or second in first-preference votes, and you only get two preferences.

    So, perhaps, the next time electoral reform is tried, it will be SV- which is at least in use in the United Kingdom (and as more and more cities get elected mayors, more people become au fait with how it works).

    But that won't answer the Thompson Paradox- is it fair if UKIP gets more votes than the Liberal Democrats but no seats? SV won't help them.

    Maybe in those circumstances, the centre-right press will note that AMS has helped the Conservatives in both Scotland and Wales, helping us to get a number of representatives broadly in line with our vote (indeed in the first Scottish Parliament election of May 1999, the Conservatives got 15.6% of the constituency vote but no constituency Members of the Scotrish Parliament, while the Liberal Democrats got only 14.2% and 12 constituency MSPs, which can be compared with the Scottish National Party's 28.7% and only 7 constituency MSPs). Would they see AMS as a way to resolve the Paradox, giving UKIP some top-up MPs?

    The Scottish and Welsh experience gives another reason why the Conservatives should look at AMS. Yes, in those countries, they are hammered hard by FPTP, but elsewhere it works in their favour. This seems to be thing from the main parties- hope that the working-in-your-favour parts of the nation more than cancel out the FPTP-treats-us-badly areas. The Conservatives want to represent the whole United Kingdom and be a One Nation party. To do that you have to represent everyone. As many people as possible should have a Conservative MP (and yes, as many people as possible should have a Labour MP and Liberal Democrat MP). AMS ensures that most regions- if not all- would have top-up MPs from the main parties. Wherever the area is that is being affected, every main party would have at least one sitting MP there able to talk about it in the House of Commons. Conservative MPs would be representing northern industrial heartlands, Labour MPs would be representing the rural areas of England. To do well, you can't concentrate on key marginals, you have to target everywhere.

    The Jenkins Commission recommended that reasonable proportionality would need between 15% and 20% of MPs elected on the top-up section. With 600 MPs, this would range from 480 constituencies-120 additional to 510 constituencies-90 additional.

    The regions are now more familiar- we use them for European elections- than they were when the Jenkins Commission reported, so these seem logical areas for the top-up MPs (we are already used to MEPs representing the whole of these areas). What about the constituencies?

    Well, looking at our longer parliamentary history, is there any reason why they should all be single-member. There could be various permutations:

  • single-member constituencies across the country (FPTP, SV or AV)
  • multi-member constituencies across the country (STV, MMP, LV)
  • a mixture of single- and mult-member constituencies
  • Monday, 16 April 2012

    7 Weeks On

    I have to wait till 2016 for the first anniversary of my little gym accident.

    Next month I am off to Hawai'i, to observe the transit of Venus and decided that I needed to get well, beach fit, beforehand. Hence increasing my visits to the gym.

    You know how sometimes you try to self-improve and it all goes horribly pear-shaped? That was me- also probably going pear-shaped myself through lack of exercise.

    I don't normally try the treadmill. And don't know why I made the foolish mistake to. What makes a treadmill unique is what happens when you fall....

    Merrily running along at not a particulary fast speed. There must have been something about how I put my foot down- I think it landed on the non-moving bit next to the belt- and down I went. And I must have landed on my right shoulder.

    Two things were noticeable immediately:

  • In classic You've Been Framed style, I slid off the back of the treadmill.
  • I was aware that I couldn't move my right arm.
  • The guy on the next treadmill stopped what he was doing and helped me back to my feet and then helped me over to the area where all the chairs were where some people hang out post-workout, and a member of staff came over.

    When I put my left hand on my right shoulder, I was aware that the shoulder seemed a bit higher than it should be, and my right arm seemed to be at an odd angle. I knew then that I had dislocated my shoulder.

    One of the other men in the post-workout area took my swipe card and got all my things from my locker for me.

    The member of staff told me that they have people fall over on the treadmill quite frequently, but he would have to call paramedics. They took about 15 minutes to arrive (in the meantime, another member of staff had got me a Lucozade to drink). I assumed they would simply put my shoulder back in, but no, I would have to go to the local hospital for that, so had to go down to the ambulance. Although, once just outside the gym, I stopped to point out Venus and Jupiter. I always think it's important to get one's priorities straight.

    Then there is the sitting in the ambulance while they take down your details and details of your GP and what medicines you take (I could remember the names of 2 of my 3 inhalers for my asthma, and we had a guessing game while they tried to work out the 2 types of tablets I have for high blood-pressure from my attempts to pronounce them). And then we go off to A&E.

    This then means being in a queue while other people go through triage, and I realised just how lucky I was, given that I was the only patient not on a stretcher. Ses the triage nurse and then it's walking down to one of the A&E wards where I have to lie on one of the beds, which is actually quite painful- I was more comfortable standing or sitting.

    One question I get asked is whether I live on my own. I assumed that this was in case they needed to contact anyone. There was actually another reason...

    The next thing is being wheeled down to X-ray for a couple of shoulder X-rays and then back to A&E where I am given morphine to drink.

    Then it's time to have the shoulder put back in. This doesn't hurt, as I was given "gas & air" (if you've ever been in labour you'll know what I'm talking about) to breath as the shoulder was put back in. How the nurse managed it with the floor wobbling and the room spinning slightly, I'll never know.

    I was wheeled back for another X-ray, and then told it was OK. My right arm was put in a sling and I was told that I should be back to normal in 6 weeks (so, by 11 April).

    The next bit surprised me- I had mentioned I lived on my own. Apparently, if you've been given morphine, they cannot let you be on your own that night. Did I have anyone I could stay at?- if not I would have to spend the night in hospital.

    Now, I can be a stroppy libertarian at time, believing that adults are adults and should be treated at adults. Just tell me the risks of being on my own, and I will decide whether I want to take the risk- and if something goes wrong it's my own fault. However, they cannot accept that, so I relented and phoned my dad. By this time, it was 3 hours after my accident. He came over and collected me and I spent the night at my parents'.

    There is one other result of living alone- you do things for yourself as no-one else will suddenly appear and do them for you. I did go into work the day after my accident, despite being in pain (and could type, just slowly, with only my left hand), because I think it's one of the attitudes someone living on their own develops- just get up and get on with things rather than waiting for someone else to do them for you.

    That is probably one factor in why recovery is a bit slower. I still have to cook, shop etc. Yes, some things had to be done left-handed, but still had to do things rather than rest my arm.

    When I saw the specialist, he was clear that there was more tissue damage than at first thought.

    It hurts when I try to put my arm behind myself too far (so putting on a rucksack is a bit tricky) and can't raise it too high above my shoulder (so have to avoid worshipping at charismatic churches). Also when I sleep- I have a tendency to roll over onto my right side, so end up lying on my arm and that means it hurts a fair bit when I wake up.

    But, slowly recovering.

    Believing Thomas

    In the New Testament, we come across Thomas the Apostle, who sadly gets a bad image, as the "Doubting Thomas".

    And the incident which led to this is in John 20:24-29, where Thomas encounters Jesus for the first time since the resurrection. The first time I had this explained to me, the explanation was that in verse 29 Jesus is comparing (and rebuking) Thomas- who needed to see before he believed- and the Ten- who didn't need to see Jesus before believing.

    The first thing to note was that the level of proof Thomas wanted was quite high- not just to see Jesus, but to actually touch His wounds. And Jesus invites Thomas to do just that. There is no exasperated "Oh, Thomas. Just have faith", but a willingness to provide the evidence Thomas wants. This is the Jesus who tell us that if we seek we will find (Matthew 7:7), the God who tells us that if we seek Him with all our heart we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13-14). Yet, being offered this level of proof, Thomas doesn't take it- he believes because he has seen.

    The second thing to note is that straight after this, John enters commentary mode, and explains in verses 30 and 31 why he wrote this Gospel. Jesus has just declared that those who have not seen, yet believe, will be blessed. This is not Jesus saying that the best faith is the blind faith. John seems to take Jesus' words and make clear that, yes, Jesus is addressing the Eleven, but He is also addressing us. John seems to be effectively saying "Here are the reasons for believing in Jesus. This has been written so you may believe. This is the Jesus that millions will live and die for."

    The third thing is to ask whether the Ten actually did believe without seeing. In Matthew 28:17 we have this interesting little bit, often overshadowed by concentrating on Jesus telling the disciples to spread the Gospel to the ends of the Earth while He will be with them to the end of the age. And that is the little bit that some still had doubts. So, among the Eleven, there must have been some for whom seeing still wasn't enough. Moreover, in Luke 24, the Apostles have the testimony of the ladies who visited the tomb (vv. 10-11 shows the Apostles thought it was "idle talk") and of those on the Emmaus Road (vv. 33-35), yet when Jesus appears to them, they believe He is a ghost.

    So, we shouldn't condemn or mock Thomas, when other Apostles showed the same attitude as he did. And, while Peter has acknowledged that Jesus is the Messiah (Matthew 16:16)- and then immediatley demonstrates (v. 22) that he has a wrong assumption about what the Messiah will do- it is Thomas who first declares that Jesus is "My Lord and my God."

    Saturday, 14 April 2012

    And What If The Liberal Democrats Do Well?

    In my last post I had a bit of play around with swings from the Liberal Democrats to Labour. But, what if it goes the other way and the Liberal Democrats pick up votes directly from Labour?

    Who gains?

    Now, I am going to be looking at some pretty large (and very unlikely) swings just to see how much support the Liberal Democrats need to gain from Labour to past certain landmarks- such as largest party and overall majority. Feel free to skip these and scroll down to the end.

    Just a 0.25% swing from Labour to the Liberal Democrats is all it takes for the Conservatives to form a majority Government and be able to ditch the Liberal Democrats as coalition partners. Labour's loss of 4 seats to the Conservatives, together with Ashfield falling to the Liberal Democrats, is enough. Note that this is a win-win situation for both coalition partners- although the Liberal Democrats eating into Labour's vote could see them out of office.

    Once we get to a 0.66% swing then something arises that could be a problem. The Liberal Democrats gain Croydon Central & St Helier from the Conservatives. This indicates there could be a problem- on a 0.66% swing from Labour to the Liberal Democrats, the Conservative majority is 2 less (4 rather than 6) than it would be on a 0.65% swing. While the Conservatives are gaining seats from Labour, they are also losing ones to the Liberal Democrats.

    By the time of a 1% swing from Labour to the Liberal Democrats, then things haven't improved at all for the Conservatives, but the Liberal Democrats are successfully winning marginals from Labour.

    The next interesting swing is a 1.92% swing from Labour to the Liberal Democrats. This puts Labour just 2.26% ahead of the Liberal Democrats- which, as any good political anorak will tell you was the lead that Labour had over the Liberal/Social Democrat Alliance in Great Britain at the June 1983 general election. In 1983 this gave Labour 209 seats compared to the Liberals' 17 and the Social Democrats' 6- so Labour had just over 9 times as many MPs as the Alliance did. This projection sees Labour on 212 MPs compared to the Liberal Democrats' 62- so about 3-and-a-half times as many MPs.

    Note that the 62 MPs that the Liberal Democrats would have equals their number at the June 2001 general election- however, at that election there were 628 MPs from Great Britain (giving the Liberal Democrats 9.87% of the Great Britain MPs), while in 2015 there would only be 584 MPs from Great Britain (so, on 62 MPs, the Liberal Democrats would have 10.62% of the Great Britain MPs). This is the greatest since the 11.77% secured at the October 1931 general election- out of the 603 Great Britain MPs, 35 were National Liberal, 32 Liberal and 4 Independent Liberals. If we want to look at a single Liberal party, we need to go back to the 26.20% (on 30.07% of the vote)- out of 603 Great Britain MPs, 158 were Liberals.

    The next interesting swing is 3.05%, which sees the Liberal Democrats equalise with Labour on 26.61% of the vote. This sees the Conservatives still with a single-figure majority, and Labour ahead of the Liberal Democrats with 206 seats to 65. The last time the Liberals got more votes than Labour was at the December 1918 general election.

    What is interesting at that stage are these little northern "pockets" of non-Labour MPs, such as in the Oldham/Rochdale area- where the Conservatives will have gained Rochdale North & Rawtenstall, while the Liberal Democrats will have finally gained both Oldham & Saddleworth and Rochdale South- and the northern part of the city of Leeds- where the Conservatives will have gained Leeds North East, while the Liberal Democrats will have gained both Leeds North (from Labour) and Guiseley & Yeadon (from the Conservatives).

    Note that until this point, the Conservative gains from Labour have been nearly matched by the losses to the Liberal Democrats- so the Conservative majority is reasonably stable in single figures. However, after this point, the Conservatives are gaining seats from Labour a fair bit quicker than they are losing them to the Liberal Democrats, and the Liberal Democrats are making gains from Labour as well.

    It is on a swing of 6.72% that the Liberal Democrats- already on more than 30% of the vote- smash through the 100-seat barrier for the first time since 1923 by gaining Huddersfield, although even at this point they only have just under half the MPs they would have under a fully proportional system.

    By this stage, the political map is very different. Birmingham is predominatly coalition- the two Conservative seats of Birmingham Erdington and Sutton Coldfield are joined by the gains of Birmingham Harborne and Birmingham Northfield, while for the Liberal Democrats Birmingham Edgbaston (gained from Labour) joins Birmingham Yardley. Bristol goes totally yellow as the Liberal Democrats will have gained Bristol East and Bristol South (both from Labour) as well as Bristol North West (from the Conservatives) to add to their existing Bristol West.

    On a 9.01% swing, Labour and the Liberal Democrats equalise on 128 seats, despite the Liberal Democrats being 11.92% ahead in share of the vote. By this stage, Labour is being driven out of whole urban areas on its worse share of the vote since the December 1910 general election. Abderdeen North and Abderdeen South have both fallen to the Liberal Democrats, and with Dundee West & Gowrie having been won by the Scottish Nationalist Party, northern Scotland is all in the hands of the Liberal Democrats or the SNP. The Welsh capital is a Labour-free city, with 3 seats (Cardiff Central & Penarth, Cardiff East and Cardiff West) falling to the Liberal Democrats, while the Conservatives replace Labour as the big cheese in Caerphilly & Cardiff North. In the city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Labour are left with just Newcastle-upon-Tyne East & Tynemouth, with Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central, Newcastle-upon-Tyne North & Cramlington and Newcastle-upon-Tyne South all being won by the Liberal Democrats.

    Around this point, another change happens. The Conservatives are starting to lose seats to the Liberal Democrats faster than they are gaining them from Labour, and so their majority is starting to fall.

    And on a 12.94% swing, the inevitable happens as the Conservatives- only 0.47% ahead of the Liberal Democrats in share of the vote- lose their overall majority with the loss of the successor to Tony Blair's seat when he was Labour Prime Minister (Sedgefield & Yarm).

    On a 13.41% swing the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have equalised in share of the vote (36.97%) which would be the Liberal Democrats' highest share of the vote since December 1910. Incidentally the last time the Liberals got more votes than the Conservatives was the January/February 1906 general election. This would produce a Conservative minority government. What is interesting is that the Liberal Democrats, on 210 MPs, are only 6 seats behind what they would be entitled to on a fully proportional system.

    On a 13.8% swing, which puts the Liberal Democrats 0.39% ahead of the Conservatives in share of the vote, the Liberal Democrats have 318 MPs. In a fully proportional system they would have 318 MPs.

    On a 14.06% swing the Liberal Democrats have 221 seats and Labour 67- a combined total of 288, which is 2 more than the Conservatives. At this point a Liberal Democrat/Labour minority government is a possibility.

    On a 16.81% swing, a Liberal Democrat/Labour majority Government can be formed.

    On a 17.29% swing, which has the Liberal Democrats 3.88% ahead of the Conservative in share of the vote, the Liberal Democrats win Smethwick from Labour, meaning that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats tie on 272 MPs (interestingly in the close elections of 1910, in January the Liberals had 274 MPs to the Conservatives' 272, and in December then Libersls had 272 MPs to the Conservatives' 271- the last time the Liberals had the most MPs).

    And it is on an 18.09% swing that the Liberal Democrats form their first majority Government since 1906.

    So, what are my conclusions?

  • The Conservatives benefit from modest swings from Labour to the Liberal Democrats and it doesn't take much movement from Labour to the Liberal Democrats for the Conservatives to get an overall majority. Of course we should target Labour voters, but it might also be worthwhile allowing the Liberal Democrats to take the credit for some policies which reach out to Labour supporters
  • But the advantage seems to level off after a while
  • And, another question is this- if the Conservatives manage to get an overall majority, should we ditch the Liberal Democrats?. Firstly, if the Liberal Democrat vote goes up, it seems a bit odd for them to lose office- although in the October 1951 general election, the Labour Government saw its vote increase (to the highest share Labour has ever achieved) and lost office (ironically, Labour did better in an election it lost than it had ever done in any election it won).

    The other point- as I mentioned in my last post- is that in 1951 Winston Churchill led the Conservative grouping to an overall majority but tried to form a coalition with the Liberals. And something has changed since then...

    We talk of hung Parliaments as being rare beasts in the United Kingdom, and will remind ourselves that it has only happened twice in the post-war era, in February 1974 and May 2010. True- as long as you only look at one end of the Palace of Westminster. Walk to the other end, from the green to the red, and you will be confronted with a Parliament that has been hung for as long as anyone can remember, and where Governments have to cope with being in a minority, and have to win votes by winning the debate.

    This is, of course, the House of Lords. Since Churchill's day, it has been reformed by the Life Peerages Act 1958 and the House of Lords Act 1999, with further reform in the pipeline. Each reform has made the Lords a bit more assertive, a bit more willing to challenge the House of Commons- subject, of course, to the constitutional restrictions in the Parliament Act 1911 and the Parliament Act 1949. Maybe in May 2015 we shall see the start of an elected element to the House of Lords. Whether we do, or not, have a part-elected House of Lords, a post-2015 Conservative majority Government would face a hung House of Lords.

    Such a Government would need to work with the House of Lords to get its business through. That means dealing with Liberal Democrat peers- either within Government or without. Yes, we could come to some sort of 1970s style "Lib-Lab pact" with Liberal Democrats being consulted on legislation to get their support, but imagine people who have been Liberal Democrat ministers finding themselves in Opposition and being consulted by Conservative politicians holding the jobs they held a few weeks earlier. It would be a bit of a slap in the face, hammering home that their party is out of office- not by losing an election but because they're not needed in the House of Commons anymore.

    More tactful and better would be to have the Liberal Democrats- MPs and peers- involved in the legislative work from the beginning, as a party of Government with members of both Houses serving in the Government, including some in the Cabinet. You cannot work with a party in Government for 5 years, and in the years before that co-operate in the House of Lords to defeat Labour, and then throw them out as they are no longer useful.

    Does It Matter If The Liberal Democrats Do Badly?

    In an earlier post, I looked at the proposed constituencies for the May 2015 general election, and asked how fair they were. Now, throughout the assumption was that there was just a swing between the Conservatives and Labour, with the Liberal Democrat vote remaining steady. Opinion polls show consistently that the Liberal Democrats have been hit hardest by being in Government, so it isn't really reasonable to assume that their vote will hold up. But a week is a long time in politics- and 3 years even more so (if I have my figures correct, then 3 years from today will just have seen Parliament automatically dissolved under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011.

    There are three things I want to begin with:

  • There have been times in the past 130 years where there have been peacetime coalitons between Conservatives and at least some Liberals. Firstly there was the Liberal Unionists breaking away from the Liberal and forming a coalition with the Conservatives in December 1886 (next month marks the centenary of the Liberal Unionists being formally absorbed into the Conservatives); secondly there was the First World War's coalition, continuing under David Lloyd-George's leadership until October 1922, with some Conservative v Conservative and Liberal v Liberal battles in the December 1918 general election and some Liberals (e.g. Winston Churchill) eventually ending up as Conservatives; thirdly there was the National Government formed in August 1931, followed by a split in the Liberals into the Liberals and the National Liberals in time for the October 1931 general election, with the Liberals withdrawing from the Government in September 1932, leaving the National Liberals to remain with the Conservatives and ultimately get absorbed in the late 1960s (date varies depending on source).
  • In October 1951, Churchill led the Conservatives to victory with 321 of the 615 seats available (although this tally includes 29 Scottish Unionists, 19 National Liberals and 9 Ulster Unionists). Despite having a majority of 27, Churchill invited the Liberals, with 6 MPs, to enter the Government. Conservatives venerate Churchill. What struck me when I watched David Cameron, the (Conservative) Prime Minister, and Nick Clegg, the (Liberal Democrat) Lord President of the Council, give their first press conference as Cabinet ministers was that Cameron had achieved the Conservative/Liberal coaltion that had eluded Churchill.
  • In the 1950s and into the 1960s, both the Conservatives and Liberals benefitted from anti-Labour pacts. Effectively the Liberals were on a life support machine with the Conservatives in charge of the plug.
  • I would say that I am personally supportive of pacts (although this is a minority view among Conservatives)- a major factor in making me take this view was how in the Oldham West & Saddleworth by-election of January 2011, pro-Government candidates got 923 votes more than Labour, yet a Labour MP was elected.

    I'm not suggesting that there should be single Coalition candidatesn in every seat, like the 1918 "Coupon" election, but, like the 1950s there are natural neighbouring pairs of constituencies where pacts could be tried. The first one that springs to mind is in Hull, where- unless a Conservative MP in Humberside steps down- the battle in the new Kingston-upon-Hull West & Hessle would be between the Conservative former Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis (currently the MP for Haltemprice & Howden) and Labour former Home Secretary Alan Johnson (currently the MP for Hull West & Hessle). Now, I appreciate why the Liberal Democrats have contested Haltemprice & Howden since the seat was formed for the May 1997 general election, and have come close to unseating Davis a couple of times, as they have been the major challengers to him. But the new Kingston-upon-Hull West & Hessle is a different matter altogether, as notionally the Liberal Democrats are in third place and could stand aside. In teturn, the Conservatives could stand aside in Kingston-upon-Hull North to help the Liberal Democrats unseat Labour there.

    However, let's use the notional results drawn up by Electoral Calculus and make three assumptions:

  • The main parties contest all seats
  • The Conservative vote remains steady and the shift in vote is from the Liberal Democrats to Labour
  • The United Kingdom still has the same territory as it has today, and there are 600 (rather than 548) seats to be contested
  • Let's face it, if Liberal Democrat voters unhappy with the decision to set up a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition are going to switch, it is reasonable that they will go to Labour.

    As a start, let's equalise the Conservative and Labour vote on 36.97%- if the Labour increase comes solely from Liberal Democrats switching, then the Liberal Democrat vote falls to 16.25% (so nearly 1 in 3 Liberal Democrat voters switch to Labour), then we get the Conservatives just 1 seat ahead of Labour and the Liberal Democrats falling to 20 seats. Actually, the Liberal Democrats would be very close to the position they were in at the April 1992 general election.

    The Conservatives would pick up 18 seats from the Liberal Democrats, including defeating Government ministers David Heath (Deputy Leader of the House of Commons), Andrew Stunell (Minister for Communities & Local Government) and Steve Webb (Minister for Pensions), while losing 36 to Labour, including Work & Pensions Secretary and former leader Iain Duncan-Smith. Labour would also pick up 10 seats from the Liberal Democrats- unseating Sarah Teather, the Minister for Children, and former party leader Ming Campbell- in the process, as well as Caerfyrddin from Plaid Cymru, leaving that party with just Gwynedd.

    When you do the maths, it appears this goes beyond a May 2010 style hung Parliament to a February 1974 style one thanks to MPs beyond the 3 main parties. A Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition would have 299 MPs, a Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition 298. So, looks like neither coalition would have an overall majority. However, we have not taken Northern Ireland into account, where Sinn Fein are safe in 4 seats. In an expanded Fermanagh & South Tyrone, Sinn Fein is defending a small majority- note that in 2010, Michelle Gildernew had a majority of 4 votes (the smallest in the country) over an Independent candidate running with the support of both the Democratic Unionists and the Ulster Conservatives & Unionists (as the Conservative/Ulster Unionist joint ticket was called). The notional figures give Sinn Fein a lead of 2911 over Independent- however this assumes that unionist voters transferring over fom Tyrone West remain with their parties. Now, if the 2010 election had been on the new boundaries, and Unionist parties stood aside for an Independent, then we should throw those 1177 Democratic Unionist and 800 Ulster Conservative & Unionist voters into the Independent tally, and bring the Sinn Fein majority down to 934.

    In addition. tactical voting by SDLP voters in Belfast North could enable Sinn Fein to unseat the Democratic Unionists there.

    So, it is reasonable to assume that after the 2015 election there will be between 4 and 6 Sinn Fein MPs adopting an sbstentionist policy again, and so a Conservative/Liberal Democrat or Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition would have the support of the majority of sitting and voting MPs.

    We have seen something interesting and bizarre. The new boundaries have a bias towards Labour, but as Labour starts drawing support from the Liberal Democrats, that pro-Labour bias disappears. The reason appears to be that once Labour starts drawing support from the Liberal Democrats, more Liberal Democrat seats fall to the Conservatives than to Labour.

    Indeed for small Liberal Democrat to Labour swings, such as 1% (where the Conservatives gain 5 seats from the Liberal Democrats but lose 6 to Labour), 2% (where the Conservatives gain 7 seats from the Liberal Democrats but lose 11 to Labour), or 3% (where the Conservatives gain 9 seats from the Liberal Democrats but lose 15 to Labour) then the Conservative losses to Labour are nearly offset by the Conservative gains from the Liberal Democrats.

    So, at one level, the Conservatives need not be concerned at the Liberal Democrats losing support to Labour- if it means the Conservatives being a handful of seats worse off. Conservative minority government still possible. But, we are still in hung Parliament territory, and if we want another majority adminstration, then the Labour gains (from both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats) should be a cause for concern- every Labour gain from the Liberal Democrats hits the Government.

    However on a 3.5% swing from the Liberal Democrats to Labour something interesting happens. The Conservatives have the same number of seats (288) as the combined tally of Labour (256) and the Liberal Democrats (32). Now, if Sinn Fein hold on to Fermanagh & South Tyrone and gain Belfast North, then there are 594 MPs, and 298 MPs are needed for a majority- the 6 remaining Democratic Unionists, along with the sole remaining Plaid Cymru, an Independent in Down North, 2 SDLP MPs and a sole Alliance Party of Northern Ireland MP- give them 11 MPs who could conceivably back a Labour/Liberal Democrat minority coalition.

    But isn't this similar to 2010? Labour and the Liberal Democrats not having enough seats to form a majority and deals with minor parties and one-woman bands being out of the question as they would make the government unstable, relying on too many others.

    By the time we get to a 10.33% swing from the Liberal Democrats to Labour (which sees Labour 3.02% ahead of the Conservatives and about 44% of Liberal Democrat voters having switched to Labour) then we have a Labour majority. The Liberal Democrats are down to 10 seats Bath, Bristol West, Caithness, Sutherland, Ross & Cromarty, Ceredigion & Pembroke North, Deeside & Gordon, Inverness & Skye, Kingston & Surbiton, Norfolk North, Orkney & Shetland and Yeovil.

    So, would it be good news for the Conservatives if the Liberal Democrats lost support to Labour? Naturally, we wish to see the Conservatives get that magic 301 number of seats and be able- if it wants to- form a single-party Government. However, we also need to have some sort of third-party insurance (pun intended) which helps limit the Liberal Democrat losses to Labour- losses which would make a Labour-led government more likely.

    Saturday Night

    You might from time-to-time hear people talk about not staying up late on a "school night", of course meaning that one shouldn't be up/out late when you have to go to work the following morning.

    I have been thinking a bit about Saturday night recently- and the battle for how we observe Sunday begins Saturday night. We talk about not staying up late on a "school night", so why not on a "church night"? I know that if I have been up late on a Saturday then I am zonked and grumpy on the Sunday morning, and not totally focussed on the church service.

    But should we go further than that? We sometimes hear that the early church switched the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday to reflect the fact that Jesus rose on a Sunday. It is clear from parts of the New Testament, such as Acts 20:7 and I Corinthians 16:2 that Christian worship was "the first day of the week". Ah, Sunday. But is it?

    Sometimes, you might encounter students who have atill been studying up to nearly midnight Saturday evening as to avoid studying on a Sunday. Hmm, is that actually healthy for them, when it means they get little sleep before church the next day?

    When I was an undergraduate, what I came across often was that students would stop studying prior to the CU meeting (7 on a Saturday evening) and then return to the library after the chapel service (starting 6 on a Sunday evening and lasting for about an hour). I suggest this is probably better than the above paragraph for the following reasons:

  • stopping studying on a Saturday early evening and having an early night keeps you more awake and alert for the Sunday
  • the Jews didn't have Saturday as the Sabbath. They had Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. Would the early church have suddenly decided to have a midnight to midnight Sabbath or continue with a sunset to sunset one?
  • Tbe thing about Sunday evening services is that- even if I don't go out to the pub quiz later on- by the time I've hung around and had coffee and chatted to people it's getting on for 1/2 past 8 and then it's about 3/4 hour walk home.

    OK, now for the radical bit- should we change service times so they match a sunset-sunset Sabbath? Would this be more Biblical, reflecting "the first day of the week"? And how could this be done?

    One way is to keep the evening services, but move the day. This could be holding a Saturday evening one from September-ish to April-ish and a Sunday evening one during the summer. There is a Catholic church near me which has its "First Mass of Sunday" on Saturday evening.

    Or, how about Sunday afternoon services? I know there are a couple of churches near me that hold 3pm services about once a month. And, when I lived for a while at my parents' and attended the local Anglican church, they experimented with monthly informal Sunday afternoon services at the daughter church, which were scrapped due to low attendance.

    During winter, I expect an afternoon service would draw people who would not attend an evening one- I am thinking of elderly people who would probably prefer to get out and back during daylight.

    So, should churches move the Sunday evening services for some/all of the year?

    Relax, You're Home

    Terrible panic in my hotel room. Emptying out my suitcase and rucksack to find my ticket to take me back to the United Kingdom. Hotel manager knocking on door to tell me that there had been a mistake and actually the room had been booked by someone else, so could I get out now. Phoning my parents only to be told by my aunt that they had gone on holiday, and having the line breaking up. Emailing someone I met at an apologetics event to see if he could help, only to learn he was now First Minister of North East England and wouldn't have time to respond to emails.

    And then I woke up, looked around and thought "Relax, you're home."

    For us as Christians, we have a place called home, and Jesus makes a wonderful promise about it in John 14:2-6. What - among other things - is Jesus up to at the moment? Preparing Heaven for us. And how do we get there? Is there a British Rail train service which, if you die when there's engineering works, requires you to hang around in Purgatory and get a replacement bus service to Heaven?

    Well, Jesus has the answer to that - I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. Pretty clear, although some will misinterpret this (one misinterpretation that I was given a few weeks after I became a Christian went along these lines - we know that all religions lead to God, and therefore here Jesus is clearly saying He is found in all religions. That is of course circular rrasoning - starting from the premise that salvation is found in all religions and then from that using the Bible to "prove" that salvation is found in all religions).

    Jesus is pretty clear on this in saying that He is the only way.

    I recently had a short holiday in Belgium and Germany. I had to show my passport 4 times - once to the French police at London St Pancras International on the way to the continent, and on the way back to Belgian police and then British immigration at Bruxelles-Midi/Brussel-Zuid, and finally to British police at London St Pancras International. What does it tell them? That I am a citizen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This is my home country. This is where I feel at home, where things are familiar, where the customs and practices are not alien to me, where I take them for granted.

    But I am a citizen of another place - Heaven, as it says in Philippians 3:20.

    Why am I a British citizen? Because I was born here.

    Why am I a citizen of Heaven? Because I was born again into the Kingdom of God. God - for no reason other than His mercy, grace and love - decided I would be one of His.

    Some of, for me anyway, the most moving passages in the New Testament are where we are told about this process- firstly in Romans 8:30 where we are told that those God predestined he called, justified and glorified; and secondly in Ephesians 1:3-14 where we are assured that our inheritance, our place in Heaven, is guaranteed.

    If God says something is guaranteed, then it is guaranteed.

    No scrummaging through spiritual luggage to find what we need to get to Heaven- it's already guaranteed by the same Jesus who told us in John 10:27 that no-one can snatch His sheep (that means us!) out of God's hand and we will never perish.

    Relax, you'll be going home one day.

    Thursday, 12 April 2012

    Getting Kicked Out Of The Garden

    A random thought struck me as I was walking home from work a few minutes ago (yes, I know it's just gone 9pm, but timebar cases are quite addictive).

    Look back at Genesis 3 and the Fall- as the old joke puts it "Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent and the serpent didn't have a leg to stand on"

    One major consequence is that Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden.

    And this is my random thought- wouldn't it have been simpler if God had expelled the serpent from the Garden of Eden? Send the serpent away so he couldn't tempt Adam and Eve and the incident with the tree could be dismissed as a one-off and then everything in the garden's lovely? Have God say a "Sorry humans, shouldn't have let the serpent in. Won't let it happen again"

    So, why didn't He? Ultimately to sin is a choice. Adam made that choice, Eve made that choice, we all make that choice. Satan may tempt, may whisper, may encourage, but ultimately, you are the one who makes the choice. Sometimes, a Christian's bad behaviour gets dismissed as being down to the devil. Sounds a bit spiritual, but that simply excuses the behaviour.

    And to be blunt, that ignores the Cross. If sin is no more than Christians acting out of character due to the devil, rather than being our own fault, then why do we need a Saviour?

    Monday, 9 April 2012

    Electoral Reform- Are The New Constituencies Fair?

    Last year saw the passage of the Parliamentary Voting Systems & Constituencies Act 2011 which, among other things, reduces the House of Commons from 650 to 600 MPs at the May 2015 general election. One little thing is that the new boundaries have to be approved by the House of Commons, and there is nothing to stop them being rejected, in which case the next election would be held on the current boundaries.

    When new constituencies are proposed, various people and groups draw up notional results, which are simply what the result would have been if the new boundaries were used. I will go with the ones drawn up by Electoral Calculus. Other people have other results, but with minor variations depending on how you do the calculations. There may be differences on how hyper-marginals (such as Chesterfield, Rochdale South or Workington & Keswick) end up, but no-one really disagrees that these will be the big battleground seats.

    The Conservative stance is the more equally sized constituencies are fairer and are a complete electoral reform in themselves (which to me sounds like the Labour stance that removing the hereditaries from the House of Lords was a complete reform in itself and nothing further was needed).

    But is this correct? First look at the vote share:

  • Conservative 36.97%
  • Labour 29.66%
  • Liberal Democrat 23.56%
  • And now the seat share:

  • Conservative 48.58% (307 out of 632)
  • Labour 40.82% (258 out of 632)
  • Liberal Democrat 9.02% (57 out of 632)
  • You're probably going to ask why, if there are 650 constituencies, I am using 632. These are the figures for Great Britain.

    Incidentally, I did recently hear the wonderful sarky comment that the Liberal Democrats now have proportional representation as their support has plummeted so it now reflects their share of seats! Hmm.

    We can now deduct the vote share from the seat share:

  • Conservative +11.61%
  • Labour +11.16%
  • Liberal Democrat -14.54%
  • So, as we might expect, the Conservatives and Labour get more seats than they would under a proportional system, and the Liberal Democrats get less. We can measure the disproportionality by squaring and summing the differences:

    11.61 x 11.61 + 11.16 x 11.16 + 14.54 x 14.54

    This gives us:

    134.79 + 124.55 + 211.41 = 470.75

    This is the magic number that shows how (dis)proportional a result is. In a pure proportional system it would be zero.

    Now look at the seat share under the new constituencies:

  • Conservative 50.86% (297 out of 584)
  • Labour 39.56% (231 out of 584)
  • Liberal Democrat 8.22% (48 out of 584)
  • Again, ignoring the 16 Northern Ireland constituencies. A quick look implies that the new boundaries help the Conservatives and hurt Labour and the Liberal Democrats. We can, as before, deduct the vote share from the seat share:

  • Conservative +13.89%
  • Labour +9.90%
  • Liberal Democrat -15.34%
  • And, as before, measure the disproportionality by squaring and summing the differences:

    13.89 x 13.89 + 9.90 x 9.90 + 15.34 x 15.34

    This gives us:

    192.93 + 98.01 + 235.32 = 526.26

    So, the new boundaries give a more disproportional result that the current ones. However, there is another way of measuring fairness, which is to assume an even swing and equalise the votes of the two main parties. Under the current boundaries, if the Conservatives and Labour each got 33.31% of the vote, then Labour would have a lead of 53 seats- 8.15% of the total, while under the new boundaries, Labour would have a lead of 36 seats- 6.00% of the total.

    Under either the current or new boundaries, if the Conservatives and Labour tie in votes, then Labour is in the lead and can form a minority Government- and indeed a Conservative/Liberal Democrat Government would be forced to form confidence and supply deals with regional parties to survive.

    So we have a curious situtation- the new boundaries seem to, by one measure, favour the Conservatives, and by another favour Labour. The reason is that the Conservative seat lead is based on electoral sand.

    Just do a 0.5% swing to Labour, and we see 7 seats fall to Labour. Not much, but try a 1% swing, and get the Conservatives losing 14 seats and Labour gaining 14 (with the Liberal Democrats losing 2 to Labour but balancing that with 2 gains from the Conservatives).

    Noe try a 2% swing, and we see that the Conservative lead in seats has nearly vanished. The Liberal Democrats could legitimately choose to go either way.

    Under the new boundaries, Labour can be 2.89% behind the Conservatives and be the largest party and needs to be 3.67% ahead to have an overall majority. Note that at this point, the Govermment has got 55.04% of the vote- a stronger endorsment of a sitting Government than even the November 1935 election- and still loses

    Under the current boundaries, things are a bit better for Labour, as they can be 4.09% behind the Conservatives yet be the largest party in the House of Commons, and only needs to be only 2.77% ahead to have an overall majority.

    What about the Conservatives? Under current boundaries, they need to be 10.65% ahead of Labour to have an overall majority, while under new boundaries, they need only be 7.57% ahead.

    It is clear that even after equalising constituency size, the bias towards Labour that has been around for about a quarter of a century continues- reduced, but still there.