Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Being Taken Ill Again

By the time we got to Dean station (by the way, why does National Rail call it Dean (Wilts), when the sign on the platform is clear it is in Hampshire?) I was feeling awful. My heart was going erratic, Breathing was awkward, and I worried that if I tried to stand up I would fall over. The only thing to do would be to wait for the train to arrive in Salisbury.

As I got off the train and made my way on, I ummed-and-erred about going on to Andover to go to work. Decided to go to one of the shops at the platform and bought water and asked for a paper bag - having seen on TV and films about breathing into a bag (the thought for me was that yes, I was feeling ill, but maybe I was panicking and making the breathing worse).

I went to the waiting room, feeling sweaty and clammy by now, and my fingers were tingling, like pins-and-needles. And clearly unwell, with one lady going to see one of the station staff, who discussed this with me, and - as there was no first aider - called an ambulance.

This actually embarrasses me. I hate people making a fuss over me, I hate being the focus of attention. But my heart was still erratice and I was feeling short of breath, the feeling I was about to collapse. When he called the ambulance, he suggested I was having an asthma attack. I texted my boss to let her know what was happening at this point.

And the station man mentioned that when he phoned he was told I should not be breathing into a paper bag.

The paramedic turned up and was asking me how I was feeling. I mentioned that my chest had been hurting, but now was just an ache - as if something was pushing down - but with a pain at the lower left of my chest. My heart was still skipping beats frequently (I often say this feels like my heart is starting to beat, then changes its mind). The tingling in my hands was going away. But my legs were feeling "crampy" - the best way to describe this is to consider when you've woken up at night with terrible cramp and you have to hop around and do stretches before going back to bed, and when you wake up in the morning there is that feeling in your calf muscles, that the cramp has gone but they feel tight.

There were the basic tests. First was blood pressure, then a basic ECG with the electrode-pads just on my ankles and wrists. The paramedic showed me the printout - there was a longer-than-usual gap between beats followed by a shorter-than-usual one. Then blood pressure again. Followed by him getting a stethoscope and listening to my heart and lungs. Then a fuller ECG, with electrode-pads on my chest - he suggested I keep my T-shirt on for this as it was in a waiting room, and I agreed with him on the grounds that otherwise he and his colleagues would have to deal with loads of swooning ladies.

There was nothing urgently wrong and he decided not to take me to A&E - firstly as I have had a few trips to A&E over chest pains, shortness of breath, dizziness over the past months, and it has always gone back to normal after a few hours; and secondly next Wednesday I see my doctor over the Holter monitor exam so we can finally see what the problem with my heart is and then get the right tablet combination for it.

So I took the train back home, and as I walked back from Millbrook station, just felt that everything around me seemed clearer. The initial moments in the waiting room had been scary, and there was this feeling that I had before, that my life could have been taken from me, but instead it was given back to me.

Hopefully these incidents will stop once we get to the bottom of this, but I hope that I will be able to use these to grow spiritually. If you are ever in A&E, things get reduced to a basic level, and you realise what is really importnant to you and what things that seemed important are mere trivialities.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

God Isn't Building A Church Of Living Bricks

One thing I must confess is that I used to be a Star Trek: The Next Generation fan. It was just a phase I was going through. One of the books that I really liked was Survivors, which gave much of Tasha Yar's backstory - a character who got deaded too early on in the TV series so we never got to know much about her.

Tasha's backstory in the book is undone by the later episode Legacy. But one thing that stands out in the book is where she is set a challenge and is then told that her colleagues are individuals - it's not "how would you do this with 3 generic security officers?" but "taking into account their individual skills, which 3 security officers would you choose and then how would you do this with 3 specific security officer?"

I was walking to Tesco yesterday afternoon and looking at the houses and the walls. Bricks. Yes, there may be variations - some slightly chipped, some a slightly different colour - but a brick is a brick is a brick. No one building a wall, or a house, gets fussy about which brick to use. A brick is interchangeable with another brick.

One of Jesus's Apostles, Peter, writes a bit about building a house (I Pet 2:4-8). This house is described:

As you come to [Jesus], a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.”

So the honour is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”


“A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

Pick up a stone. They can be small pebbles. They can be massive ones like the one thrown through my bedroom window a few years back coming centimetres from killing me.

If God is building a spiritual house of living stones, why then do we want Him to build His house out of living nearly-identical bricks?

There are various extremes of bricky Christianity. But basically it boils down to wanting other Christians to be in our image, not in God's.

Whether it is a twee middle-class Christianity with its quasi-Victorian emphasis on people "improving themselves" (socially) or the Christian bloke's movemeent with its obsession with Christian men being blokey bloke blokes, there is the attitude of Christians having to be living bricks. More-or-less identical. The church door has to be (metaphorically) slammed in the facr of Christians not bricky enough. The right hand of fellowship should not be extended to such a person. And beneath it all, the ugly message of "I'd rather Jesus hadn't died for that person".

And probably there is that element hidden in all our hearts.

About 20 years ago, I was part of a team that did door-to-door evangelism in Plaistow. And one conversation I had was with a lady who believed people were only Christians because they were indoctrinated by their families - which is the opposite to reality for me. The thing is I was the only person on the team not brought up as a Christian, and I was the only person on the team able to have that conversation with her. I was the right stone - in other circumstances I would not be the right stone.

We were stones, all with our own histories, personalities, backgrounds etc. We were not a bunch of nearly-identical interchangeable bricks.

You don't need 3 Christians for that task. You need 3 specific Christians. The lesson Tasha learned has implications for the Church.

The thing about stones is that, not only are they different, but when building a house out of them, they all have that right place to go - no stone can go where another one should go. A stone lying on the ground isn't of much use - in a building its right place is alongside the other stones that should be around it.

Don't start getting into a grass-is-greener-the-other-side-of-the-fence mentality. You are where God placed you, surrounded by the other people God placed around you. You may not think much of the stones around you, but if they weren't there you would quickly fall out of place and tumble to the ground.

We hear of Isaish's vision of God (Is. 6) and of Isaiah's obedience:

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Ms?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” (v.8)

Now, God wasn't sitting there with a list. "The shephard in that field said he was too busy, I'll try Isaiah and if he says no, there's the potter." No, Isaiah was the correct stone for that task.

There's more to this than Isaiah's obedience - he was the right person for what God planned to do.

Today is Pentecost, when we recall the Holy Spirit descending on the early disciples, empowering them to do what He wanted them to do.

A few years later, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the unity of the Body of Christ (I Cor. 12) - interesting that these aspects are placed together, almost like two sides of the same coin.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills. (vv. 4-11)

So this is not a church of identikit Christians, able to be swapped with each other. It is a church of individuals, given different gifts as the same Holy Spirit decides.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. (v. 12-31)

We are on dangerous ground if we ever say we don't need another Christian because they are different - and there is the implication when we say that that God has no need for them.

God's children are not all called to be middle-class professionals. God's sons are not all called to be football-obsessed blokey bloke blokes.

At Pentecost the Church of God was founded - with God calling people from different nations and different socio-economic backgrounds to build a new community.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says,

“When He ascended on high He led a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.”

(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that He had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph 4. 1-16)

Sunday, 12 May 2013

The Bowdlerised Common Lectionary

Today, according to Common Worship is the Seventh Sunday of Easter/Sunday After Ascension Day. and in the Church of England lectionary the New Teatament reading for the celebration of the Lord's Supper is the last verses of the Bible - Rev. 22:12-21.

Except the reading isn't that. It misses out verse 15:

Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

Hmm. Guess it might have something to do with being a nation of dog-lovers. Or maybe because it makes us uncomfortable thinking about this. Even worse is the missing out of verses 18 and 19:

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

Hmm, so excluding the words warning us of the danger of excluding the words.

We need to look out for this sort of thing in lectionaries. Yes, there can be a place for excluding verses where the narrative is impacted, e.g. Jesus tells a parable, then spends a few verses doing a healing or three, and then explains the parable, but this practice in the lectionary of missing out some verses is wrong.

When we get to 10 November, which is the Third Sunday Before Advent, the New Testament reading is II Thess. 2, but excluding verses 6 to 12:

And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only He who now restrains it will do so until He is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of His mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Hmm - why do these lectionaries exclude verses?

The 12 May Opinion Poll

Today has seen YouGov publish its opinion poll for The Sunday Times.

A brief guide to how I analyse this:

  • The key part of the data is how the vote shifts from party to party. Now, some of this is shifts to Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party (treated together in the poll). What I do is to draw up separate England and a Wales & Scotland transfers - if you know that x% of voters for party A transfer to Plaid Cymru/Scottish National Party then these must be in the Wales & Scotland section.
  • The Greens are an interesting option - contest too many seats to be a fringe party, yet contest too few seats to be a major party. I work out the number of voters to be transferred to the Greens - if there were a Green candidate at the May 2010 general election then they are transferred; if not they remain with their party
  • Then there are regional adjustments made so that if a party is listed in the opinion poll as having 20% of the vote in a region, but the calculations show 19%, then its vote is increased across all seats there to match this - I only do this for the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party and UK Independence Party

For the regions used, it is obvious what is meant by London and Scotland. I am taking Rest of South to mean Eastern England, South East England and South West England; Midlands/Wales to mean East Midlands, Wales and West Midlands; and North to mean North East England, North West England and Yorkshire & the Humber.

Note that we are dealing with averages - there will be things like incumbency factors and local issues that allow seats to buck the trend.

At the 2010 general election, the result was:

  • Conservatives - 306 (including 1 Deputy Speaker)
  • Labour - 258 (including 2 Deputy Speakers)
  • Liberal Democrats - 57
  • Northern Ireland parties - 18
  • Scottish National Party - 6
  • Plaid Cymru - 3
  • Greens - 1
  • The Speaker - 1

If we take the changes in vote, then we get:

  • Labour gains 111 seats from the Conservatives, 27 from the Liberal Democrats and 1 from the Greens - a net gain of 139 seats
  • Plaid Cymru gains 1 seat from the Liberal Democrats
  • Kidderminster Hospital & Health Concern gains 1 seat from the Conservatives
  • The Greens lose 1 seat to Labour
  • The Conservatives gain 24 seats from the Liberal Democrats but lose 1 to Kidderminster Hospital & Health Concern, 1 to the Liberal Democrats and 111 to Lanour - a net loss of 89 seats
  • The Liberal Democrats gain 1 seat from the Conservatives, but lose 1 seat to Plaid Cymru, 27 to Labour and 24 to the Conservatives - a net loss of 51 seats

This gives us:

  • Labour - 397 (including 2 Deputy Speakers)
  • Conservatives - 217 (including 1 Deputy Speaker)
  • Northern Ireland parties - 18
  • Liberal Democrats - 6
  • Scottish National Party - 6
  • Plaid Cymru - 4
  • Kidderminster Hospital & Health Concern - 1
  • The Speaker - 1

So, a clear Labour majority of 144.

In more detail, there would be Cabinet casualties. 4 Conservative Cabinet members lose to Labour - Work & Pensions Secretary (and former party leader) Iain Duncan-Smith in Chingford & Woodford Green, International Development Secretary Justine Greening in Putney, Welsh Secretary David Jones in Clwyd West (which becomes a close 3-way Labour/Conservative/Plaid Cymru marginal, which would be Plaid Cymru's third top target seat) and Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers in Chipping Barnet.

In addition there would be 3 Liberal Democrat Cabinet ministers defeated - Scottish Secretary Michael Moore would lose Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk to the Conservatives (where he would be about 200 votes ahead of third-placed Labour), while Lord President of the Council Nick Clegg and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander would lose Sheffield Hallam and Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey respectively to Labour. Clegg would plunge to fourth place as the UK Independence Party comes third in what becomes a Labour/Conservative marginal. Alexander can console himself with runner-up status, about 200 votes ahead of the Scottish National Party and about 500 ahead of the Conservatives.

This means 2 Liberal Democrat Cabinet ministers survive the election - Business Secretary Vince Cable in Twickenham (a seat where Labour overtakes the Conservatives) and Energy & Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey in Kingston & Surbiton (another seat with Labour coming second). Cable and Davey would get the first and second highest Liberal Democrat share of the vote respectively.

In the House of Commons they would be joined by just 3 other political survivors - Deputy Leader of the House of Commons Tom Brake in Carshalton & Wallington, Paul Burstow in Sutton & Cheam and Deputy Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael in Orkney & Shetland. In addition, the Liberal Democrat who unseated the Conservatives' Zac Goldsmith in Richmond Park would join the experienced MPs - which might be a relief to Prime Minister David Cameron.

In the October 1951 and May 1955 general elections the Liberals were reduced to 6 MPs - but this time it'll be the "South West London fringe" rather than the "Celtic fringe".

Apart from Orkney & Shetland their best non-London result would be former leader Charles Kennedy in Ross, Skye & Lochaber, where he would narrowly lose to Labour. This would be the Greens' second top target seat, even though they would be sixth (with the Conservatives third, Scottish National party fourth and the UK Independence Party fifth - this would be the seat with the smallest gap between the first and sixth placed candidates)

My hunch is that in these circumstances Davey would beoome leader - he's fairly young and would have worked in Government on an issue close to every Liberal Democrat's heart.

Although the UK Independence Party won't win any seats, they would come second to the Conservatives in 3 seats - Christchurch, Herefordshire North and South Holland & the Deepings - and the runner-up to Labour in Birmingham Ladywood (which is one of their worst results in terms of share of the vote - but that's four-party politics for you! They just don't do as badly as the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats there)

None of these are the seat where they get their highest share of the vote (although South Holland & the Deepings is where they get their second highest share of the vote, and Christchurch where they get their third) - that goes to South Holland & the Deepings' next-door neighbour Boston & Skegness, which becomes a 3-way Conservative/Labour/UK Independence Party marginal, and would be the only seat where they get over a quarter of the vote. This would be their third top target seat.

With the rise of multi-party politics, there would be some 4-way marginals, where less than 10% of the vote separates the top 4 candidates. These would be:

  • Bromley & Chislehurst (Conservative hold) - a Conservative/Labour/Liberal Democrat/UK Independence Party 4-way marginal, where 8.15% separates the first and fourth places
  • Croydon South (Labour gain from Conservative) - a Labour/Conservative/Liberal Democrat/UK Independence Party 4-way marginal, where 8.64% separates the first and fourth places
  • Montgomeryshire (Conservative hold) - a Conservative/Labour/Plaid Cymru/UK Independence Party 4-way marginal, where 8.83% separates the first and fourth places

Bromley & Chislehurst would be the UK Independence Party's second top target seat - their top target would be Hornchurch & Upminster, where they would be in third place and needing a 3.19% swing to win the seat from Labour (curiously, last year there was speculation that the sitting Conservative MP for Hornchurch & Upminster, Angela Watkinson, would defect to the UK Independence Party).

Croydon South is an interesting seat - the Conservative MP, Richard Ottaway, is retiring, leading to speculation that Mayor of London Boris Johnson would be the Conservative candidate.

Montgomeryshire would be the Conservatives' sole Welsh seat - the others they have at the moment (Aberconwy, Cardiff North, Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, Clwyd West (see above), Monmouth, Preseli Pembrokeshire and Vale of Glamorgan) all fall to Labour, although in Aberconwy they would be pushed into third place by Plaid Cymru, with this becoming Plaid Cymru's second top target seat.

Montgomeryshire would be Plaid Cymru's fifth top target seat, the UK Independence Party's top Welsh target seat (as well as their seventh top target nationally, just behind Old Bexley & Sidcup, which becomes a close Conservative/Labour marginal) and the Welsh seat where they get their highest share of the vote, as well as the seat with the closest gap between the first placed candidate and the fifth - in this case the Liberal Democrats, who get the highest share of the vote for any fifth placed candidate.

The Conservatives' result at least is one Welsh seat more than the Liberal Democrats, who lose Brecon & Radnorshire to Labour (and fall to fourth place as this becomes a Labour/Conservative marginal with the UK Independence Party in third place), Cardiff Central to Labour (and are pushed into third place by the Conservatives and end up about 40 votes ahead of the fourth placed UK Independence Party), and Ceredigion to Plaid Cymru (with Labour pushing the Liberal Democrats into third place).

For Plaid Cymru, holding onto their existing 3 seats, the top target seat would be Ynys Môn . The second and third (Aberconwy; Clwyd West) have been mentioned, and fourth would be Llanelli - Ynys Môn and Llanelli would both be seats where there would not be a significant Conservative vote, enabling a straight Labour/Plaid Cymru fight.

Other minor parties and independents coming second would be Respect - The Unity Coalition being the runner-up to Labour in Birmingham Hall Green and Poplar & Limehouse; an Independent would come second to the Conservatives in Castle Point; the Buckinghamshire Campaign for Democracy would come second to the Speaker in Buckingham; People's Voice for Blaenau Gwent come second to Labour in Blaenau Gwent; the British National Party come a distant second to Labour in Barking; and last but not least, Green MP Caroline Lucas would lose to Labour in Brighton Pavilion (which becomes the Greens' top target seat).

We have seen that in Scotland, the Liberal Democrats would be down to just one seat - Orkney & Shetland. Aberdeenshire West & Kincardine would fall to the Conservatives (with Labour pushing the Liberal Democrats into third place), Argyll & Bute would fall to Labour (with the Liberal Democrats in fourth place as the Scottish National Party comes third in a Labour/Conservative marginal), Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk to the Conservatives, Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross to Labour, Dunbartonshire East to Labour, Edinburgh West to Labour (with the Conservatives pushing the Liberal Democrats into third place), Fife North East to Labour (which becomes a 3-way Labour/Conservative/Liberal Democrat margianl, and with 4.15% separating Labour and the Liberal Democrats would be Great Britain's closest 3-way marginal), Gordon to Labour (and falling to fourth place as this becomes a 3-way Labour/Conservative/Scottish National Party marginal), Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey to Labour, and Ross, Skye & Lochaber to Labour.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

How Much Damage Could UKIP Cause For The Conservatives?

Opinion polls are interesting things, but the problem with the basic "x% would vote for party A" ones is that they don't tell you where the vote is coming from and where it's going.

Take for example, the change in votes between the April 1992 and May 1997 general elections (figures for Great Britain only):

Party 1992 1997 change
Conservatives 14,048,399 9,591,082 Down 4.457.317
Labour 11,560,484 13,517,911 Up 1,957,427
Liberal Democrats 5,999,384 5,243,440 Down 755,944
Others 1,220,714 2,144,674 Up 923,960
Total 32,828,981 30,497,107 Down 2,331,874

And for some voices in the Conservatives, there was a simple reasoning. Don't chase all these voters who supposedly switched to Labour or the Liberal Democrats. Look at the figures - the Conservative vote fell by 4,457,317. Of that. 2,331,874 was people staying at home on election day as they were angry at the way Margaret Thatcher was forced out as Prime Minister back in November 1990 (yet failed to show their anger at the 1992 election), or were angry over the Maastricht Treaty (a 1992 manifesto commitment). You then have 923,960 switchers who voted for minor parties or independents. And 755,944 of the rise in Labour votes can simply be explained as Liberal Democrats switching.

Hence out of those who voted Conservative in 1992 and didn't in 1997, 52% were people staying at home, 21% were people switching to minor parties (predominantly the Referendum Party) or independents, and that just leaves 27% switching to Labour. Surely the route back to Conservative victory is to win back that 52% and that 21% by throwing some blue meat at the voters. More bobbies on the beat, less immigration, less Europe....

That is all very simplistic, and wrong, as there are always more complicated undercurrents. Fortunately, last week The Times had a poll of how people who voted at the May 2010 general election have switched. And there are intersting switches between the main parties and to the UK Independence Party.

The 2010 general election result was:

  • Conservatives - 306 (including 1 Deputy Speaker)
  • Labour - 258 (including 2 Deputy Speakers)
  • Liberal Democrats - 57
  • Northern Ireland parties - 18
  • Scottish National Party - 6
  • Plaid Cymru - 3
  • Greens - 1
  • The Speaker - 1

If we take the changes in vote, then we get:

  • Labour gains 85 seats from the Conservatives, 24 from the Liberal Democrats and 1 from the Greens - a net gain of 110 seats
  • Plaid Cymru gains 1 seat from the Liberal Democrats
  • Kidderminster Hospital & Health Concern gains 1 seat from the Conservatives
  • The Greens lose 1 seat to Labour
  • The Conservatives gain 32 seats from the Liberal Democrats but lose 1 to Kidderminster Hospital & Health Concern and 85 to Lanour - a net loss of 54 seats
  • The Liberal Democrats lose 1 seat to Plaid Cymru, 24 to Labour and 32 to the Conservatives - a net loss of 57 seats

This gives us:

  • Labour - 368 (including 2 Deputy Speakers)
  • Conservatives - 252 (including 1 Deputy Speaker)
  • Northern Ireland parties - 18
  • Scottish National Party - 6
  • Plaid Cymru - 4
  • Kidderminster Hospital & Health Concern - 1
  • The Speaker - 1

So, a clear Labour majority of 86.

From the way some Conservatives have entered headless chicken mode, one would believe that the UK Independence Party was taking all its support from the Conservatives and if only the Conservatives found the magic policy, then the UK Independence Party voters would come home to the Conservatives, and the Conservatives would not lose any voters by adopting the UK Independence Party manifesto. We see this logic in the "look at seats where the Conservatives failed to win by a margin smaller than the UK Independence Party vote. If only we had promised...." approach.

In fact, out of those who voted at the 2010 election, 18% of Conservatives, 8% of Liberal Democrats and 4% of Labour are switching to the UK Independence Party.

I can see why Labour voters might switch. There was that opposition to the European Union and its predecessors (remember the June 1983 manifesto) and although the party moved to a more pro-EU stance late in the 1980s, there were still strands of opposition. And Labour is a labour party (the clue is in its title) - it did not chose to call itself the Socialist Party - with elements of working-class social conservatism.

As for Liberal Democrats? Well, I remember reading that there are two basic types of voters when it comes to them:

  • Those who vote Liberal Democrat as a protest - who will ditch that party now it is a party of Government
  • Those who would vote Liberal Democrat if it were a serious party of Government
  • So, in part there is that protest vote which has to go somewhere. But there is probably something deeper - even in the June 1999 European elections, the UK Independence Party was doing well in constituencies in the west country which had Liberal Democrat MPs. Could be more traditionalist Liberals who never felt comfortable with the merger with the Social Democrats in March 1988.

    The next step for me is to take these people switching from the main parties to the UK Independence Party and keep them in the parties they are switching from. And we get something different:

    • Labour gains 39 seats from the Conservatives, 23 from the Liberal Democrats and 1 from the Greens - a net gain of 63 seats
    • Plaid Cymru gains 1 seat from the Liberal Democrats
    • The Greens lose 1 seat to Labour
    • The Conservatives gain 33 seats from the Liberal Democrats but lose 39 to Labour - a net loss of 6 seats
    • The Liberal Democrats lose 1 seat to Plaid Cymru, 23 to Labour and 33 to the Conservatives - a net loss of 57 seats

    This gives:

    • Labour - 321 (including 2 Deputy Speakers)
    • Conservatives - 300 (including 1 Deputy Speaker)
    • Northern Ireland parties - 18
    • Scottish National Party - 6
    • Plaid Cymru - 4
    • The Speaker - 1

    Labour would be 5 seats short of the 324 needed for an overall majority of 2 (once we exclude the Deputy Speakers). However, Sinn Féin has 5 MPs who do not sit or vote. which means Labour would just need the support of 2 other MPs - which it could find in the Social Democratic & Labour Party and/or Plaid Cymru - to form an overall majority.

    It seems that the UK Independence Party's intervention is enough to make the Conservatives lose about 50 seats - predominantly to Labour - and this makes the difference between a hung Parliament where Labour is just short of an overall majority to one where Labour has a comfortable majority.

    While the UK Independence Party would not - from the poll figures - be a reason for the Conservatives not winning the next election, it would make the difference between a mild defeat and a heavy one.