Friday 30 May 2014

General Election prediction

Commentary on recent elections suggest we have entered ‘four party politics’  - but a more plausible reading of the system and situation is that we may actually have stepped back into ‘two party politics’.

The evidence is this.  The senior party in the coalition government has taken exactly the mid-term knock one would expect.  The junior party in the coalition government has taken a punishing near wipe-out (the one really game-changing new trend – hence its internal convulsions since).  The official opposition party has made exactly the mid-term gains one would expect.  The new party on the block has shown quite predictably that with momentum it can achieve something like a quarter of the votes (which, in the first-past-the-post local elections, meant only being able to pick up a modest number of new seats – only half what the official opposition party managed to pick up).

Let us pretend that this evidence works as a direct indication of what will happen at next year’s General Election (which, of course, it doesn’t  - because more people will vote and because  the direct link with representation in the EU will be absent – but it might give us some indication).

UKIP’s even a quarter of the vote roughly evenly distributed across the country on our present election system might not garner it a single MP.  Not much of a ‘fourth party’ there.

If all added together the low level of support for the punished Lib-Dems and for others such as Greens and independents  accounts for only another 15% of the votes in most constituencies, this leaves 60% of votes to be divided between Conservative and Labour.

On this basis, where either Conservative or Labour gain more than 30% in any particular constituency (the support from each being quite unevenly distributed between constituencies makes this likely in most) it wins, and the one which wins most gets an absolute majority of seats in the new House of Commons.

Which of the two it is may simply depend on the mood in a year’s time.

If it felt that the economy and EU reform are both moving forward, David Cameron is reliable, and Ed Milliband is simply weird, then we will have another five years of Tory government.   If it is felt that the economic squeeze is intolerable for too many, David Cameron doesn’t care enough about ordinary people, and some of Ed Milliband’s team are making surprising sense, then we will have five years of Labour government.

A re-elected absolute-majority-holding Cameron administration would be a thing to behold.   In a first term operating within the constraints of coalition it did things like restrict reading opportunities in prison and remove benefits from those for whom a supply of smaller social housing into which to move was known not to be available, what might they do in a second term?  What would Teresa May be doing to the visa system or Michael Gove to the education system or Ian Duncan-Smith to the benefit’s if they were actually on a roll and had a free hand?

A newly elected absolute-majority-holding Milliband administration’s first attempts to wrestle with the economy  might also be an equally horrifying  but much less predictable spectator sport.

But the main point isn’t that.  It is this.  If in a year’s time the Lib-Dems are punished as severely as they deserve for what their previous supporters see as delivering five years of punitive Conservative government, that unravels  all the old ‘three party politics’ maths which gave us a ‘hung parliament’ last time.  If in a year’s time UKIP enters a first-past-the-post election with only a quarter of national voting support, that will simply make no impact.  It will be two party politics time again – and one of the two parties would be likely to come out of the election with an absolute majority.

Sunday 25 May 2014

The Pope arrives in Palestine

... and the first thing he did was get out and pray resting his head against the separation Wall.

But our attention to Palestine continues simply to be the drip-by-drip evidence of what has been called its ‘slow motion annexation’.  The headline evidence was the Israeli Government’s continued permission for the building of settlements within occupied Palestine through the whole of the recent ‘peace process’, and the way extremists exact what they call a ‘price tag’ of retribution if the Government does anything to make it look as if it is faltering in doing so.  The heart-rending evidence this week has been the destruction by the Israeli military of more than one and a half thousand apricot and apple trees on one Palestinian farm (which happens to be somewhere we visited in October) despite it being internationally well known and despite court action in progress to prevent this; a picture of the farms ‘we refuse to be enemies’ stone was here and the pictures above come from the same visit.

Saturday 17 May 2014

Moving on

It was sad to see our Curate go when the whole parish said farewell to her at our service together last Sunday morning; I'm glad the picture caught her eating in front of a display she'd put together of highlights of her time with us.  There has been much fun, and she goes to a post of 'first responsibility' on a a tide of affection and prayers

It was also sad to see St Michael's pulpit go soon afterwards, but it has not been used in thirty years and serial attempts to incorporate it into reordering plans had failed.

Its departure did give me the opportunity to get into the redundant church in the Wolds which the diocese operates as a store for such things many of which then find a new home.

Monday 5 May 2014

King Lear's dementia

The 1908 picture appears on the blog or website of a couple of parishioners’ (most recently that of Rod Collins, who has appeared and informed appearances here a number of times before).  The 2014 parallel is a picture I took very near St Michael’s recently - but I’ve been convinced that the pictures are not taken from the same spot and await time to walk the Freshney and try a couple of other places.

Meanwhile, my own blogging stutters a bit at the moment.  There are some pressing things about which it isn’t appropriate to blog and commentary on some diocesan developments has been restricted by the confidentiality required of a member of the Bishop’s Council (which is something I have become almost by accident) – so some of the usual sources of my commentating have dried up.

Meanwhile, we have been anticipating and enjoying further ‘Live Stream’ events.

The promised walk round the British Museum’s Viking exhibition was a disappointment.  We were introduced to no more than a dozen of the exhibits in the two hours, much of the time being given instead to the presenters emoting and the Museum promoting; at one point a panel of experts solemnly told us how excited they were and then only things like places names ending in ‘–by’ have a Viking origin while the exhibition stood tantalisingly unviewable just behind them.

But the National Theatre’s King Lear was complete, direct and wonderful.  Here the one additional interval talk added huge value – Simon Russell Beale speculating whether Shakespeare knew someone with Lewy Body Dementia.  Having spotted the possibility, he had investigated the condition in preparation for playing the role; sudden aggression and strange hallucinations are both characteristics of it, and his stoop and shuffle were some of the results of this preparation.