Sunday, 17 May 2015

The fine art of prediction- a different kind of election

The fine art of prediction- a different kind of election
Part 1



 After the defeat

  A small group of men and women huddle round a table. His most loyal followers, brothers and sisters in the cause

 A cause that now seemed smashed and broken. How had it come to this? They had thought he’d be the one to restore the nation. Only days ago the crowds were hailing him as the triumphant leader who would bring them victory against their enemy. They seemed on the verge of glory. So how had events turned so suddenly? How had people turned so suddenly? It could only be because they were beguiled by their enemy’s lies. And so he was defeated. Utterly. And now he had left them. Alone. Leaderless.  And their enemies continued to rule without anyone to challenge them. Life went on for them, but right now it seemed a life without hope

  No this was not the Labour shadow cabinet after their shock election defeat. This was Jesus’s disciples after his crucifixion and death. And it concerns a rather different sort of election.
  Labour’s humiliating election rout and may or may not lead to some future political resurrection. That may or may not bring them eventual electoral glory in 2020 . And if it does they might (or might not) restore a fairer society and a prosperity shared “by the many rather than the few”. After 7th May 2015 I have given up on making political predictions after even the best pollsters got it so badly wrong. (At least I was instantly cured of my recent addiction to opinion polls!)  As one of those who campaigned (and prayed) for a Labour election victory in a small way I shared in the misery of defeat on 7th May. If there is an opposite word to serendipity (surprised by joy) this would have been the time to use it. Surprised by despair.
Signs of hope ?
 And yet everything had seemed to be going so well. All signs pointing in the right direction, especially those “Vote Labour” boards blossoming all over Gravesend. The opinion polls were all converging to level pegging and I’d even made my son plot a graph to prove this. Pretty much everyone projected this to mean a Labour (minority) government. And the sun was shining, which was always meant to help get out the slightly “lazy” labour vote. I remembered the sun was shining too in  May 1997 when Hannah and I pushed our 4 month old twins in their double pram up to the polling station at Gravesend Grammar School and we voted for Tony (well Chris Pond was our future MP but you know what I mean).  And now we had just gone with the same twins to another polling station for them to cast their very first votes. We’d all voted Labour, even Josie, despite her more radical inclinations to vote Green.  We had a really good local candidate who’d served the town as councillor and Mayor (and unlike the previous candidate had wisely avoided crashing his car during the election after allegedly having had a few too many).

  I’d been door-knocking with Lesley and “MH” that evening to “get out” the canvassed labour vote. Nearly everyone we spoke to who’d said they would vote Labour indicated they’d done so. No sign of last minute changes of mind. And whilst I was out a serendipitous event.  I came across my old car that I’d sold 10 years earlier. The only car I’d ever owned from new. A red Nissan Primera.  X984 OCP. It drove beautifully, but I had to sell it when the gear box bust and Hannah wanted a people carrier. I‘d never liked that blue Vauxhall Zafira, which drove like a small tank and had the fuel consumption of one too . The Zafira had recently been replaced with my much sexier red C4 Picasso. And now I thought about it all the cars I’d ever owned and loved had been red. When Tony Blair led Labour to that glorious victory in 1997 I was the proud owner of a red Peugeot 306. That car drove like a dream (despite or may be because of its lack of power steering) and I never had to replace even a single tyre on it. (Sadly I was forced to exchange it for an older blue car because we needed more boot space for the twins’ stuff).
 An omen?
 Like an epiphany it dawned on my sun-lit mind that every time I’d owned a red car the red team (as Ed’s sons liked to call them) won the election. In fact come to think of it didn’t my dad even own a red Maxi when Harold Wilson won in 1974? For those less familiar with “vintage” British Leyland cars the Maxi was basically a fat Mini, although it was probably not much bigger than the current Mini. It was marketed as a versatile family car. A people carrier of its day if you like. Basically this meant it was a hatchback with a large-ish boot area. Unlike with my noughties Zafira, in the 70s you didn’t need extra seats to carry more kids. You could just whip off the parcel shelf and chuck the kids in the boot. I remember my brother Frazer and I happily sleeping in that Maxi’s boot all the way to Cornwall on our summer holiday that year. I digress… Anyway, it seemed clear to me that the reunion with my beloved red Nissan Primera was an omen. A sign from the Lord promising the red team’s victory (or something like it), just as all the pundits had been predicting. When I got home I posted this on facebook. Just 2 minutes later we saw the exit poll…. I was beyond swearing.
  No more predictions!
  For the nth time I have now given up on predictions. I don’t seem to be very good at them (although at least I’m in good company there). Starting aged 15 with my bold prediction that the world would end on 21st June 1982 and followed by my numerous failed predictions of England’s performances at each World Cup and European Championship. No this time I really have given up predicting stuff. Perhaps it’s not that I’m bad at predicting stuff. It’s just that life, events have this annoying habit of not doing what they’re meant to.  Why does life have to be so unpredictable?
   Some rather more accurate predictions
  There was and is nothing uncertain and unpredictable though about Jesus’s apparent defeat. Nor about how that defeat was turned into the glorious victory of his resurrection. It may have come as a shock to his disciples, but it shouldn’t have done. Jesus knew it was going to happen and gave them advanced warning; “He said to them, “The Son of Man is going be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” “(Mark 9: 30-31). Across the 4 gospels 10 times Jesus is recorded as predicting his own death and resurrection. But Jesus was not the first to predict this. The Hebrew Scriptures (our “Old Testament”) are  sprinkled with such predictions from the book of Genesis (3:15) written by Moses about 1,400 (or may be even 2,400?) years before , through the Psalms of King David (e.g. Psalms 16, 22, 38 & 69) over 1,000 years earlier , the “major” prophets  Isaiah  (chapters 50 52 & 53) and Daniel (chapter 9) around 500 years previously and the “minor” prophet Zechariah  (chapters 11  12 & 13) about 400 years before.
  Two remarkably accurate predictions
  Perhaps the two most remarkable ancient predictions about Jesus’ death and resurrection are from the books of Daniel and Isaiah.
 In Isaiah chapter 53 we have an amazingly precise prediction about Jesus’s death and what it would achieve. So precise that you could be forgiven for thinking that it was written by Jesus’s followers after his death rather than 600 years before he was born. It’s sometimes even described as “the Gospel of Isaiah”. “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed…. He was assigned a grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death… Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days…. After he has suffered he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by knowledge of him my righteous servant will justify many…”

 In Daniel chapter 29 v 24 – 27 there is another remarkable prophesy of the coming of a Messiah/anointed saviour. Like Isaiah’s suffering servant he is killed for the sins of others and makes atonement for them. But that is not the most remarkable bit. Many who have carefully studied the text interpret this as predicting the exact year that this Messiah would be revealed then killed. 476 years (490 Hebrew years) after the decree was given to rebuild Jerusalem and its walls. This would be King Artaxerxes’ decree to Nehemiah to rebuild the city’s walls (Nehemiah 2:1-8). That decree was issued in the year 445 BC. 476 years later gets us to 32 AD- pretty much our best guess for the year of Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem and his crucifixion one week later.            
 (See e.g.   )                                                  

To be continued….