A journey into Scientology

Currently much talked about and argued over in the media, Kenneth Eckerersley explains how he came t

I was born in 1927 and started my religious life in the Church of England, as a member of Sunday School and the choir. I joined the Cubs, then the Scouts and after serving in the Royal Navy, became a Scoutmaster. Work with the Old People’s Welfare Association and Road Safety Committee led to my joining the District Council and to later serving on the Magistrate’s Bench until my job moved me into Europe.

In 1950 I read the book: DIANETICS: The Modern Science of Mental Health, and was fascinated by the way in which that research related to the world around me, and how I could directly put it into practice in my life, to help myself and others. Later when Ron Hubbard’s discovery that man is basically good and is seeking to survive as a spiritual being led to the development of Scientology, it became clear to many of his students that his researches and writings were in fact in the field of religion. Hence the first Churches of Scientology were formed.

Insofar as this new religion validated man’s spiritual nature it also confirmed earlier beliefs, and I soon found myself with a circle of friends from a wide range of other religions who, like me, recognised that Scientology complemented the beliefs of people of goodwill and provided a common set of values, as well as being the religion of choice for many who earlier had professed no belief.

These values included beliefs held by all Scientologists as part of their Creed. The principles in that Creed have become personal certainties for me and I now hold them as an important part of my life.

Miracle-like experiences brought by Scientology to my brother and my wife I shall describe in a later post, but for myself the main results of my study of Hubbard’s works have been twofold

Firstly, I now have an unassailable good natured and cheerful certainty in myself. A quiet confidence that nothing can really trouble me for more than a short time because I know that I will quickly find a solution. I find that that certainty and self-confidence play themselves out in my life.

Secondly, because I personally feel at peace with myself, I am able to observe and give attention to the plight of our communities and the individuals within those communities, and this has resulted in a daily desire to help others in a wide variety of ways.

Sometimes the help is financial, but mainly it is hands on: making full use of the various skills I have learnt in Scientology. Helping addicts recover from drugs or alcohol. Helping the recently bereaved recover from their loss. Helping those in physical pain understand and overcome it. Helping those in fear or other painful emotion deal with it and recover. And what do you know? As I help others - with no real additional effort - my own life and quality of survival blossoms more and more as my friends increase in number and rise towards their own certainties.

In later posts I shall discuss Scientology and my family, the groups to which I belong, mankind, other life forms, the physical and spiritual universes, belief in a Supreme Being and why Scientology has been attacked.

Kenneth Eckersley is active in the Church of Scientology, and is a former Magistrate and Justice of the Peace.
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Why are boundary changes bad for Labour?

New boundaries, a smaller House of Commons and the shift to individual electoral registration all tilt the electoral battlefield further towards the Conservatives. Why?

The government has confirmed it will push ahead with plans to reduce the House of Commons to 600 seats from 650.  Why is that such bad news for the Labour Party? 

The damage is twofold. The switch to individual electoral registration will hurt Labour more than its rivals. . Constituency boundaries in Britain are drawn on registered electors, not by population - the average seat has around 70,000 voters but a population of 90,000, although there are significant variations within that. On the whole, at present, Labour MPs tend to have seats with fewer voters than their Conservative counterparts. These changes were halted by the Liberal Democrats in the coalition years but are now back on course.

The new, 600-member constituencies will all but eliminate those variations on mainland Britain, although the Isle of Wight, and the Scottish island constituencies will remain special cases. The net effect will be to reduce the number of Labour seats - and to make the remaining seats more marginal. (Of the 50 seats that would have been eradicated had the 2013 review taken place, 35 were held by Labour, including deputy leader Tom Watson's seat of West Bromwich East.)

Why will Labour seats become more marginal? For the most part, as seats expand, they will take on increasing numbers of suburban and rural voters, who tend to vote Conservative. The city of Leicester is a good example: currently the city sends three Labour MPs to Westminster, each with large majorities. Under boundary changes, all three could become more marginal as they take on more wards from the surrounding county. Liz Kendall's Leicester West seat is likely to have a particularly large influx of Tory voters, turning the seat - a Labour stronghold since 1945 - into a marginal. 

The pattern is fairly consistent throughout the United Kingdom - Labour safe seats either vanishing or becoming marginal or even Tory seats. On Merseyside, three seats - Frank Field's Birkenhead, a Labour seat since 1950, and two marginal Labour held seats, Wirral South and Wirral West - will become two: a safe Labour seat, and a safe Conservative seat on the Wirral. Lillian Greenwood, the Shadow Transport Secretary, would see her Nottingham seat take more of the Nottinghamshire countryside, becoming a Conservative-held marginal. 

The traffic - at least in the 2013 review - was not entirely one-way. Jane Ellison, the Tory MP for Battersea, would find herself fighting a seat with a notional Labour majority of just under 3,000, as opposed to her current majority of close to 8,000. 

But the net effect of the boundary review and the shrinking of the size of the House of Commons would be to the advantage of the Conservatives. If the 2015 election had been held using the 2013 boundaries, the Tories would have a majority of 22 – and Labour would have just 216 seats against 232 now.

It may be, however, that Labour dodges a bullet – because while the boundary changes would have given the Conservatives a bigger majority, they would have significantly fewer MPs – down to 311 from 330, a loss of 19 members of Parliament. Although the whips are attempting to steady the nerves of backbenchers about the potential loss of their seats, that the number of Conservative MPs who face involuntary retirement due to boundary changes is bigger than the party’s parliamentary majority may force a U-Turn.

That said, Labour’s relatively weak electoral showing may calm jittery Tory MPs. Two months into Ed Miliband’s leadership, Labour averaged 39 per cent in the polls. They got 31 per cent of the vote in 2015. Two months into Tony Blair’s leadership, Labour were on 53 per cent of the vote. They got 43 per cent of the vote. A month and a half into Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Labour is on 31 per cent of the vote.  A Blair-style drop of ten points would see the Tories net 388 seats under the new boundaries, with Labour on 131. A smaller Miliband-style drop would give the Conservatives 364, and leave Labour with 153 MPs.  

On Labour’s current trajectory, Tory MPs who lose out due to boundary changes may feel comfortable in their chances of picking up a seat elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog. He usually writes about politics.