Vicar of Dibley and Other News

You can tell that it is the mid-summer ‘silly season’, when hard news is more difficult to come by, if BRIN has to lead a post on the fictional sitcom The Vicar of Dibley! However, we also find space for eight other religious statistical stories, including three touching on Jewish themes.

Television comedies

The Vicar of Dibley, the BBC’s religious sitcom which aired originally from 1994 to 2007, and starred Dawn French as Revd Geraldine Granger, first-generation Anglican woman priest, is the most popular of 28 post-2000 British television comedies, according to YouGov research published on 6 August 2013 (with 1,684 adults interviewed online on 4-5 August). It was rated as best comedy programme by 27% of Britons, beating Mrs Brown’s Boys into second place (25%). The Vicar of Dibley is most popular with the over-60s (42%) but also does well (taking a third of the vote) with the politically right-leaning (Conservative and UKIP supporters) and residents of southern England (outside London) and of the Midlands, the latter perhaps reflecting the fact that the programme is set in a fictional Oxfordshire village. The Vicar of Dibley is least favoured (17-18%) among the under-40s and Londoners. By contrast, Rev, starring Tom Hollander as Revd Adam Smallbone, incumbent of an inner-city Anglican parish in East London, and whose third series will be broadcast by the BBC in 2014, ranks in 21st position, with just 3% of the vote (including 5% of Londoners and over-60s). The full table is at:

Alternative Queen’s Speech, II

In our last post, on 17 July 2013, we covered a poll by Lord Ashcroft about the ‘Alternative Queen’s Speech’, a raft of 40 Bills proposed by backbench Conservative MPs. One of the measures was a Face Coverings (Prohibition) Bill, which would make it illegal to wear face coverings in public, including the burka, thereby implicitly targeting Muslims. Public attitudes to this measure have also been sounded out by Opinium Research, who interviewed online on 25-28 June 2013 a sample of 1,650 British adults who said they were likely to vote in an imminent general election. Of these, 62% supported a law prohibiting the wearing of face coverings, peaking at 69% of Conservatives, 83% of UKIP voters, and 73% of over-55s. Opposition averaged 20% but rose to 34% among 18-34s. Full results have been posted at:


The Second Coming of Jesus Christ is the event least expected to occur before 2070, according to a YouGov poll for The Times, conducted online on 22-23 July 2013 among 1,968 adults aged 18 and over. Shown a sub-set of 20 predictions randomly drawn from the full list of 39, only 4% anticipated that Christ would definitely or probably return to earth by 2070, with no major demographic variations. This was similar to the 3% anticipating the Second Coming before 2050 in another YouGov study in August 2010. Respondents in the current survey were also relatively sceptical about the likelihood of making contact with aliens by 2070 (15%) but more hopeful of finding evidence of life elsewhere in the universe (42%). The most predicted occurrence was that most Britons would have to work into their 70s before retiring (83%). The data table was released on 26 July 2013 and is at:


The Times for 2 August 2013 highlighted the findings from a recent poll of UK adults commissioned by search engine Ask Jeeves to establish the extent to which people make major u-turns in their lives. Nearly half the population admitted to having changed their minds about important issues. On religion, 7% claimed to have switched their religious beliefs, while 11% of men and 8% of women had moved from being believers in God to describing themselves as atheists (slightly offset by the 2% who had moved in the opposite direction). BRIN has not been able to locate a fuller report of the survey on the internet and has contacted the PR department of Ask Jeeves for further details.

Wonga and the Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s embarrassment at the revelation that the Church of England has been indirectly investing in Wonga, the online payday lender which he has been publicly criticizing, was the fifth most-followed news story during the week in which it broke, according to research published by Opinium on 5 August 2013. Of the 2,002 UK adults aged 18 and over interviewed online between 30 July and 1 August 2013, 46% claimed to have followed the Archbishop/Wonga story, the top news items being the Spanish rail-crash (68%) and the naming of the royal baby (62%). See Opinium’s blog at:

Beyond Sundays

Beyond Sundays: How the Church of England is Helping Communities in the Diocese of London, published on 19 July 2013, seeks to quantify Anglican social capital in the Diocese. The value of activities, staff, and volunteer time is estimated at £33 million annually, even without taking into account that churches also supply their own buildings and spaces to host 89% of community projects. The number of such projects is around 1,000, involving 10,000 volunteers, and benefiting 200,000 Londoners each year. In addition, churches raise £17 million annually to carry out these initiatives. Children and family and youth are the main people groups supported. The report, mostly a series of case studies, is at:

Jewish demography

In an apparent reversal of a long-term trend, the Jewish population of England and Wales is now getting younger, according to the Institute for Jewish Policy Research’s third report on the 2011 religion census, published on 23 July 2013. The median age of Jews reduced from 43 in 2001 to 41 in 2011, albeit the latter is still above the national figure of 39 years and well above the Muslim statistic of 25 years (Christians had the highest median age – 45 – in 2011). The proportion of Jews aged 21 and above dropped by more than one percentage point between the two censuses, although Jews still record the highest proportion of people aged 85 and over. This rejuvenation process reflects growth in the Strictly Orthodox Jewish community (haredim) since the early 1990s, mainly as a result of its very high birth rate. The average age of haredi Jews is estimated at 27 and of non-haredi at 44, with haredim accounting for 22% of Jews under 5 years in 2001 and 29% in 2011. David Graham, 2011 Census Results (England and Wales): A Tale of Two Jewish Populations can be found at:

Anti-Semitic incidents

There were 30% fewer UK anti-Semitic incidents reported to the Community Security Trust during the first six months of 2013 compared with the corresponding period in 2012 (219 and 311 respectively). This is the lowest number of incidents recorded during the first half of a year since 2003. The Trust attributes the decline to the lack of a ‘trigger event’ in 2013 equivalent to the terrorist attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse in March 2012. There is a detailed analysis of the data in AntiSemitic Incidents Report, January-June 2013, which was published on 25 July 2013 and is available at:

David Ward and the Jews

David Ward, Lib Dem MP for Bradford East, had the parliamentary party whip withdrawn on 17 July 2013 for a series of comments which were deemed to be anti-Jewish and anti-Israel (a country he described as an ‘apartheid state’), and for which he was unprepared to apologize. The action taken by the party’s leadership prompted the Liberal Democrat Voice website to conduct a poll between 19 and 23 July of the 1,500 paid-up Lib Dem party members registered with its online forum, of whom just over 600 responded. Of these, a majority (53%) opposed the withdrawal of the whip, divided between 37% who supported Ward’s right to speak out and 16% who disagreed with his comments. Just 38% endorsed the removal of the whip, of whom 21% did so as a temporary measure and 17% until Ward apologized. In aggregate, 54% dissented from Ward’s views. The undecided amounted to 8%. Further details are at:


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