A backbench motion yesterday calling for the disestablishment of the Church of England was allocated the number 666 on the House of Commons early day motions paper , the number of the Antichrist.

Like most backbench motions it failed to be debated but the number allocation was one of those bizarre coincidences.

**Update:** See the related end of day blog stats (looks over shoulder)

Early day motions online

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I am always slightly suspicious of these “coincidences”. It is probably not impossible, when planning to put down a motion, to see what the current number is and if an appropriate one is in the offing, wait for it to come up. Or perhaps whoever organizes motions, deliberately put this one under that number.

Maybe someone is even now preparing a motion on the police force and eagerly awaiting the number 999.

Of course, there are people who actually believe in the influence of the Devil and will see this as a plain sign that the motion was prompted by Satanic powers. They go around, nodding sagely, every time they find a triple six in addresses or telephone numbers. They will no doubt find this one irresistible.

Yes, I must say I thought rather like Silver Tiger. I’m sure these numbers are not allocated at random by computer. But it’s nice to know that someone in the House has a sense of humour at least.

But coincidences happen all the time. And the probability that this might occur, even if it were a random allocation, is probably much higher than any of us would think.

Probability theory is fascinating (to me anyway!). The example I always use with students (who rarely have much of a mathematical background these days), is the birthday one. How many people would you need to have in a room for the statistical probability to be greater than evens for two of them to share a birthday. The number is surprisingly low. Just 23.