Wednesday, 11th January, 2023

[Day 1031]

Exactly as the weather forecasters had predicted, today was a showery and blustery type of day which was unpleasant enough without being thoroughly miserable. Our domestic help calls around on a Wednesday so we always have a good chat after the obligatory cup of tea as soon as she arrived. She had bought us some extra Christmas baubles with which to decorate the tree again next year so we need to put them away in the loft adjacent to all of the other Christmas paraphernalia. Eventually, and a little bit late, Meg and I decided to make up a flask of coffee and make our way to the park, sitting on our usual bench. The park was practically deserted and although the sky seemed sunny enough when we set off, by the time we were sitting on our bench it was pretty cold and unpleasant. So we drank up our coffee fairly quickly and decided to beat a hasty retreat to home where we regaled ourself with a cup of chicken soup which is always a good way to warm up and fill the gap before we cook lunch. This was a simple affair of quiche, white cabbage and a tomato+onion mixture which was actually quite tasty. Later in the day, some much delayed purchases arrived from ebay, originally scheduled for last Saturday but only actually arriving today.

In the Commons, a very prominent Brexiteer (and hard right winger) has lost the Conservative whip i.e. been suspended. Prominent backbencher Andrew Bridgen is no longer a Conservative MP after he compared the COVID vaccine to the Holocaust. Mr Bridgen claimed COVID vaccines ‘are causing serious harms’ and said the programme was ‘the biggest crime against humanity since the Holocaust’. This statement has been condemned on all sides of the House so although he has been making anti-vaccination comments for some time, now it is evident that he has crossed the line of acceptability. Andrew Bridgen was the MP who led the fight against Theresa May’s attempts to reach a workable Brexit solution and is generally regarded as the moving force behind installing the hardest of Brexists possible, going far beyond that which was actually required to follow the wishes of the electorate as expressed in the referendum. What I think is interesting is the way that loud-mouthed self-opiniated populists such as Andrew Bridgen ever got elected to the House of Commons in the first place and should be allowed to wield the degree of political influence that they have. It seems remarkable that any MP could put himself at odds with the whole of the scientific community and then deny the evidence that thousands of lives have been saved by vaccines all over the world. To try to be fair to the MP, he must have a logic or a line of reasoning to come to the conclusions that he has but on the face of it, it seems to be a bizarre and extraordinary outburst and expelling him from the Tory party seems the only cause of action. One wonders whether the existing PM is actually quite glad to get rid of one of the coterie of extreme right wingers who have wrought so much damage on the country (and who John Major once in a famous outburst publically called ‘the bastards’ and then faced them down with a ‘back me or sack me’ election to cement hs own position as Prime Minister).

A huge statistical argument has been rumbling on for the last few days concerning the number of ‘excess deaths’ that are are being recorded over recent months. The College of Emergency Medicine has put out the figure that between 300-500 people a week (more than the average death rate per week) are dying but this figure is hotly disputed by the government (I wonder why?) Most independent data analysts are doing their own calculations and these are largely supportive of the figures published by the medics themselves whilst The Times this morning, in their headline figure, suggested that excess deaths may actually be nearer to 1,000. The reasons are not hard to see as during the COVID pandemic there was a huge backlog of undiagnosed and untreated conditions that are now coming to their grim conclusion. In addition, the enormous pressures that hospitals are now facing including waits in ambulances sometimes exceeding 24 hours almost inevitably are taking their toll on the population. These figures roughly approximate to a jumbo jet or a trainful of people dying every week – what is perhaps surprising is the absence of a huge outcry over the implications of these figures. Steven Barclay, the Health Secretary, has admitted that the situation of perhaps 50,000 excess deaths in 2022 is ‘extremely concerning’ but will only admit to the fact that the situation is very difficult to analyse (true!) and that other European countries are also experiencing post-pandemic excess deaths. But at the end of the day, it does look as though the pandemic on top of years of underfunding has contributed, as The Times has argued today, towards the worst excess deaths totals since 1951.