Sunday, 22nd January, 2023

[Day 1042]

The weather was supposed to be getting a trifle less cold this morning but it seemed to maintain the pattern of the past few days. I got up early as I typically do on a Sunday and then walked down into town. I was greeted by the most magnificent of layered sunrises, so much so that I succumbed to the temptation to take a photo and a video of the panoramic sky. But whether the full beauty of the different layers of colour can be appreciated in a photo, I cannot tell. The cold morning was punctuated by four ambulances, one jogger and one intrepid dogwalker, after which I was glad to get home to watch the Laura Kuennsberg (Politics) programme. For once, I thought that Laura Kuennsberg was relatively penetrating and persistent in her questionning of James Cleverley, the Foreign Secretary, who had been despatched across the airwaves knowing that much of the questionning was going to be on the subject of Nadhim Zahawi, the Conservative party chairman. The story of Zahawi’s tax affairs goes back quite a long way and there have long been persistent rumours that he was under investagtion by HMRC for a large underpayment of tax. The latest facts, insofar as they can be ascertained, is that Zahawi owed a tax bill of £3 million and paid a penalty of over 30% making a total payment to HMRC of practically £5 million. The story of this tax avoidance (which is what it appears to be) is tangled but it involves the distribution of shares between Nadhim Zahawi and his father, the subsequent appearance of £99,000 and and an off-shore account in Gibraltar. The MSM (Main Street Media) have restricted themselves to the reporting of facts as admitted by Zahawi himself but the contributors to Twitter have no such inhibitions and several other facets of the affair have received a good airing. According to these accounts, Zahawi should have paid tax on a total of £17 million. When other journalists and commentators have tried to pursue this story, Zahawi’s lawyers have threatened them by the issue of a libel writ (a favourite device used by the rich and powerful when they are trying to prevent full disclosure of their affairs) Another rumour is that Zahawi was on line for a knighthood but the Cabinet Office advised against this because of the ongoing rumours about his tax affairs. From the viewpoint of the members of the public, we have a situation in which the Chancellor of the Exchequeur, ‘de facto’ head of HMRC (His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) is investigating a department of which he is the titular head. But another financial type scandal has also broken in the last day. It appears that the person appointed as head of the BBC also acted as a ‘contact’ person to help arrange of loan to Boris Johnson of some £800,000 when Johnson was running into financial difficulties. Although it is being mooted that the Chairman of the BBC was the best applicant for the job at the time, the proximity of helping to arrange a huge financial loan to the Prime Minister and shortly afterwards being appointed Chairman of the BBC is noteworthy. The shadow culture secretary, Lucy Powell, has written to the Commissioner for Public Appointments, William Shawcross CVO, asking him to investigate the appointment process. Meanwhile for us bystanders there is an enormous air of sleaze hanging over the present Conservative party and one wonders whether Zahawi, for one, will survive as long as Wednesday which is the day for Prime Minister’s Questions. Of course, the whole premiership of Rishi Sunak himself which pledged high ethical standards and a professional deportment from his ministers is seen to be so much empty rhetoric as these scandals swirl around him.

Today has been a quiet day for Meg and I. We were not particularly tempted to go for a constitutional walk today as a freezing fog was still in some evidence. In addition, our University of Birmingham friend sent me a message to the effect that he had a heavy cold and did not want to inflict it upon us. So we stayed in and had a leisurely lunch of some unsmoked gammon which had cooked for several hours in the slow cooker this morning. The afternoon was devoted to a leisurely reading of the Sunday newspapers and a viewing of ‘Endeavour’ on ITVX (the new name for the ITV hub). Tomorrow morning, I suspect that Meg and I need to make a little foray along the High Street in search of a condolence card for our next door neighbours. They have recently had a bereavement of a brother and this comes hard on the heels of another family member who died about a fortnight ago. This remnded me of a terrible year which we had some years ago in which there were about eight bereavements in almost a few months but these were people unrelated to each other and in various parts of the country. Our close friends from down the Kidderminster Road were also setting forth today for a funeral tomorrow down in London so it is one just wishes that all of these individuals has a relatively peaceful end (and for which in my teenage years we used to pray for a ‘good end’ without fully appeciating what was meant by the phrase).