Saturday, 11th February, 2023

[Day 1062]

Today we slept in a little late for reasons that I cannot fully explain but it is a Saturday and we were not due to meet anybody in particular. Nonetheless, we picked up our copy of the newspaper (even though ‘The Guardian’ was handed to us by mistake but we did not realise that until we got home) We decided to visit the park today as the weather was quite mild and we do not seem to have visited the park for a few days. As we were leaving the park, one of the ‘park regulars’ who knows us by sight enquired after a fellow park regular that neither of us had seen for a week or so now. This is Intrepid Octogenerian Hiker who, in his late 80’s, always managed a walk of about 8-9 kilometers per day, aided by his walking stick. We have not been in the park quite as much recently whilst the weather has been rather icy but we trust that our acquaintance has not been ill in the meantime. When we got home, it was a case of a simple lunch of some ham, cabbage, baked potato and cooked tomato but although this seems a simple meal, nonetheless we enjoyed it greatly. We had a bit of a rush round to get everything washed up and our post-prandial cup of tea made before the Ireland-France rugby match which may well be ‘the’ match of the series as these two teams are regarded as No 1 and No 2 in the world at the moment. The match proved to be what in the headline writer’s vocabulary might be described as ‘scintilating’ or ‘pulsating’. The Irish ran out as the winners in the end but the levels of skill and commitment showed by each side were exemplary and for the Irish in particular, the win must have been especially sweet because as well as the tries that they did score, they got the ball over the line on two further occasions only for the try not to count as a French thigh (the same in each case) prevented the ball being ‘grounded’ and hence a no-try is the inevitable result. The refereee was Wayne Barnes of England and I think that he played a ‘blinder’ in getting all of the major refereeing decisions completely correct (in my view) We shall watch the first half of the Scotland-Wales match before we go to church later on this afternoon and hope that the technology recording ‘series record’ is going to do its bit so that we can watch the second half of the match this afternoon.

Once we had returned from church and had our traditional bowl of soup upon our return, we turned our attention to our PVR to see the second half of the Wales v Scotland match. For some reason which I cannot explain, every other match in the series seems to have been recorded or are scheduled to record apart from this one. So I changed tack and managed to get the whole of the second half via BBC-iplayer. Needless to say, once I got this located and then running, we ran into our buffering problem with the Firestick but I know how to cure this so it was the typical 3 minutes or so of delay until we got going again. Tomorrow will be England v Italy and this should prove to be no pushover for England as somewhat more intelligent play from Italy could well have created a victory over France last weekend.

There is a certain mount of informed speculation that we are seeing some interesting trends in the recent by-elections that have been held recently. In the last of these held in West Lancashire this week, the Labour Party pushed up its share of the vote to 62% whilst the Conservative share slumped to 25%. These results can tell us what we might expect in the local elections this May. To become the largest party of local government in England for the first time in 20 years, Labour must pick up 500 council seats. To dodge a crushing defeat, the Conservatives must lose hundreds not thousands. The local elections are to be held in May and the latest by-elections are the best predictor for what the local results are likely to be. The point is often made that by- elections are no predictor to any forthcoming general election and indeed, people may vote differently at the local level to their vote in a general election. But there is an interesting ‘twist’ to local election results. This is that the local party is likely to be energised by a good local result and hence a victorious local party is likely to have a goodly band of motivated and enthused supporters ready for the forthcoming general election contest. On the other hand, local parties who have just lost many of their local counsellors are likely to be demotivated and lacking the raw number to put supporters on the ground. So it could be that the connection between local results and national results is somewhat more complicated than the conventional political wisdom would indicate. Moreover, since Rishi Sunak became PM, the average Labour poll lead over the Conservative Party has been 21.5 points.