Wednesday, 1st March, 2023

[Day 1080]

Today is the day when our domestic help calls around and this is always the opportunity to have a laugh and to catch up on family news. As it still one of these days when the rain seems intermittent, Meg and I waited until we were showered and breakfasted before we decided how to spend the rest of the morning. After consultation with our domestic help, we appreciated that we needed to buy some cleaning products and we also needed to buy some cosmetic products. We decided to limit our activities to a walk along the High Street in Bromsgrove where we popped into a couple of shops to replenish our supplies of toiletries and cleaning products. This having been done, we made for home and had our coffee and biscuits in front of the TV anticipating that we would watch Prime Minister’s Question. We actually got home somewhat later than the start of this but I am not sure that we missed anything of real significance. There is the expression that ‘nothing succeeds like success’ and Rishi Sunak seemed buoyed up by his recent success with the renegotiation of the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol and the enthusiastic support of his supporters in the House of Commons. No doubt, many Tory MPs feel that they have something to cheer about after all of the Tory infighting that has occurred in the last few months and Boris Johnson, so often a seeker after the limelight, has been conspicuous by his silence.

A big story that has broken politically is the release of thousands of WhatsApp messages from the phone of Matt Hancock which suggests that he ignored scientific advice that elderly patients be COVID tested before they were released from hospital and into the care sector. Sky News reports that Matt Hancock allegedly rejected COVID-19 testing advice for residents going into England’s care homes while he was health secretary during the worst of the pandemic, according to a report based on thousands of leaked WhatsApp messages. The Daily Telegraph claims that chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty had told Mr Hancock in April 2020 that there should be testing for ‘all going into care homes and segregation whilst awaiting a result’. But the leaked messages suggest Mr Hancock rejected that advice, telling an aide that the move ‘muddies the waters’, instead introducing mandatory testing just for those coming from hospitals. Today the Hancock camp is claiming that some of the relevant emails were read out of context and that some of the reporting in the Daily Telegraph articles is factually incorrect. The Prime Minister is trying to wash his hands of the whole affair by saying that any investigation of the veracity of these claims should be left to the official inqury into COVID which has only just started. The Daily Telegraph, for its part, is indicating that it has a lot more material that will be released on a sort of drip-feed basis for as long as they feel that the story has currency (and helps to sustain the leadership) From this distance, we can say that the Government was desperate to clear the wards and get elderly people into care homes. We also know that it was too early in the progress of the pandemic for medication to prove its efficacy and, of course, vaccines were still to see the light of day. One gets the feeling that this stpry will run and run, so long as the public are still interested in it. Certainly, the relatives of elderly people who died having contracted COVID from infected patients recently discharged from hospitals into the care sector are unlikely to let the matter rest.

Tonight, Channel 4 reports that after an investigation which they had undertaken, the Acting Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police had used the phrase ‘regretful sex’ when referring to the ways in which rape investigatins are pursued. The individual concerned has made a vehement denial that he had ever used a phrase such as ‘regretful sex’ in one particular meeting a year ago. Two other participants in the meeting have been contacted, one of whom has admitted that the phrase was used whilst another had no recollection of it. So the Channel 4 charge is that there is a massive degree of misogyny embedded in the Met. The whole issue has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and I wonder what kind of evidence they will seek in order to investigate this matter. From the point of view of the outside observer, it is hard to ascertain what has really gone on in this case but what does remain true is that the proportion of accusations of rape that eventually lead to a successfull prosecutions remains abysmally low. In England and Wales, more than 99% of rapes reported to police do not end in a conviction. This is the result of a criminal justice system that makes prosecuting rape extremely rare, lengthy and difficult. This is undoubtedly an area where there is a need for radical improvement but it does appear that statistics for successful prosecution for rape are at an all time low. We are told that the police are taking this crime much more seriously but there is little hard evidence that this is the case.