Sunday, 19th March, 2023

[Day 1098]

Today proved to be an interesting day for a variety of reasons. After listening to the obligatory Lorna Kuenssberg politics programme whilst having our Sunday morning breakfast on our knees (a Sunday morning ritual), we were in two minds about our Sunday morning excursion. One option was to prepare a flask of coffee and go the park if the weather was quite fine whereas the second option was to frequent Waitrose. Our dilemma was solved for us by a timely telephone call from our University of Birmingham friend inviting us to meet with him at Waitrose which invitation we readily accepted. Altogether we spent a couple of hours in each other’s company and one of the topics of conversation was to the extent to which languages with which we are familiar have words within them that are not susceptible to a ready translation whereas some other popular exressions may well be misinterpreted. The prime example of the former concept is the German word ‘schadenfreude’ whih is best rendered into English by the phrase ‘a malicious delight in other persons misfortune’. The second instance we heard on the TV the other day when the French president Macron met with Rishi Sunak and called him ‘mon cher ami’ A literal transation of this, word by word, would be ‘my dear friend’ which would apper to imply some degree of intimacy which should not be conveyed by the words. A good translator would translate ‘mon cher ami’ as ‘my good friend’ which could well be used by friends all over the world. And, of course, the example sprang to my mind when one of our former Spanish students asked us what the English equivaent was of the political concept ‘coup d’etat’ only be told that we use the French phrase in English as we do not have an exact equivalence. By the time we got home, it was all rather late to cook our chicken legs which I always prefer to be well-done to keep any potential salmonella infection at bay, so we raided the freezer for a quiche which we had instead with carrots glazed with honey and some broccoli.

After lunch, I sat and read the Sunday newspapers at my leisure but we had on in the background the classic film, Brief Encounter, shot in black and white in February, 1944 (i.e. before the end of WW2) but premiered in November after the war was over. Whilst I listened to the dialogue in the background, eventually I allowed myself to watch the last fifteen minutes which are emotionally intense and riveting. I think critics will argue for years about the characters and the scenarios captured within the film but I will admit that it is always worth watching from time to time, even if it has been seen before. We have a good prospect of natural history films, not to mention Rugby catchup, which is going to keep our attention until well on into the evening. One way or another, the Ireland vs. England match did not get recorded on our PVR yesterday afternoon so I will enjoy the summary a day later.

All eyes will be on Westminster on Wednesday afternoon when Boris Johnson will appear live before the Committee on Privileges. The interesting question is whether Boris Johnson, in David Cameron’s words, will eventually escape ‘like a greased piglet’. First of all, this committee has already, in an interim report, concluded that Johnson ‘probably’ misled the House of Commons i.e. lied. But Johnson is Houdini-like in his ability to escape from almost impossible political situations. He is likely to be helped by the fact that Sir David Pannick, a top lawyer funded by us, the taxpayers, has produced a large dossier with several counterclaims. The Sunday Times reported he will point to a series of previously undisclosed WhatsApp messages from senior civil servants and members of his No 10 team showing that he had relied upon their advice when he made his statements to Parliament. He will also publish messages which show that other senior figures in Downing Street believed the gatherings were covered by the ‘workplace exemption’ in the lockdown rules. By itself, this may be enough to allow Johnson to escape. An important actor is not whether Johnson misled the House of Commons (which he did) but whether he ‘knowingly’ misled and this is incrediby hard to prove. The committee may try to have it both ways by finding Johnon guilty, as it were, but by issuing sanctions which fall short of the expulsion for the number of days necessary to trigger a potential recall by the electorate. I still think that on the balance of probabilities, that this will be the most likely outcome.

We may be on the verge of another banking crisis. Credit Suisse is being taken over by UBS, another giant Swiss banking group, but given the inter-connectedness of the banking sector, one always gets the feeling that there are several other banks feeling the pressure but keeping their heads under the radar as it were. A number of small banks in the USA have already gone under but once a contagion starts and investors in banks panic, where does it all end? I fear that there is quite a lot more to this crisis that the authorities are desperately trying to contain.