Tuesday, 21st March, 2023

[Day 1100]

Today is the first day of Spring and it did not feel particularly spring-like as there was a bit of a blustery wind coupled with some pale sunshine. Nonetheless, one gets the feeling that the year is definitely ‘on the turn’ as the various flowering cherry trees are on the verge of bursting out all over. Meg and I were looking forward to what our local Waitrose staff call the ‘Tuesday morning glee club’ which is a fairly accurate description. We were delighted to meet up with two of our pre-pandemic friends in what is looking like a regular Tuesday morning fixture and we exchanged gossip on a variety of topics until it was time for us to do our little bits of shopping and then go on our way. When we got home, I ensure that Meg had her fair supply of food, drink and medicines before I changed into my Pilates gear and walked down into town. The class went as normal with only three class members altogether but we had a relaxation period at the end of our session as we typically do half way through and at the end of our six weekly group of lessons. Getting home in a blustery wind proved a little troublesome as I was manipulating a rucksack, my Pilates mat, my hat and two light bags of shopping but all’s well that ends well. When I got home I prepared my typical Tuesday lunch of fishcakes and quick-cook vegetables and then settled down for a newspaper read and a rest.

The Boris Johnson dossier has at last been published so now the battle lines are drawn for the mammoth committee meeting tomorrow afternoon. In the dossier there is an admission that Parliament was misled but the whole thrust of the Johnson defense is that this was not done knowingly or recklessly and that all his statements were made ‘in good faith’ It is also argued that he always followed the advice offered to him and to suggest otherwise is to impugn the integrity of anyone who advised him. As Johnson himself argues in his written evidence to the committee, published today, it was ‘unprecedented and absurd’ to claim that relying on assurances from ‘trusted advisers’ was ‘in some way reckless’. So the stage is well and truly set for a piece of remarkable political theatre which will occupy our TV screens for about four hours tomorrow afternoon, starting at 2.00pm. No doubt, each side is incredibly well rehearsed and all of the arguments are well known by now but will there be one damning moment of truth revealed tomorrow afternoon? We shall all have to wait and see.

The Johnson affair was totally outshadowed this morning by the Casey report into the Metropolitan Police, whose findings are about as damning as it is possible to be. Baroness Casey was appointed to review the force’s culture and standards after the abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by serving police officer Wayne Couzens, in 2021. During the course of her review, another Met officer, David Carrick, was convicted of a series of rapes, sexual offences and torture of women. The 363-page report condemns the force as institutionally racist, misogynist and homophobic, referencing racist officers and staff, routine sexism, and ‘deep-seated’ homophobia. Some of particular findings of the canteen culture make one’s jaw drop. For example, a fridge which contained samples which were critical for the successful prosecution of rape cases was lost when the fridge was not maintained and the samples were effectively lost. In addition, some of the initiation rites described were enough to turn one’s stomach, such as urinating on new recruits as an initiation ceremony. Young female police cadets were regarded as fair game and as ‘easy conquests’ and hence hd to repel repated advances from fellow officers. Both the Commissioner of the police and also the Home Secretary though have distanced themselves from Baroness Casey’s view that the racism, sexism and homophobia were ‘institutionalised’ and the failure to accept this word may well mean that any root and branch reform of the Met is doomed from the start. The Met was also accused of institutionalised racism at the time of the Stephen Lawrence enquiry (black teenager killed by a white gang decades ago) so nothing much appears to have been learnt in the meantime.

Now that the meeting between Putin and Xi is over, the analysts are busy examining the sequelae of the meeting. The two leaders are both frustrated with America. Putin has felt betrayed by the US for a decade since NATO’s intervention in Libya. President Xi is fed up with America’s decades-long dominance of the world order and eager to replace it with something more congenial to China’s interests. But although there was a lot of carefully orchestrated bonhomie on show between the two leaders, there is now an acknowlegement that Putin is in effect a vassal state of China and that Xi undoubtedly holds all of the aces. There is some evidence that the Russians are seeking a supply of Chinese weapons but the Chinese are sitting on their hands at the moment, conscious that they have to play quite a careful political game, appearing to support Russia but not actually doing very much.