Thursday, 4th May, 2023

[Day 1144]

Today the nation is voting in the local elections but there are many indications that today’s vote may well be a mini general election as so many council seats are up for election in 230 out of 317 councils across the country. As an election junkie, I will stay up for an hour or so until some kind of trend is established but some councils are only starting to count on Friday morning. So many of the more interesting results will probably emerge in the course of tomorrow rather than this evening. Being a Thursday, I got to the supermarket in plenty of time and was home just after 9am leaving Meg in bed and fast asleep whilst I shopped. After Meg and I breakfasted, one of our phone calls from yesterday was returned to us this morning and I needed to get some documentation examined and signed where necessary to hand in to our solicitor this morning. This took us most of the morning, so we enjoyed our elevenses at home and then made ourselves a quickie lunch with some of the leftovers from yesterday which now formed the basis of a curry. Straight after lunch, I made a lightning visit down to the solicitors to hand over some documents together with an explanatory letter and then looked forward to a quiet afternoon marking time, really, until the election results start to unfold this evening.

We are full into the pre-coronation welter of splurge at the moment and the media are full of interviews of people who have been rehearsing, reminisciencies of the coronation of 70 years ago, archive film of the same in 1953, interviews with ladies-in-waiting 70 years later and so on and so on. In some ways, one will be glad when it is all over as we are already in full information overload with all of this. According to newspaper accounts in ‘The Times‘, however, there are going to be several far-out Republican groups who are determined to make their prsence felt but, so far, not to disrupt the proceedings themselves. The Police have been given special powers to immediately smother any kind of protest that might occur and I suppose they will not hesitate to use them at the first sign of any disturbance. One can already discern elements of what the Romans used to call ‘bread and circuses’. Roman society was often threatened with disruption by the have-nots of Roman society (the plebeans) as most of the actual political power was concentrated in the hands of the patrician class. In order to stave off incipient revolts, a policy emerged of ‘bread and circuses’ The ‘bread’, to which the Roman poet and satirist Juvenal refers, was the free monthly grain dole that citizens of the capital city were eligible to collect, and the ‘circuses’ which were violent public spectacles, such as gladiator games in the amphitheatre and chariot races staged in the enormous racetrack called the Circus Maximus. So the term ‘bread and circuses’ means a policy of givng a few handouts on a societal level (a few budget handouts just before a general election) followed by any opportunity for a diverting public display (a royal wedding, funeral or coronation) to keep the population quiescent and leave power in the hands of the traditional rulers. The concept of ‘bread and circuses’ is probably being used, consciously or not, in most political systems and regimes throughout the world.

News has emerged this afternoon from what is sometimes known as ‘the other side of the pond’ or the United States. The former leader of far-right group the Proud Boys has been convicted of orchestrating a plot to attack the US Capitol on 6 January 2021. The attack led to members of the group storming the building after Joe Biden was officially confirmed as the next president. The leader of the Proud Boys along with three other members of the group, were found guilty of seditious conspiracy – which is conspiring against the legitimacy of the state. During the election campaign, Donald Trump spoke directly to the Proud Boys, known as a militant, gun-carrying group, telling them to ‘stand back and stand by’. This is quite an important conviction although it is by no means the first. There are still some political commentators in the US who think that another attack on th Capital building is not inconceivable as there is a proliferation of armed, right wing groups who have been enouraged by right wing media outlets such as Fox News to suspect that another attack on the Capitol building cannot be ruled out.

A remininiscence now about elections. My mother, as a local government employee, used to love the opportunity when elections were held to earn a bit of extra money as a poll clerk. As a very young boy, I was instructed, if I wished to make contact with my mother after school, to ask the policeman at the door of the polling station if I could talk with the poll clerk. Instead I asked to speak with the ‘pole cat’ whereupon the policeman burst out laughing (but I could not understand why) My mother insisted on exercising her right to vote even when she was in a residential home but this proved difficult to organise on occasions (but she rightly, insisted that she be allowed to vote)