Sunday, 21st May, 2023

[Day 1161]

The spell of bright weather continues and Meg and I got ourselves going, breakfasted and ready for the spate of politics programmes which are the staple for a Sunday morning. Last night, though, after we had been to church in the late afternoon, we had our light tea whilst listening to the second of the Joan Baez CDs that arrived the other day. We knew even more of the tracks on this CD than on the first one and still have the third yet to enjoy. I have done a quick exploration of eBay to see if I can get any of tracks she recorded in Spanish but no luck so far. After we had had our share of politics, we went down into car to collect our Sunday newspaper and then made for the park which we have not visited for a few days now. The weather was really beautiful and the park was reasonably busy, so much so that we had to make a detour to find a bench upon which to sit to have our elevenses. Then it was a case of getting home and preparing the Sunday lunch which always takes a bit of extra time when we are slow cooking a joint as we were this morning. But we made a tasty meal and read the Sunday newspapers getting ready to indulge ourselves this afternoon with a viewing of ‘The Railway Children’ with Jenny Agutter and Bernard Cribbins. The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway where the film was shot have been living of the fame of this film since 1970 when the film was made and the tunnel and one of the stations on the line feature heavily. A sequel and updating was actually released in 2022 but one really has to view the two films in the sequence in which they were made to appreciate the updated version.

Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, is in the news again but for all of the wrong reasons. She was caught speeding when she was Justice Secretary and before she was appointed Home Secretary. Under these circumstances, she was given the choice to either accept the three penalty points on her licence or to avail herself of the alternative which is to undertake a ‘Driver Awareness course’ This is standard practice for all of the ‘normal’ motoring population and many motorists decide to accept the option of attendance at a Driver Awareness course. So far, so good. But Suella Braverman actually asked her civil servants if they would organise a ‘special’ driver awareness course for her on a 1:1 basis so that she should not have to show her face and participate in a group of fellow speeding motorists. The civil servants in question refused as they were being asked to intervene in what is essentially a private matter. Eventually, Suella Braverman accepted the points on her licence and paid the fine and this is what the Home Office and supportive MPs have been saying since the story broke on the front covers of the Sunday Times. But the fact remains that a senior member of the government attempted to use the civil service in an entirely illegitimate way. Opposition MPs have been been clamouring that this displays the mindset, not unknown in this Conservative administration, that there is ‘one rule for us, another rule for the rest of us’ The Opposition are demanding that Rishi Sunak refers this conduct to the recently appointed ethics adviser, Sir Laurie Magnus, the City grandee appointed as his adviser on the ministerial code. At first blush , this would seem to be an open and shut case of breaching the ministerial code but of course Rishi Sunak may decide not to refer the case to his ethics adviser. However, Suella Braverman is going to be in for a hot time in the next few days. Tomorrow, it just happens to the ‘Questions to the Home Secretary’ in the Commons and one can imagine a long queue of Labour MP’s all demanding that more transparency is required. On Thursday, the latest figures for legal migration are due to be issued and the word on the street is that these figures will prove highly embarrassing to the government as they may well top 700,000. It used to be Conservative party policy to attempt to reduce legal immigration to tens of thousands per year but the Thursday figures may a total seven times as high. The government will argue that offering entrance to the UK to the citizens of Hong Kong and the Ukraine account for some of he increase. But there is a particular irony that the government’s argument in the Brexit debate that they were going to ‘take back control’ (with the implicit asumption that this was meant to radically reduce immigration) is not borne out by the figures. This is likely to infuriate the Tory right wing and probably all of those who thought that Brexit was all about reducing immigration. So far, Rishi Sunak has not risen to a public defence of his Home Secretary and one can only imagine that, in private, he is getting irritated by her being constantly in the news for the wrong reasons but has not committed a transgression severe enough that means that he could sack her on the spot, which he probably would feel inclined to do.