Tuesday, 23rd May, 2023

[Day 1163]

So Tuesday dawns to our normal set of routines for a Tuesday. After we had breakfasted, Meg and I collected our newspaper and made our way towards Waitrose where we met up with two of Tuesday morning regulars. One of the topics in our conversation was the hardships endured by the population in the immediate aftermath of WW2. The very harsh winter of 1946-47 caused severe hardships in economic terms and living conditions in a country still recovering from the Second World War. Herds of animals either starved or froze to death. Two enduring aspects of this really impinged upon me when I started my primary school in 1950. As the country was so short of absolutely everything, every single crayon allocated to us in the school was cut into two to make them last as long as possible. Another memory that I have is that we had toilets outside the main school building and one needed permission from the form mistress to go to the toilet. She would reach inside her tall desk and reach for the roll of ‘San Izal’ type toilet paper (soft toilet paper only came years later) allocating you either one sheet or two sheets of paper depending upon her assessment of your size and need. Incidentally, the IZAL brand finally ceased production in 2010 after being sold to Jeyes in 1986. We then did a little bit of shopping in the store before returning home.

After donning my kit and walking down to my weekly Pilates class, I returned home shortly before 3.00pm. Then we had our normal lunch of fishcakes and awaited the arrival of our University of Birmingham friend who had asked if he might pop round in the afternoon. This he did and we had a cup of tea and a chat on our outside terrace, perused at all times by Miggles, our adopted cat, who was luxuriatng a little in the afternoon sun having been fed. It was a very pleasant afternoon but sitting outside was a reminder to me how much garden tidying up needed to be done when the opportunity arises.

Some political news that has emerged this afternoon concerns the fate of Dominic Raab, the ex-Deputy Prime Minister, who was forced to resign after a series of bullying accusations against him were found to have some substance. He has decided to leave politics and not contest his seat when the next general election comes arond in about 18 months time. Raab’s once-safe constituency of Esher and Walton in leafy Surrey – which he won by 28,000 votes in 2015 – is now marginal, with a majority of just 2,743. The Lib Dems were completely confident that this seat would easily fall to them but it is an interesting question whether a ‘new’ opponent would be easier to defeat ot not. But what is interesting about the Raab decision is that he is not alone. There are 53 current MPs who have decided not to stand at the next election – of which 36 are current Conservatives, and three are independents who won their seats as Conservatives in 2019. It seems that many Conservatives are resigned to the fact that they will not win the next election and not many of them relish the prospect of 5 years (or even 10 years) in opposition which is the likely fate of the current Conservative party.

Every so often an item is broadcast on the regional news which is shocking in the extreme. Today an item was broadcast about the way across the West Midlands region, food bank contributions are being channelled towards the local primary schools. As half term approaches, so does the prospect that many children who would have been fed at school with a school dinner and also been provided with a breakfast face the prospect of no food in their stomachs over the next week. Some parents must look dread the occurrence of the half term period as childcare may be difficult to organise and they cannot afford to feed their children in any case. Apparently, 320 Tories voted against the extension of free school meals into vacation periods which must be the majority of the parliamentary party. I remember being somewhat shocked when I was very briefly in New York for a conference and saw a big sign in Central Park advertising free food for school kids – even some decades ago, the American school system evidently gave school children some nourishment during the normal school term times but all kinds of ‘ad hoc’ arrangements had to be made, often on a voluntary basis, to ensure that poor (and predominantly black) school children were fed in the summer vacation.

There is some breaking news this evening that Boris Johnson has been referred to the police by the Cabinet Office after his diary showed friends visiting Chequers – the grace and favour home – during the COVID pandemic. This was plainly against the law at the time but, no doubt, Johnson and his supporters wull argue that all of this was work-related activity and therefore lawful. The Lib Dems, however, say that Mr Johnson should ‘consider his position’, and also called for the taxpayer to stop funding his legal defence for the Privileges Committee probe into whether he misled parliament about partygate.