Sunday, 7th January, 2024

[Day 1392]

Last night, Meg and I attended a really enjoyable Twelfth Night’ party with our Irish/Anglo-Indian/French friends down the road. There were eight of us altogether which is a very nice number for a party of this type and, at a suitable time in the meal, we all ate a portion of the special cake which our French friend had prepared especially for this occasion. One of our Irish friends found the token hidden inside the cake and so awarded the title of ‘King’ for the night and was allowed to choose his ‘Queen’ (actually his wife) for the night. We had lots of delicious food, much of it traditional to the occasion and so Meg and I went home, well satisfied but some two hours after Meg’s normal bedtime. So we were not unhappy to sleep in a little this morning, particularly as we might have quite a busy day (for us) tomorrow. So after a delayed breakfast, Meg and I got ourselves ready and then popped down to Waitrose for a Sunday morning coffee – we did not expect to see any of our usual friends there on a Sunday morning but no matter. Once we got home, we dined on some chicken thighs, jacket potato and beans and what we had intended to be a scaled down meal after we had been feasting all last night, proved to be a somewhat bigger meal than we thought we would like.

After lunch, we accessed ITVX hoping to see the factual program made by ITV about the Post Office ‘Horizon’ (computer system) scandal but this composite program did not seem to be on offer so Meg and I viewed the last of the four docudrama programs broadcast during the week. This was itself factually based and one of the extraordinary things to emerge after 90+ appeals were made to the Court of Appeal was that of the £56 million awarded by the Court, something like £44 million would accrue to the lawyers (and their ‘funders’) only leaving the claimants with about £20k each which in no way covered their losses of earnings, businesses and so on. But this story continues to evolve and has made the main lead of ‘The Sunday Times‘ this morning. The latest evidence seems to be that over 700 sub postmasters have been sanctioned (some even serving gaol sentences) and a government enquiry is still proceeding. It also appears that the vast majority of the wronged sub postmasters have to appeal to the Post Office with the burden of proof upon themselves that they have been badly treated after which, presumably, they would have to apply to the Court of Appeal to get convictions annulled before we have even started to talk about compensation claims which could take years. Given that this scandal has already taken 20 years to get to this stage, the largest ever miscarriage of justice in the UK, the scene is being set for legal battles for years and years into the future. According to Sky News this afternoon, the government is ‘considering’ shortcutting these procedures but this might take special legislation. I would have thought that the government could have allowed a Private Member’s bill and passed an Act within a day were it to be so minded and certainly the imminence of a general election may concentrate minds. But of course, this might be crowded out by other concerns (the Rwanda scheme, floods etc.) to name just two. Late on this afternoon, I watched part of the Lorna Kuennsberg interview with Rishi Sunak, where the Prime Minister was pressed quite hard over a range of issues, including the truth of the observation that Sunak was initially lukewarm about the Boris Johnson ‘Rwanda’ scheme. Naturally, there was a lot of waffle and obfuscation and I witnessed Kuennsberg do what I wish many more interviewers would do and repeatedly say to their interviewee that they were not answering the question and putting the heart of the question to them again. Of course, we got more deflection, evasion, answering a question that was not asked and every other trick in the book to avoid a direct answer to an embarrassing question. It is no surprise that the population is losing faith with the political process when politicians (all stripes) refuse to answer direct and simple questions that are put to them – and I am sufficiently cynical to imagine things will not change after a change in government.

Living near the top of a fairly small hill, I can only imagine how people feel who live at the bottom of hills where water congregates. The flooding which was predicted to happen only once a decade or so is now happening almost every year and, of course, this is all attributable to climate change. I felt today that people who were suffering traumas in their lives as a result of the recent cost of living crisis and chronic health concerns have got quite enough to cope with without flooding added to their difficulties. But one has to point out that local authorities have bowed to pressure from builders and allowed all kinds of building on land regarded as a flood plain so perhaps we should not be surprised. I wonder to myself whether more work could be done ‘upstream’ so that farmers might allow their land to be flooded when occasion demands (at a cost) so that more major damage was not done downstream.