Saturday, 20th January, 2024

[Day 1405]

Today, Saturday, the weather forecasters are telling us that it is the end of the cold snap so the weather should be considerably improved – but I must say that there was quite an icy wind to add to the windchill factor so the weather still seemed quite cold for us. We made for Waitrose knowing that some of our friends would not be there but we still made contact with the third so we had a pleasant coffee and chat together. Then it was a case of a quick whizz around the shop followed by a cooking of the Saturday lunch (some left over chicken heated up and enhanced by a thick onion gravy which seems the story of my culinary life these days) After lunch, Meg and I had set ourselves a little treat which I did not know how it is going to turn out. On BBC2 earlier in the day they were showing ‘The Pure Hell of St. Trinians‘ and I hoped that we get this on catch-up which we did. We did not know whether this was a sequel to the original ‘Belles’ of St. Trinians made decades ago or the much more recent remake where the schoolgirls were a lot more knowing, not to mention saucy, in keeping with the spirit of the 1970’s or 1980’s. This film was actually a black-and-white film made in the 1950’s I would imagine and was faintly both amusing/ridiculous in equal measure. We watched most of it before deciding that we had had enough of this and thinking that we would turn our attention to other things. One of the little rituals of life is that we wait until 4.00pm and then enjoy our afternoon cup of tea (but Meg is indulged with a chocolate biscuit). We have some things lined up for later on this afternoon and are enjoying a few minutes of relaxation with ClassicFM. They have Alan Titchmarch as a presenter of Saturday afternoons and it is always quite a pleasant selection of classical tracks (not the ‘tumpty-tum’ type music or the Straus walzes which fills the airwaves at less popular times) Then we watched a little more of the Thoams Hardy film of ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles‘ until it was newstime and we left the final quite dramatic scenes for another day. Incidentally, one of the closing scenes in the film shows Tess and her husband cavorting themselves on the stones of the monument of Stnehenge. I, too, when I was on a cycling holiday organised by my school in about 1958, did the same but of course no member of the pubic can get anywhere near the stones of Stonehenge these days (and for good reason)

The news from the Israel:Gaza conflict seems as dire as ever. There is now a direct conflict between the US on the one hand, which is still advocating a 2-states solution, and the government of Benjamin Netanyahu who is publically rejecting the notion of a 2-state solution. Israel has a very ‘pure’ form of proportional representation and I think I am right in sayng that the extreme right wing National Religious Party (or whatever its successor is nowadays) has had a place in every Israel government since the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948. So here we have a form of PR in which a very small tail is wagging a very large dog. I used not to believe in PR but I do so these days but I think it has to be thought about carefully. One solution to the ‘Israel’ type problem is to have a constitutional arrangement to make sure that extreme parties of either the right or the left cannot be invited into the government unless they reach a certain trigger amount (which I believe that Germany does, of about 5%) Another quite innovative solution is to ensure that he party with the most votes/seats is allocated an extra block of seats so that the resultant government has a reasonable working majority. This is to try to ensure that you do not have a situation in which, in a tight electiopn won with only a handful of seats, that certain maverick MPs do not use this ‘fractional’ bargaining power to exert a hold over the direction of policy.

I think the political class is starting to absorb some of the lessons of the Fujitsu/Post Office scandal. Now that it has emerged that Fujitsu witness statements, used by the Post Office as evidence with which to convict some of their own sub postmasters, were ‘doctored’ (i.e. incriminatory evidence removed), I think that it was Fujitsu staff themselves who doctored their own evidence but it may have been the Post Office staff themselves and I shall have to wait for a good detailed piece of investigative reporting (perhaps in the ‘Sunday Times‘ tomorrow) to ascertain where the blame arises. Evidently, the removal of evidence from a witness statement is perjury but can the state ascertain who are the people who thus perjured themselves – after all, they could have retired a decade ago. And if individuals cannot be identified, can ‘perjury’ be laid at the door of a company like Fujitsu itself? None of the precedents (e.g. the perjury committed by some of the Maxwell newsapers in the phone hacking scandal) bodes well for the future.