Monday, 14th September, 2020

[Day 182]

Past readers of this blog might know that as well as the WordPress version, I also maintain a parallel text version which, whilst not being indexed ‘per se’, allows interested readers to pick any day/date from the past six months to view the entry for that day (available at: Now that we have had six months of ‘lockdown’ my screen table of entries (7 columns of 26 rows) was now ‘full’ so I busied myself this morning with creating an extra table to follow on from the existing full one (I had tried to extend my previous table by inserting an extra column but this caused some overflow problems so I had to ‘undo’ it all – not particularly easy when there was a mass of HTML code to sort through). However, now is all ready to go so I am shortly to start to populate the second six-months worth of blog. Later in the day, I managed, after trawling the web, to dscover a couple of sites where I could test out the Viewports of a screen (either on a desktop, tablet or mobile) so that I could check out that my amended tables will now display correctly on my various devices without possibility of truncation or scrolling.

On our way down to the park this morning, we met some of our best friends who live ‘down the hill’ and we exchanged news about families, politics and the like. Then having collected our newspapers and done a little shopping in Waitrose, we fell into conversation with a guy who had spent many years in South Africa (and had a slight South African accent) and the subject got around to walking boots. I think this is because having walked down to the park every day for six months (and probably worn my boots for six months longer than that) the soles are starting to wear through (although I must say, they are still supremely comfortable inside). However a point is fast approaching when they will have to be thrown away but I would still like to get as much wear out of them as I can before they absolutely fall to bits. It was quite a warm day so when we eventually got home and to save a bit of time. we made ourselves a salad based around a small Waitrose quiche and that was very filling although rapidly thrown together.

After lunch, I spent some time checking the HTML code which I had needed to tidy up for an extension of the text version of this blog and then Meg and I got absorbed into the debate over the Internal Market Bill which Boris Johnson was going to head up himself. I thought that David Miliband and the SNP leader Ian Blackford made excellent attacking speeches and devastating critiques of the Prime Minister’s position. Altogether quite disheartening, then, that the opposition seemed to win all of the intellectual arguments but the Tories passed the bill this evening with a majority of 77 (which seems incredible). This is after three former Prime Ministers, two former Attorney Generals and a former Tory Leader have all indicated a profound disagreement with the stance of the Conservative party. What may be interesting to observe is what will now happen in the House of Lords (which is largely ‘unwhipped’ i.e. not instructed by party managers how to vote) which is meant to act as a brake on a maverick House of Commons. As all of the ‘Remain’ voting MP’s have now been thrown out of the Tory party or fail to be reselected by their constituency associations) the present Tory party is almost completely a Brexit or UKIP party (in effect, having taken over all of the UKIP party’s policies).

The ‘test-and-trace’ system seems to be in chaos tonight, as I write. As Allyson Pollock, a well-known NHS expert has written “That’s because a key part of it operates not as part of the NHS, but in parallel to it – as a network of commercial, privatised testing labs, drive-through centres and call centres. The chaos this has brought has resulted in huge gaps in the information available to local services, causing delays in accessing results and hampering efforts to control the outbreak. Instead of putting local public health experts and NHS services in charge of contact tracing, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, handed over responsibility to private companies such as the outsourcing giant Serco, which has previously been fined for deaths of workers and members of the public that could have been prevented. The list of problems in the test and trace system is already immense – three data breaches, poor training and faulty online administration systems among them”

Yet despite all this, the Government still hasn’t published the details of its contracts with the likes of Serco. According to the Treasury, £10bn of public money has been allocated to England’s test and trace programme but only £300m of additional funding has been offered to local authorities to support the system (ie.the private sector funded over thirty times as much as the public sector despite the evident failings of the former and the manifest productivity of the latter)