Thursday, 19th November, 2020

[Day 248]

Today was an interesting day in climate terms. When Meg and I walked down to the park, there was a sharp wind in our faces, with those tiny particles of rain that seem especially cold. It was touch-and-go whether we could sit on a park bench or seek the shelter of the bandstand but the weather abated a little and we availed ourselves of the bench. And then the clouds rolled away under the impact of a moderate breeze and suddenly the sky turned blue and the air seemed incredibly clear. It might have been a combination of the absence of pollution as there are fewer cars on the road, plus a beautiful autumn light and suddenly we had a vista across the park in which all of the colours appeared incredibly sharp. I suppose it was the sort of day that professional landscape photographers love as they can obtain incredibly sharp images – you sometimes get these type of conditions in February with an incredibly clear sky and dense air.

We had no Skype, Zoom or other calls in prospect today so we settled down for a final clearance of the newspapers. At the bottom of the pile of newspapers were two supplements with the latest Good University Guides where I still check the relative positions of De Montfort University (at which I had worked for 26 years) and the University of Winchester (where I worked for 10). They both tend to rise and fall over the years – more latterly, they seem to fall rather than rise. At the very bottom of the pile came a car brochure for the new car which we have just acquired – I allowed myself the luxury of a slow careful read of this as suddenly the words on the page seem to acquire an additional layer of meaning once you actually have the car in your hands, so to speak. In the late afternoon, I fitted the car boot liner I had acquitted a couple of days ago – this had had to be laid flat on my living room to allow the plasticky material to regain its shape after it had been bent in double for the transit. Having said that, it fitted like a dream plus all my other car boot storage boxes are perfectly positioned.

One big political story emerging this evening is the report into the behaviour of Priti Patel, the Home Secretary – she forced the resignation of of her permanent secretary and another senior civil servant had a heart attack whilst he was attempting to work late into the night to comply with an entirely unreasonable request. Every time I see Priti Patel on screen, I say to myself ‘Director of Publicity for the UK Referendum Party’, the predecessor of the Brexit party. Word emanating from Downing street is that the report will find the Priti Patel did break the ministerial code that enjoins standards of civility upon working with colleagues. However, there is no question of her being sacked as the report indicates that some of her behaviour may have been ‘unintentional’ (this to me sounds like an excuse as lame as the schoolboy’s ‘Sorry, Sir, but the dog ate my homework‘) A convinced and not particularly competent minister would never be sacked by the present PM and particularly not Priti Patel who makes bloodcurdling announcements as to what she like to do do with asylum speakers she deems to be ‘illegal’ (putting them on a deserted South Sea island was one of her ideas from which she had to be dissuaded). I am looking forward to ‘Newsnight’ on tonight’s BBC2 which might spill a few more beans. Apparently there is some delay in publishing the report (which Boris Johnson has had for months) as Patel argues the toss back and other whether an apology needs to be isssued – and if so, for her general conduct (as she ‘has form’ over several ministries now) or for any specific incidents of her behaviour.

The Brexit endgame is now fast approaching. Some Tories are in a real flap over the economic damage to be wrought by a ‘no-deal’ Brexit whereas others consider that as Cummings has now been despatched, the Brexit deal may be massively watered down.To make matters worse, one of the Brexit negotiators on the EU side has been diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus so negotiations are paused for the moment – this is an additional complication when the timescale left for meaningful negotiations is already incredibly tight.