Friday, 7th May, 2021

[Day 417]

So we had a beautiful, spring-like day today and it was a delight to walk down into town when we eventually did. Our walk was a little delayed so I left Meg on the ‘top’ bench (i.e. one of the three that overlooks most of the park and hence one of our favourite perches) chatting with one of our regulars who espied us from afar and whizzes along at a fantastic speed in her battery-driven wheelchair. and so on. Having collected our newspapers, I made my way back through the park and now we had a little congregation of about 5-6 of us who seem to coincide at about the same time of day in the park. On the way home, we were pleased to have a little chat with an elderly French lady who we know quite well (neighbours of some of our Catholic friends). She recently lost her husband who was pretty aged and had been very ill so we agreed that he was probably in ‘a better place’ right now. The funeral arrangements had gone quite well but of course the numbers were very restricted in these COVID-19 lockdown days. We intimated to the French lady (who I think has taught French in England for several decades during her working life) that we would be delighted to have her round into our garden to drink either tea or champagne according to our mood. We have only had conversations in the street but would welcome the opportunity to share some of our life experiences with each other. When Meg and I used to go on holiday regularly to the South of Spain with the Saga group (catering for the over 50’s) we often found it fascinating to have extended conversations with various people that we met about their life and careers. Everybody we met seemed to have such a fascinating ‘back history’ and I am sure the same is probably true of the people we meet here in Bromsgrove. And we had yet another cbat with our Italian friend on the way home – it was certainly the right kind of weather fo stopping and chatting all the way home.

We had to have a lightning lunch of cheese and biscuits because we had booked a fitting service for some clothes in the Longbriege branch of Marks and Spencer. Longbridge is where the assembly track to the Austin mini used to be and the site as a whole is now dominated by some large retail outlets and social housing. It makes the days of strikes in British car factories in the mid 70’s seem so incredibly distant – well, of course, it was half a century ago.

The political news this evening is almost completely unprecedented. Firstly, the Tories have won the parliamentary bye-election in Hartlepool with a massive majority (taking approximately two thirds of the vote in what had traditionally been one of the safest of Labour seats) This is the first time the Tories have gained this seat since its creation about fifty years ago. The explanation is not had to find. Election analyst professor Will Jennings, of the University of Southampton, said the 2021 results showed the Tories were ‘making largest gains, and Labour feeling most pain, in areas that voted strongly for Brexit.‘ Conservatives are hoovering up Leave voters Prof Jennings said. ‘That’s the stomping ground where the Conservatives are doing really well.‘ In terms of a broader analysis of the British political scene is is quite remarkable that a party should be in power for about 11 years and then make massive gains in the heartlands of its opponents. I am not sure whether this has every happened before in British political history and once would have to delve into political history books to find a parallel. All of the voters who voted Brexit/Leave seem to have fallen completely into the lap of the Tories. Added to this, of course, we have the ‘rally around the flag’ sentiment concerning the successful implementation of the vaccination regimes . To give a pithy illustration of this, the leader of the Conservatives in Walsall (where the Tories made enormous gains) was asked why the Conservatives had done so well in Walsall. For a local politician campaigning on local issues, his answer was revealing: ‘Well it’s all down to Boris Johnson and the success of his vaccination campaign‘ Enough said! In the meantime, the Labour Party seems to have strengthed its position in Wales and in Scotland, the SNP have also gained ground – whether enough to form an absolute majority in the Scottish Parliament it is too early to tell. It does look as though, right across the UK (excluding Northern Ireland where there were no elections) that members of governing parties (Tory in England, Labour in Wales, SNP in Scotland) have generally reinforced their position. Is this a vase of ‘rally round the flag’ as the pandemic crisis is starting to recede?