Wednesday, 26th January, 2022

[Day 681]

Today was going to be the day when the long awaited Sue Gray report could perhaps be published but more of that later. As it was, Meg felt a little poorly this morning so decided to stay for an extra hour or so in bed to recover (which she did). In the meantime, I went into town on my own to collect the newspaper and to pop into our local Waitrose which I now use as though it were a corner shop. Then it was a question of rapidly home in order to be parked in front of the TV for Prime Minister’s Questions which normally starts promptly on Wednesdays at 12.00 midday. The burning question today is to whether the Sue Gray report will be handed to Parliament (and the world) in its entirety or will it be delayed, redacted, edited, provided in only summary form of the findings alone or whatever permutation. Boris Johnson under intense questionning from Keir Starmer agreed that the report said ‘Of course, I will do what I said‘. This rather Delphic reply has left many of us scratching our heads and thinking what it is said that he has said on this subject to which he was referring. There is a view that the PM has left himself a bit of ‘wriggle room’ in case he wants to let out a version of the report that just happens to be the least damaging to him. The whole of PMQ was a fairly typical scenario in which the lawyer-like approach of direct questions from Keir Starmer was met with bluster and half evasions by Boris Johnson who, needless to say, would not directly answer any of the questions put to him. In the meantime, the whole country is awaiting for publication of the Sue Gray report which seems to be held up by being passed through the hands of government lawyers. Given that Friday is the day when many MP’s leave Westminster in order to devote themselves to constituency business, it could well be that the whole report will be delayed now until next Monday.

This afternoon, I had just settled down to reply yet again to the bank who looks after our communal affairs with yet another request to fill in parts of a doument which I have submitted to them four times already. I have the feeling that there is a computer algorithm rather than a ‘human’ assessing the form because every time I speak to a member of the safeguarding team, they can never tell me what information the system requires that they do not already have. But just before this task, I consulted my emails and one of my University of Winchester ‘buddies’ had suggested that we have a Skype session at 4.00pm this afternoon. So faced with a bank session or a videochat with old friends, it was no contest really and I readily succumbed to the pleasure of chatting, albeit at long range. Time flew by and we spent an hour and a half before we realised that we did need to prepare tea and get other things done this afternoon.

Another scandal has emerged today and, interestingly enough, nothing to do with parties held in Downing Street in contravention of the COVID-19 regulations. This was a story in which the PM’s wife, Carrie Johnson, may well now have a measure of responsibility. The story relates to the rapid evacuation of the embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, in which there were heart-rending pictures of people who helped the British (interpreters and the like) and their families not being able to get on an evacuation flight. All of this was redolent of the images we remember of the fall of Saigon when the Americans withdrew ignominiously from Vietnam. There was a charity, run by somebody with evident connections with the military, concerned with the evacuation of sick and wounded animals from Afghanistan. Of course, this was being done as a ‘private’ operation and the UK government have consistently maintained that it had no part in the evacuation operation. However, a Foreign Office memo has now arisen in which Boris Johnson is said to have ‘authorised’ the flight which evacuated the sick animals. So the fundamental political question which arises is this: did the authorisation and emergency evacuation of sick animals take priority over the evacuation of human personnel? This is quite a murky story, as one might imagine, compounded by the fact that the Foreign Office have always denied that evacuation of animals impeded the evacuation of humans. But a memo has now emerged in which the PM did authorise such a flight – and it quite easy to construct a narrative, all too believable in the case of the British, in which animal life took precedence over, or least impeded, the evacuation of human life. The fact that the story has emerged today only adds to the picture of a government mired in duplicity and evasion.