Monday, 30th January, 2023

[Day 1050]

Today being a Monday and a day when we did not anticipate much social contact, Meg and I decided that we would try a walk in the park as we do not seem to have done this for several days. Whilst we have taken the opportunity to meet up with friends and acquaintances in the Waitrose cafe we have done so but today seemed as good a day as any to resume what has been our normal pattern of activity over the past year or so. Today beckoned fair and the weather seemed to be a lot milder than of late. However, by the time we were installed upon our customary park bench, an especially icy wind seemed to spring up from somewhere so we drank a hasty coffee and then beat a hasty retreat home. We were not particularly sorry to do this as I could get Meg warmed up with a bit of buttered toast and apricot jam and we were just in time for the daily Politics show at 12.15. As might be surmised, the analysis was very much upon the sequelae of the sacking of Nadhim Zahawi and the response of the PM, Rishi Sunak, who seems to acted decisively. By all accounts, the report landed in the PM’s inbox by 7.00am and within the hour Zahawi had been sacked for multiple breaches of the Ministerial Code. When you read the account of the Prime Minister’s advisor on ethics, Sir Laurie Magnus, (his letter/report printed in full in ‘The Times’) then seven breaches of the Ministerial code were detailed and they are nearly all repetitions of the same principle i.e. the failure to inform either the Cabinet Office or the Permanent Secretaries of various ministries in which he had held office of the fact that his tax affairs were under active investigation by HMRC. Zahawi’s defense is that he thought that he was just having ‘discussions’ with the Inland revenue but not being ‘investigated’ – but this defence has cut no ice with the independent investigator or with media commentators. It is a strange feature of modern politics that the offense of actually hiding £27 million in an offshore account and then failing to declare it to the Inland Revenue was not in itself the sacking offence but it was the cover-up or the failure to come clean about these investigations. So like the Watergate enquiry that was to prove the downfall of Richard Nixon, it was not so much the original offence but its cover up which was to prove the decisive offence. Students of British political history may well remember the Profumo affair in about 1962 when Jack (John) Profumo was having relationships with two ‘good time girls’ Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, whose favours were also being shared with a Russian spy. These relationships were not to prove the decisive events that led to Profumo’s downfall and subsequent resignation – the actual offence was the fact of lying to the House of Commons about it.

This afternoon we are having a quiet afternoon, playing some of our favourite music. We have just listened to Mozart’s ‘Grand Mass in C minor’ This was written for his newly-wedded wife, Constanze, but Mozart never wrote all the sections needed for a mass, and the first performance—with Constanze as soloist at the Abbey of St. Peter’s back in Salzburg— may have used supplemental music. Yet even in its unfinished form, says Zohn, ‘The music is Mozart at his most dazzling. You get Mozart the opera composer, Mozart the composer of sacred vocal music, and Mozart the explorer of Baroque counterpoint…all wrapped into one.’ Tomorrow is going to be quite a busy day for us one way or another and I am spending some time running off and reading some documents for a meeting that I have at our church tomorrow evening.

Some recent research has just revealed how people are coping with the cost of living crisis as inflation has exceeded 10% although it may now be down very slightly. The very first economy to make has been streaming services and Britons cancelled £2 million of streaming services last year in order to make ends meet. It is also reported that young people are struggling more with the cost of living crisis than the COVID pandemic and the younger generation are anxious in particular about the costs of having children. But we are living in times when people have grown up to accept a certain standard of living and may not be very knowledgeable about the ways in which one might economise. As a university student, we all know that the secret to live economically was to invest in things like a bag of rice or a sack of potatoes to keep you going for weeks and we all knew how to prepare a cauliflower cheese for one meal a week. A small joint of meat would be cooked for the Sunday joint and then quite a lot was reserved for meals for two more days in the week. The remaining small fragments of meat (or bits of a chicken carcass) would be thrown into a curry much later in the week. In fact, having prepared curries in our student days, we are still in the habit (half a century later) of preparing one each week using the small amounts of protein provided by the meat or chicken fragments.