Sunday, 26th March, 2023

[Day 1105]

Today was a slightly blustery day with a fairly cold wind and did not really invite a walk in the park. But we had always intended to meet with our University of Birmingham friend in the Waitrose café which we did and enjoyed a really pleasant hour and a half in each other’s company. We agreed with each other that we had been meeting quite a lot whilst the weather was inclement but as the weather improves (hopefully soon!) we shall resume our normal rendez-vous in the park. A lot of time we were with each other, we told each other jokes and amusing stories – once we both get ‘on a roll’ then one story leads to the next. Eventually, the time came for home and after we had arrived home, we regaled ouselves with soup-in-a-cup which we often do when the weather is a bit chilly outside. We decided to postpone our normal Sunday lunch and thought we would use up the meatballs of which we cooked half yesterday and we had some of the onion gravy left over for today. In our kitchen, we have a planning whiteboard upon which we write our appointments so that we can see the whole week, or month for that matter, at a glance. We have nothing at all in prospect by way of formal appointments this week but tomorrow we will go out on the road and pick up some petrol (and perhaps mower oil) so that I can make a flying start on the lawns as soon as the weather improves. I have been paying careful attention to the weather forecasts for the next few days and it may well start off frosty and with temperatures below average for the time of year. As soon as we have a hint of dryish and reasonably mild weather, I will get the trusty old mower into operation and get the first cut of the season performed. The grass is always a little high and the mower needs to be on its highest setting for this very first cut but afer that, we tend to cut at weekly intervals and any stray bits of grass get well and truly mulched in after the first week.

I absolutely love it when a ‘sting’ operation is performed upon MPs to expose their greed and venality. What has happened recently is that the anti-Brexit campaign group, ‘Led By Donkeys’, had created a sham company before approaching 20 MPs from different parties asking if they would join the phoney firm’s international advisory board. Former Conservative cabinet ministers Matt Hancock and Kwasi Kwarteng were told that a fake overseas company was looking for MP advisers. Mr Hancock and Mr Kwarteng both set out five-figure sums for what they would expect to be paid to advise a non-existent firm in South Korea. There is no accusation of wrongdoing, with MPs permitted to seek employment outside of parliament. But when asked whether he had a daily rate during an online ‘interview’, Matt Hancock indicated that his daily rate would be £10,000 sterling. The amazing thing about this story is that Parliament only has the weakest of controls over this kind of behaviour. We have seen something a little similar to this when Boris Johnson was the Prime Minister because a Conservative minister, Owen Patterson, was forced to resign after he broke the rules on lobbying for a client. MPs often attempt to justify their taking of outside employment whilst also being in receipt of a parliamentary salary. This argument would have a lot more moral force if MPs provded their services for nothing or ‘pro bono publico’ (for the public good) On the other hand, they could charge an appropriate fee and then immediately donate it to a worthy charity. But somehow, these ‘pure’ motives never seem to be very much in evidence. In practice, the defense that MPs deploy when they say that they need to keep in contact with erstwhile trades and professions in order to make them better parliamentarians is actually so much hypocrisy because all of the large payments made always seem to end up in the back pockets of the MPs themselves. Some give a certain amount of cash to their own constituency association but this itself could be seen seen as a type of corruption in that constituency associations may feel disinclined to deselect a sitting MP who happens to supply them with oodles of cash. So any payments could be seen as a sort of ‘insurance policy’ to keep an MP sweet with his own constituency association.

To show that spring is here, it was Boat Race day today that I did not watch as I was watching the Italy-France Womens Six-Nations rugby. But I have a ‘thing’ about the Boat Race because I have never seen one yet in which the eventual winner is not clear after about the first ten seconds. There must have been instances of how one team pulls ahead and is then overhauled by the other – but it is just I have never actually seen it. The Grand National will be in three weeks time, though, which is still quite a long way off because occasionally the Boat Race and the Grand National happen to be on the same day – this occurred in 1981, 1992 and again in 2015.