Saturday, 22nd April, 2023

[Day 1132]

This was another wonderful spring day. They say that necessity is the mother of invention and so it proved today. Due to an oversight, I forgot to buy my eggs that we usually poach and have for a light cooked breakfast each day. So today I compromised by frying together an onion, a few, halved plum tomatoes and one largish mushroom. To this I added just a small tounch of a spicy chilli and tomato sauce that I had in stock. The result was absoutely delicious so I intend to try this recipe out for a few days each week to add a little variety to our diet. We received a telephone call from our University of Birmingham friend to confirm our, by now, traditional meeting in Waitrose coffee bar mid morning. Two hours later we were still chatting so we had to break off rapidly to do a little bit of shopping and to race along the High Street to get to the bank before it closed. As it turned out, we need not have bothered because the bank shut at 12.30pm rather than 1.00pm. Given that Banks have quite restrictive opening hours and some people (not us) can only get to the bank on Saturday mornings so these opening, or should I say,closing hours, shows a complete lack of consumer responsiveness. So, with a sigh, I reckoned that I would have to make my bank visit on Monday, should they deign to open for any of its customers. Our friend had brought along some DVDs and a book in which we might be interested before taking his clear-out items to a charity shop. We gratefully accepted, though, receipt of the book in which Meg might be reasonably interested. As we sitting and having our coffee, one of the staff approached our table and as long standing and loyal customers, we each received a bunch of flowers which otherwise were destined for the disposal bin (but they looked fresh enough for us). So we gave our profound thanks and the Waitrose staff will be rewarded by another visit from the three of us as we have arranged to meet again there in the morning. In the afternoon, we watched the England vs. Ireland Womens rugby match. England were the clear favourites and tacked up a hugh score the last time they met. On this occasion, the English team had racked up about four tries (which they were not very good at converting) at half time but the second half was a different game altogether. The Irish really put their act together and half way through the second half, neither team had scored at all. But then the strength and power of the English pack overcame the Irish who failed to score a single point throughout the match. Worringly, though, the English team picked up a couple of injuries which they could well have done without as next weekend is getting to be the ‘shoot it out’ match as England and France, the two outstanding teams in the tournament, meet each other next weekend.

The Dominic Raab row rambles on, as one might expect. The principal attack dog today, as yesterday, was William Rees-Mogg who accused the civil servants as a ‘blizzard of snowflakes’ He also attacked the British Ambassador to Gibraltar who had crossed swords with Raab in the course of a complaint which the author of the report investigating Raab actually upheld. But Rees-Mogg went on to use inflammatory language by opining that he thought Mr Raab’s resignation was ‘unnecessary’ and took aim at an ambassador reportedly involved in the accusations. He suggested the ambassador in question was too soft and said: ‘Is our ambassador a complete wet wipe? You can not intimidate an ambassador and, if you can, then the ambassador is no good. Ambassadors have to have a backbone to represent the country abroad. The main complaint that was upheld relates to an ambassador, an extraordinarily senior figure who was deliberately going against government policy in Gibraltar, an issue of the highest sensitivity. Civil servants can behave appallingly, whereas ministers do something perfectly normal and have to resign. I think this is quite wrong.’ I think it is difficult for us to arbitrate in this dispute and how far this account is justified or subject to dispute. William Rees-Mogg is noted, however, for always adopting a controversial and inevitably far right commentary upon political events so perhaps his comments should be seen in this light. But what be said, however, is there is a very definite balance in the ecology of the relationships between civil servants and ministers. Harking back to ‘Yes, Minister’ TV series (which was one of Margaret Thatcher’s favourite programs, by the way) senior civil servants are likely to have achieved much higher academic sucess and to enjoy much more longevity in post than the politicians they serve. On the other hand, they are appointed whereas politicians can claim legitimacy because they were elected. So to wade into this delicate balance with hob-nailed boots (which what I think Rees-Mogg is doing) is likely to upset this sensitive ecology and that is not in the long term interests of having a stable and well functioning government machine. As always, the view of the Sunday newspapers will be fascinating.