Friday, 19th April, 2024

[Day 1495]

This morning we had our carer from Peru who we saw yesterday so this morning, it was as though she had not been away. But we had a pleasant text first thing in the morning because our Italian friend from down the road texted me to ask if it was all right for her to call around at 10.00am this morning. When she arrived, she brought several cakes and goodies with her so we had a coffee and exchanged all of our news. Our friend had had a bout of sciatica from which she was recovering after some physiotherapy and we supported each other in the view that it was much better for the doctor to prescribe a course of physiotherapy on the NHS rather than doling out pills. So we had a very pleasant morning in, after which it was time for us to prepare and eat out our haddock fish pie, which is our typical lunch on a Friday lunchtime. After lunch, Meg and I made a quick visit down the road to collect our newspaper as the visit from our friend had precluded us from doing this earlier. Rather frustratingly, the internet access on my TV seems to be ‘down’ this afternoon although the laptop seems to be able to use internet access all right so I am not sure how to fix this particular problem. However, switching the whole unit off, leaving it for several seconds and then on again seems to have done the trick. There seems to be a common thread when problems occur and each group of professionals seems to have its own default way of dealing with the problem. In the case of IT and computer related problems, the answer always seems to be to ‘try a reset of the system’ and I suspect that medics also have a standard operation that they sometimes do to resolve problems.

Sky News is reporting today that former prime minister Boris Johnson has breached government rules by being ‘evasive’ about his links to a hedge fund that set up a meeting between him and the president of Venezuela, a watchdog has said. Mr Johnson raised a few eyebrows earlier this year after his spokesman confirmed he had flown to the country to meet its controversial leader Nicolas Maduro. But now, the chairman of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) Lord Pickles, has highlighted further controversy around the meeting which was arranged by a company called Merlyn Advisors – a hedge fund. Under government rules, any minister leaving office must run new jobs or appointments by the Acoba watchdog before taking them up. But Lord Pickles said despite repeatedly being asked to clarify his relationship with the firm, Mr Johnson had not done so, nor had he denied the reports in the media that he had been working with Merlyn Advisors on a non-contractual basis. According to the Institute for Government, while Acoba can publicly say when a former minister has breached the rules, it has no power to enforce sanctions, and it is left to the government of the day to decide on any action to be taken. This is not the first time that MPs are shown to be either bending rules if not breaking them and there seems to be a process by which such transgressions are reported. But after the breach of rules has been identified, then nothing seems to happen. All that this does is to lessen the faith of the public with MPs as a whole. Conservative MPs are much more numerous than other kinds of MPs and they are also the governing party, so it is perhaps no surprise that there seems to a goodly number amongst them who seem to demonstrate a disregard for the rules. But there are examples of MPs from other political parties who demonstrate bad behaviour in a variety of guises so a party political point is not being made here. But when a Tory MP breaks the rules, there seems to be a collective sigh from the electorate who repeat the mantra that ‘they are all the same’ and MPs of all political parties get tarred with the same brush. I have sometimes modelled what I would do if I were the new Prime Minister of a recently elected government, having been elected on the basis of a reaction against the sleaze of the present Government. As Prime Minister at my very first cabinet, I would announce to the cabinet as a whole that ‘we had been elected as a reaction against the sleaze shown by the previous government and that if there is the slightest whiff of scandal concerning any government minister, then they should be in no doubt that their dismissal would be swift and immediate and that their feet would not touch the ground in such a case’ I would also announce this on the steps of Downing Street on the morning after the election, telling the electorate that faith needed restoring in the British political system and that their new Prime Minister would try to demonstrate this by his immediate and swift reaction to any emerging scandal. I do not expect to see anything like this if and when we get a new government later on this year but I can but have a dream that it could be so.

Rishi Sunak has made the shock claim that the current disability welfare bill is set to increase by more than 50 per cent over the next four years if left unreformed. He said:’More than 500,000 people have been unemployed for six months and well over a quarter of a million have been unemployed for 12 months’. 250,000 people have been warned benefits could be removed entirely with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak launching a crackdown on sick note culture. The PM warned that the current situation is economically unsustainable. There is an admittedly real problem with which an incoming government would have to deal as well as the present one. But complex problems require complex solutions and removing the responsibility to issue sick notes seems an excessively retrograde step. The replacement system is likely to be a private sector firm with non medically trained staff working through a pre-determined checklist and paid by the results of how many people they remove. I think that this might be a case where the ‘cure’ is far worse than the ‘disease’ it is meant to cure. Perhaps an alternative idea would be support people into work by having a transitional welfare payment to ease the transition back into work again.