Monday, 22nd April, 2024

[Day 1498]

When our carers showed up this morning, we all commiserated with each other as, one way or another, each one of us had a disturbed night’s sleep. I finally get Meg settled into bed after a restless period at about 1.00am and actually got to bed myself at about 1.30 but one of the carers had been up until 2.45 with her one of her children who had a stomach upset after spending the day with his father (it was evidently something that had eaten) Our mood was not particularly improved as it was a grey and drizzly type of day and the bad weather seemed to set in for most of the day. It was a bit difficult to make plans when the weather was as wet as this – nonetheless, we delivered some letters (principally our voting ballots for the forthcoming mayoral elections) and called in to see if our friends happened to be at home down the hill. They were not in so we proceeded to the supermarket where we obtained some much needed supplies of requisites of which the other supermarket had sold out when we shopping last Thursday. Then we collected our newspaper and made our way to the Methodist centre for a coffee. We were quite glad that we did because we made the acquaintance of one of their activities organisers with whom I had previously been in correspondence by email. We had missed the opening session of the club they are starting off on the third Friday of each month so, armed with a leaflet, we will ensure that we make a calendar entry so that we do not miss it next month. We chatted with a ex-nurse and another lady, the topic of conversation being how long we had lived in Bromsgrove and why we had come to live in the town nearly seventeen years ago. Naturally, we availed ourselves of their tea and teacakes and we enjoyed the social chitchat in which we engage when we are sitting on what is termed the ‘Chatty Table’ One lady was trying to persuade us to go to an open afternoon in the local Salvation Army citadel but we declined the invitation, preferring to have lunch at home and then have a quiet and peaceful afternoon at home. After we had had a disturbed night last night, I was hopeful that Meg would have a longer doze after lunch because she (and I) are always so much the better for it. Lunch was the ham we cooked yesterday in which we heat up slices in a thick onion gravy, prepared yesterday, and complemented with broccoli and a baked potato.

The political news is dominated today by Rishi Sunak who gave a press conference this morning in which he stressed how he was unequivocally going to get his Rwanda flights scheme off the ground. It may well be that both the Lords and the Commons will continue to battle it out until the small hours of the morning. The Tories are blaming the Labour peers for prolonging the battle and although this is true to a certain extent, it is not the full story. Some of the opposition is coming from the cross benches (i.e. not party politically aligned members of the House of Lords) as well as some influential Tories. There is no doubt that in terms of ‘realpolitik’ and constitutional conventions, the House of Commons will eventually have its way. Apart from the damage that may be done to Britain’s international standing by breaking some of the tenets of international law, the Lords have other reasons to oppose the legislation. If there had been a clear mandate from the electorate i.e. the boats policy was part of a government manifesto, then the opposition from the Lords would have melted away more quickly. But as it stands, the Lords are saying that they are a revising chamber and this legislation is crying out for revision in the way it has been drafted and will be implemented. Rishi Sunak is saying today that commercial flights are standing by to process a whole stream of migrants but in view of the damage done to their reputation, I doubt this is actually the case. Small boat arrivals in the UK since the beginning of the year have increased by 24% compared with the according to Home Office data published today. Some 6,265 small boats arrived between 1 January and 21 April 2024, compared with 5,049 during the same period the year before. Vietnamese and Afghan arrivals were the main two nationalities, making up 40% of total arrivals during the period. Some 56,744 claims were granted and 36,597 were refused, representing a grant rate of 61%. Some details from the press conference which I have only fleetingly heard are the numbers (in their hundreds) of personnel who have been specially recruited to physically handle the migrants, many of whom will no doubt be dragged kicking and screaming onto the planes and then escorted all the way to Rwanda – one wonders if they will be manacled and/or physically restrained during the flights. All of this will be kept away from the prying eyes of the press and independent observers but I fear that eventually, if the policy works as the government intends, then all kinds of force will be used to implement the policy and I predict that some suicides will occur. One can only speculate whether the government will actually quite enjoy it to take place in order to placate their own right wing and the most illiberal of their supporters in the so called ‘red wall’ seats for whom the forcible removal of migrants is said to be a priority.

The other story abounding today is the Jewish activist who has forced an apology from the Met police after he tried to exercise his right to walk (confront?) a march organised by supporters of Palestine. There is a lot more here than meets the eye. One commentator who has seen the whole of the confrontation with the police filmed by Sky News and not just little selected clips from it broadcast has argued then an arrest would have been warranted for trying to break through a police cordon. This area is incredibly fraught for the police and sometimes they may get things wrong (as they may have done on this occasion) by telling the protestor that he is ‘evidently Jewish’ but I, for one, would not like to be on the front of the police lines trying to maintain the rights to demonstrate and also to keep the peace in an arena which is so emotionally and politically charged as this one.