Friday, 24th May, 2024

[Day 1530]

Last night after Meg had been put to bed, I carried on with the assembly of the screen I purchased recently. The assembly requires one to stretch the linen panels and then to loop them over a top bar such they ‘velcro’ together. But as it stands, I think the panels have been cut about a centimetre too short which makes the assembly very difficult. Eventually with panels 2-6 I hit on the expedient of bending the receiving bar in the required direction which is certainly not what the instructions would suggest. Tonight, I will do the final clipping together and, perhaps, some last minute adjustments before the screen gets deployed. My policy of sleeping on a camp bed besides Meg’s hospital bed received a degree of vindication last night. As I was getting myself to bed, Meg woke up in a distress and agitated condition but I am pleased to say that with the aid of our weighted blanket and my hand in a proximate location to hold hers, I managed to get her into a sufficiently calm state to get back to sleep. This morning, though, I was not best pleased as the care agency phoned about three minutes before our carers were due to arrive asking if I could take the place of Carer No. 2 who had not turned up for work. Meg is without doubt a two handed job, particularly first thing in the morning when she receives a body wash so I really was needed to lend a hand which added to my tiredness level. Most of the morning was devoted to our watching the third day of evidence given by Paula Vennells, the CEO of the Post Office who was in charge at the height of the scandal. Today, her last day of evidence, she was being examined by the barristers representing the wronged postmasters themselves and they were ruthless in exposing the CEO’s prevarications, obfuscations and denials. A major thrust of the questioning this morning was trying to establish that surely she must have known about bugs and system instabilities in the Horizon computer system despite which postmasters were prosecuted and some imprisoned. Paula Vennell’s defence typically took the form of ‘well I had knowledge of two computer bugs but I was told that they had been fixed and a third was being addressed’ and so evidence of a smoking gun was hard to find. The barristers were incredulous that the CEO of an organisation did not ask the relevant questions as the scandal came to light and it does appear that as well as failing to take action on addressing the wrongful prosecutions of the sub postmasters, a lot of effort seemed to be directed at minimising any reputational damage to the Post Office. One revelation that crept out at the end of the morning was the fact that she had removed a critical reference to past Horizon problems from the prospectus as the Post Office was being prepared for privatisation. She even boasted that she had ‘earned her corn’ that day when the prospectus had been successfully doctored – if this had been picked up upon, then the whole privatisation could have been blasted out of the water. Paula Vennell’s whole defence was to say that she trusted the advice of experts and other senior managers in the Post Office and perhaps, in retrospect, had been too trusting of the advice received. The barristers could not quite believe that with all kinds of damning evidence building up over the years, she had not as CEO ever really asked the deep questions of what was going on in the organisation of which she was the CEO and asked, perhaps in the dictum of Winston Churchill that we should have ‘action this day’ But to be scrupulously fair to Paula Vennells, I wonder whether in modern organisations there might not be a feeling, particularly with technical computer questions, of not wanting to bother the CEO with problems that are encountered and there might be a desire at managerial level to solve the problems themselves and not to ‘bother’ the CEO with it. Eventually, some of the data coming out of this investigation might provide case studies and insights into how large corporations in both the public and the private sector actually operate and, in particular, deploy all kinds of manoeuvre to avoid reputational damage.

The election campaign is really in full swing with the party leaders jetting around the country even the campaign is only a day or so old. It is reported today that a total 75 Tory MP’s are not going to contest their seats which, at a rough guess, is about one fifth of the parliamentary party. It is also being suggested that Boris Johnson might be roped in to campaign for the Tories which, to some, might appear an act of desperation. The role of Nigel Farage, ex-UKIP leader, might prove to be very interesting. After several attempts to capture a Westminster seat he had declined to put himself forward as a candidate but may well be in full campaigning mode, supporting ‘Reform’ (new name for UKIP) candidates in various parts of the country. In this role, might he do even more damage to the Tories than would be the case if he confined himself to a single constituency which he was attempting to win? Interestingly enough, the Tories are going heavily on immigration as they probably think that they can capitalise on the Rwanda flights which have yet to take off but is still their declared policy were they win the election. To my mind, this is the Tories always playing the ‘race’ card when their backs are against the wall. It is ironic that actually the present Tory government have presided over an enormous increase in legal migration i.e. immigration for which a visa has been offered and a job is in prospect. More overseas staff arrived to work across the sector. But more may be needed. Last year, there were around 150,000 vacancies in England, and recruiting British workers remains difficult. Of all of those visas, more than 146,000 went to health and social care workers, another 203,000 went to their defendants. Care home owners are reporting that without recent immigration, their businesses would not be viable and approximately 40% of their staff are recruited from overseas. So the whole issue of migrants arriving by boat at about 40,000 per year is small compared with legal migration which is of the order of 700,000 per year.