Saturday, 1st June, 2024

[Day 1538]

We had a slightly disturbed night last night as Meg woke up at about the time that I was coming to bed. I hoped that we were not going to have a disturbed night but I gave Meg a beaker of a ‘smoothie’ which I had to hand and then we both settled down to a night’s sleep. This morning was a beautiful bright day and although Meg was a little sleepy first thing this morning, she came round a bit after breakfast. We had got Meg hoisted into her ‘going out’ wheelchair and had no hesitation in setting out to meet with our Saturday friends at a little after 10.00am in the morning. We had a full complement of five of us altogether this morning and, fortunately, I had with me the remnants of my chocolate birthday cake which I was saving for one of our friends but the combination of myself, our friend and cake had not managed to coincide until today. It transpired that the same friend was an avid Radio4 listener so we spent a merry few minutes testing out our memories of the various Archer’s characters. I asked our friend if she could remember the names of Dan Archer’s very first dog and this must be in an archive somewhere. My own researches only indicate that Dan trained a dog during his own retirement and the dog was called ‘Nell’ but I have not managed to find the names of Dan Archer’s first dog. I was amazed to discover on the internet, though, that there is an archive with details of all of the animals, and their owners and their eventual demise that appeared in the Archer’s scripts over the years.

As I was preparing the vegetables for lunch today, we looked at what might be offered on the BBC i-Player. In the run up to ‘D’ day which is to commemorated on 6th June as it is the 80th anniversary, there were various films about the planning for, and the operation, of ‘D’ day itself. As I was busy preparing lunch, I only got snatches of the programmes themselves but in one of them, some of the now very old soldiers were mourning the loss not only of their fellow soldiers in arms but also their profound regrets at the loss to French life which was the collateral damage at the time. The other thing that I learned was that after the disaster of an attempted invasion at Dieppe two years earlier, the Allies realised that planning for ‘D’ day itself had to be extremely thorough and meticulous. Extensive use was made of Spitfires flying at incredibly low levels across the beaches to build up an aerial reconnaissance of the myriad of defences that the Germans had been busily constructing. As it turned out, ‘D’ day was to be the biggest amphibious landing in World history. The casualty rate was both high and difficult to calculate. While casualty figures are notoriously difficult to verify—not all wounded soldiers are counted, for example—the accepted estimate is that the Allies suffered 10,000 total casualties on D-Day itself. The highest casualties occurred on Omaha beach, where 2,000 U.S. troops were killed, wounded or went missing; at Sword Beach and Gold Beach, where 2,000 British troops were killed, wounded or went missing; and at Juno beach, where 340 Canadian soldiers were killed and another 574 wounded. The military commanders knew at the time that the cost in human lives was going to be enormous but there was a realisation that a land based invasion was the only way in which the war could be ended.

The general election campaign is trundling along and although I am committed to the political process, I am starting to wonder whether the campaign is already scheduled for too long. I refreshed my memory and confirmed that there was an election that was called and done and dusted within three weeks whereas we are having five weeks. Most of the academic studies reveal that opinion polls do not move much during the course of a campaign. This could be because the electorate has made up its mind weeks or months ago – or it could be that there are an equal number of ‘switchers’ on both sides. I still think that the most interesting thing about this election is not who is actually going to ‘win’ as such but what the results of individual contests turns out to be. Yet another Tory MP has left the fight, even though he was campaigning for a Tory victory only a matter of days ago. In their heart of hearts, even the most ardent Tory MP must realise that the party is going to get a bashing and a long period in opposition beckons. The Tory party is used to be in power and I wonder how many MPs will dedicate themselves to the arduous task of opposition. Once the Tory party has ‘lost’ the election, there will be doubt be a change of party leader and then a period of blood letting whilst the battle for the soul of the Conservative party will continue. It never ceases to amuse me that members of political parties always seem to think that they were not successful in their individual contests because they had failed to be sufficiently ‘radical’ to either the left (in the case of the Labour party) or the right in the case of the Tory party. When a party is far ahead in the polls as the Labour party is at the moment, there is a temptation to adopt the ‘Ming vase’ position. This refers to the observation that anxious not to make the slightest mistake, the leader approaches his task as he is carrying a priceless Ming vase across a polished floor. Another facet of electoral behaviour that occurs in an increasing use of ‘ad hominem’ arguments (i.e. attacking the personal characteristics and political stance of one’s political opponent) if one side feels they are losing badly. So far, Keir Starmer seems to be the target of many political attacks but the same cannot be said of Rishi Sunak. One of the attack lines, but not in an election campaign came from Harold Wilson, the Labour politician and one tine Prime Minister. His telling observation was ‘I will make them (the Tories) this offer, and they can consider it next week. If they stop telling lies about us, we will stop telling the truth about them.’ This was Wilson at the best of the form he reached when he was Leader of the Opposition. However, Wilson was not completely original because I think the sentiments of the quote came originally from some American politicians. However, the master of political rhetoric was the veteran Labour politician, Nye (Aneurin) Bevan fondly remembered as the ‘father’ of the NHS. I am surprised that modern Labour politicians do not read up on some of his famous attack lines and either use them or adapt them.