Tuesday, 13th October, 2020

[Day 211]

It was an interesting, and somewhat different, kind of day today. At 9.00 am I had arranged to Skype one my Hampshire friends and this went ahead as planned, with the technology behaving itself as it should. My friend had worked in the same area of Manchester as I did back in 1969 but we were separated by a few years. Nonetheless, we spent a very pleasant hour going down ‘memory lane’ of significant points in our teaching career with our experiences when we first starting teaching, through the interesting encounters we had in validating degrees with the body known as CNAA (Council for National Academic Awards) to our more recent encounters with students and interesting colleagues. We are going to Skype at fortnightly intervals from now on but it’s possible that our interests will intensify as the American elections draw nigh. Then Meg and I walked to the park on a most beautiful day – sharp, bright and cool with plenty of almost warm autumn sunshine. In the park, we met with our Italian friend with whom we had a very interesting conversation – mainly reminiscing about the operas which we had been to see in the locality, sometimes in each other’s company. We also ‘tut-tutted’ about those people, fairly few in number and invariably younger than us, who did not seem to observe any degree of social distancing. On the way home, the weather had got more and more cloudy and it felt as though some rain might be imminent. Then we had a fairly quick turn around as I needed to walk down to Pilates with one of neighbours. When I got into the class, I announced that we all ought to be grateful to Present Trump as he announced that he was going ‘to kiss the guys and the beautiful women- a big fat kiss‘ So we worked out that if we had been present in Donald Trump’s rally in Florida last night we would have been thrown a face-mask (which we were not to wear) and then shoulder-to-shoulder (no social distancing) whilst Donald Trump threatened to kiss us all. You couldn’t make it up, could you? In the late afternoon, I had another fascinating Skype video link with one of my ex-University of Winchester friends and we exchanged news and gossip – we are going to repeat this exercise every week from now on.

The government have consistently claimed that in their response to the COVID-19 crisis they have always ‘followed the science’ However, tonight it has emerged that the SAGE committee advising the government (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) has recommended some weeks ago that there should be a 2-3 week ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown similar to what we had experienced in March/April. Whether or not this would include school children is not completely clear but presumably so as there is talk of the coinciding with the half-term break in any case. The government has chosen not to follow this advice (fearing the enormous costs, job losses, difficulty of re-starting the economy and so on) and consequently the virus seems to be spreading at an enormous speed. The Labour Party has now clearly aligned itself with the scientists and so there is now a clear split in the political consensus. The Labour Party view will not prevail because a sizeable faction of the Conservative party want there to be radically less restrictions (at what cost to the health of millions?) I feel, personally, that the intellectual arguments must align with those who argue for a rapid ‘circuit-breaker’ type of lockdown, although the costs (financial, emotional) are undoubtedly enormous. But if we had less restrictions, then the hospitals will be over-whelmed and people will die in their tens of thousands. As I said last night, the government’s present policy of three-tiers seems ‘too little, too late’

In the American elections, it does appear that Joe Biden might be 11% points ahead – according to the BBC poll of polls. But of course, this might be a misleading statistic as there is no point in piling up votes in California which is always Democratic anyway. The crucial factor seems to be the lead in the swing states (equivalent to our ‘marginal constituencies’) which is tending to be in Biden’s favour by anything from 2%-7% (although Ohio is leaning towards Trump still) As all the states have their own electoral laws and voting arrangements there is plenty of scope for ‘voter suppression’ (making sure your opponents can’t actually get to the vote) at which the Republicans seem to be particularly adept. One tactic is to exclude anybody who has been convicted of any offence (e.g. for possessing marijuana 40 years previously) or to make sure that in the predominantly black areas, the polling stations are so few and far apart if it is not physically possible for all of the opponents to vote on the day. To see what I mean. look at the following fragment gleaned from the web

Last week Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of Texas, ordered counties to close extra drop-off sites for absentee votes until they have only one each. The move means that the 4.7m residents of Harris County, which surrounds Houston, will all have to converge on the same drop-box if they wish to cast an absentee vote in person.

Watch out for all of the dirty tricks that will be played out for us, particularly in states such as Florida and Texas!