Friday, 23rd October, 2020

[Day 221]

Today was the last in a series of video-links in which Meg was undertaking some tasks and tests and this took up a good part of the morning, as you might imagine. When all of this had been conducted, Meg and I thought we would make a quick ‘short-circuited’ dash for our newspapers in the car which we did and were also relieved that our NHS COVID-19 app was now working. When I tried it yesterday, the app (on my new phone) said there was a conflict with other technology and so it wouldn’t run. So I dis-installed (i.e. removed) it, re-installed it and today it operated the way it should when I entered the newsagent. Then we made our way to the park, had a quick banana and made our way home after a somewhat truncated morning. We cooked ourselves a risotto (made with mackerel on this occasion) and the results were better than last week, I am pleased to say.

Tonight, as I was starting to blog I got a FaceTime call from my ex-University of Winchester colleagues/friends whose wife was now extremely ill. We discussed various matters at great length and I hope that we managed to exchange some useful information with each other. Actually, we spent quite a long time discussing Floridian politics as Florida is now such a key state in the forthcoming election. There was an extraordinarily good Channel 4 expose the other evening which detailed how the Republicans had got all kinds of demographic data which meant they could target individual members of the Florida electorate with a message tailored to their voting preferences. The Hispanic members of this particularly targeted precinct were illuminating but disturbing. Apparently one quarter were already firmly committed Trump supporters, one quarter was ‘persuadable’ i.e. uncommitted voters and a further quarter were voters who had to be dissuaded by any means possible from voting (for Clinton/Biden) Apparently, the techniques used four years ago had really intensified and the Democrats seemed powerless to contradict the social messages. So although Biden is a few points ahead in the current set of opinion polls, I am not at all sure and would be surprised if for a second/third occasion the Republicans just about sneaked it again. Only about eleven more days to go now, so the Mike Hart crate of brown ale, is slowly being populated whilst I wait for the election night (or rather the day after it)

The COVID-19 data seems a little difficult to interpret this evening. On the one hand, the level of new infections per day seems alarmingly high (about 35,000 new cases in the last day, according to the BBC website but 20,530 according to Sky News) It might be that these figures are capable of being reconciled but without doing a great deal of background work, I am not sure how, as I write this evening. On the other hand, it does look as though the rates of infection amongst the younger population (less than 30) seems to be moderating whilst the corresponding rates of infection for the more elderly age groups seem to be rising. There is also some evidence, tentative at this stage, from Public Health England that in this second wave the rate of increase may be levelling off somewhat i.e. although figures are rising by large amounts each day, it is not by quite the same percentage as the day before. It is certainly the case that Wales has a fairly complete lockdown whilst in England, the Tier 3 infections cover Liverpool, Manchester, Lancashire and parts of South Yorkshire. This pattern is evolving day by day and some areas might be about to be classified as Tier 3 in a few day’s time. The fact that the concentration of virus appears to be so much greater in the older, erstwhile industrial areas of the North and the Midlands must be a source of concern. Whereas there was always a health gradient between these older industrial areas and the more affluent and prosperous South of England, then COVID-19 seems to have added an extra layer (and twist) to these pre-existing patterns. What is needed is a redistribution of power and wealth across the national landscape – moving the capital to the North would help (although plans to move the House of Lords to York were soon squashed) Perhaps, also, the time is now ripe to move away from the ‘winner takes all’ approach in the first-past-the-post electoral system and that we move to a form of PR which would probably mean an almost complete era of coalition governments (which might be a recipe for disaster if the coalitions take weeks or months to form!)