Wednesday, 26th May, 2021

[Day 436]

So another Wednesday rolls by and, as usual, I had to update my Waitrose order ready for delivery tomorrow. Fortunately, I remembered to book my slot for about three weeks time which I did whilst waiting for a few minutes after midnight on Tuesday at which time they tend to release new time slots for the weeks ahead. So after all of this was done we walked down to town, picked up our newspapers and then popped into Waitrose where we picked up some milk and a birthday card for our next door neighbour for next Sunday. Whilst we were there, we bumped into one of our ex-Waitrose friends that we used to see quite regularly in the park during the wintertime when she was involved in undertaking long walks around Bromsgrove. But we haven’t seen her for some time because she is quite busy off playing golf – she has a good and supportive circle of good friends in the golfing community (which is great, as she lost her husband just before the pandemic really got underway). Whilst we were in Waitrose, we noticed a sign to say that the cafe – the hub of many social activities – was due to reopen again on Wednesday, June 17th which is some three weeks away. We reminded the staff to reward their first few customers with a free bottle of champagne when we walk through the doors in three weeks time and the staff promised to send the message onto the manager. On our way down to the park this morning, we were delighted to have a few words with our Irish friends who live down the road. They were looking after their grand-daughter for the day (which they do for a day or so in the middle of the week) and were delighted to be going off to spend a few days in Llandudno next week now that the restrictions are being lifted and the weather is set as a high pressure system sets in for the next few days.

Today was the day when Dominic Cummings (ex principal adviser to the Prime Minister) gave evidence to a Parliamentary select committee. The word used most often by the media today is ‘excoriating’ and one has to say, that at least superficially, his evidence seems compelling in the extreme. Cummings has argued that Boris Johnson is completely unfit for office and that Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, should have been sacked for lying on multiple occasions. A picture is painted of a complete lack of preparedness at the start of the pandemic, a reluctance to lockdown (initially and on subsequent occasions) and a dysfunctional, ‘rabbits in the headlamps‘ approach to government (i.e. paralysed into inactivity) Cummings himself is apologetic for not having pressed the ‘panic’ button and added new information to ‘explain’ his flight to Barnard Castle at the height of the pandemic. What I think is often forgotten is that a long way before Boris become leader of the Tory Party and therefore before Brexit, there was a large group often Tory MP’s who were arguing for a ‘Anybody but Boris‘ candidate. I think it was well anticipated that Boris Johnson might have great skills with his rhetorical or journalistic flourish but as a practical decision maker he would prove to be a disaster. Privately, many of the current crop of Tory MPs would agree but they do not really care so long as Boris Johnson managed to secure 80 strong majorities for the Tory party. As I blog, Channel 4 news is attempting to interview a Tory MP (Tobias Ellwood) and asked who he would believe when Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings completely contradict each other. Of course, no answer was forthcoming, despite repeated questioning and all we got was the the typical politician’s evasiveness. The particular question to which everyone would like an answer is that Dominic Cummings says he heard Boris Johnson say he would rather ‘let the bodies pile high‘ than hit the economy again with a third lockdown and this is the oft-repeated quote which Boris Johnson denied in the House of Commons (was he lying to the House of Commons?) and which Dominic Cummings claims he overheard (was he lying as well?)

Apart from the raw politics involved, what has been fascinating about today’s proceedings has been the spotlight that has been thrown onto the machinery of government. It is well known that ‘scientists advise, politicians decide‘ but even so it sobering to realise that our whole machinery of government was not very good – and the South East Asian economies of Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, South Korea and so on dealt with COVID-19 so very much better than we did. Also, the Prime Minister comes out as a person who does not seek advice or even consult with cabinet colleagues (e.g. Michael Gove seems to be almost completely lacking from today’s accounts). As the days roll by, we can expect to hear rebuttals of what Cummings has to say, not least from Matt Hancock who Cummings felt should have been sacked for multiple transgressions.