Thursday, 18th November, 2021

[Day 612]

Today was a typical and non-descript November day, alleviated by the fact that the temperatures are fairly mild. We are told, though, that the jet stream will bend away from us exposing us to a blast of cold arctic air from Sunday onwards. We were a little late getting to the park this morning as I had engaged in an early morning shop-up at Waitrose in Droitwich, getting to the store at about 7.55 and actually being let in about 2-3 minutes later. The way back, though, was marred by the most horrendous traffic jam. There had been some kind of multiple crash in the Droitwich area so the police had intervened, countermanding the traffic lights and attempting to manage a queue of traffic about a mile long. The proximity of the M5 junction only complicated this situation so the journey back home took about 20 minutes longer than I would have anticipated. When Meg and I eventually got to the park, we fell into conversation with a lady dog walker with whom we had conversed before. I had evidently spoken to her about my soup-making activities and I told her about my recent successes and failures. Then we got onto the subject of fell-walking about which we were both evidently keen and we were soon swapping stories about our experiences in the Lake District, Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons. She was explaining to us how her dog (a Staffi?) had developed dementia at the age of 11 and had to be reminded how to do certain things to drink water when it was thirsty. I really didn’t know that animals suffered dementia in the same way that humans do and I wonder whether the causes are the same. According to our NHS website, Alzheimer’s disease is thought to be caused by the abnormal build-up of proteins in and around brain cells. One of the proteins involved is called amyloid, deposits of which form plaques around brain cells. The other protein is called tau, deposits of which form tangles within brain cells. There was a report in the Times a day or so that some scientists have found a way of attacking these rogue proteins in mice – but of course it is a big step to humans.

The principal political news today is the abndonment of the Midland to Leeds branch of HS2. This had been forecast by the Sunday Times and, one suspects, that a certain amount of ‘leaking’ and ‘news management’ has taken place in order to lessen the impact of the announcement. As I indicated in last night’s blog, it is the case that one has to examine the number of marginal ‘red-wall’ (i.e. ex-Labour, now Tory) parliamentary constituencies in the North Midlands and Yorkshire to understand some of the cynical manouvering behind the announcement. These seats will experience the disruption of the construction work but none of the benefits as the new HS2 line would have passed through them. Any government really serious about HS2 would have started with a fast Manchester to Leeds line and then proceeded southwards rather than the other way around.

There is a story in today’s Times that I am finding it hard to believe but almost anything bizarre that emerges from our not-fit-for-purpose Home Office is no longer a source of surprise. The plan is that when asylum seekers land upon our shores, they will be immediately shipped out to Albania whilst their claims for asylum are considered. The costs including accommodation and flights will cost the Home Office £100,000 per refugee. The theory behind this scheme is that refugees will be deterred from the prospect of trying to get imto the uK once it becomes known that they will have to spent perhaps years in Albania – a country not noted for its liberal tendencies. Having rejected a similar approach once before, presumably the Albanian government are tempted by the £3 billion that they might make from the UK government if you multiply up the latest published figures for asylum seekers (31,000) by £100,000. In the same report in the Times, it was also indicated that asylum seekers could refuse to go to a third country as this would be contrary to international law. So I wonder what inducements or sanctions might be applied to asylum seekers who refuse to go to Albania? I have also read somewhere that this problem is becoming a prominent issue ‘on the doorstep’ in the ‘red wall’ seats according to some Tory canvassers – presumably, a degree of racism found in these types of communities finds a cost to to the Home Office budget of £3 billion quite acceptable. When I consult some Home Office budget figures, I discover that the Home Office has a budget of £67m for asylum support costs and for asylum system transformation so the proposed £3.1 billion means that this estimate will have to be increased 45 times over. I wonder what the Treasury will make of this? The story has hardly made any prominence in the UK press to date – is this because it is too mad to call out?