Tuesday, 14th December, 2021

[Day 638]

We always knew that today was going to be a busy kind of day and so it proved. Last night, I had made a start on getting the Christmas cards processed and managed about 60% of them. This morning, I carried on until the task was complete. By the time I had completed the major part of the task, there was no real time to go down into town and get them posted. The rather sad part of completing one’s Christmas card list is the relisation that one has to delete from the list those from your friends and associates who have not survived the year. Apart from the recent death of my brother-in-law, we also experienced the sad loss of Mariano Baena, the Professor of Public Administration at the Complutense University if Madrid. In an earlier life, he had help to write some of the parts of the reformed Spanish constitution after the death of Franco and the birth of a liberal democracy. At one time, as a member of the Spanish Supreme Court he was under threat from Eta, Basque separatist movement in Spain and received police protection (but not between 2.00 and 5.00 in the morning when ETA could have murdered him if they so felt so inclined). Meg and Marino Baena organised between them the first exchange of students between Leicester Polytechnic (later, De Monfort University, Leicester) and later he faciliated my spending a term teaching (in Spanish) some Information Technology to public administration students in Madrid. So both Meg and I had both owe, in our own ways, a debt of gratitude to Mariano Baena and his passing is mourned by us both. Meg also lost a former long-term colleague (Commander Robert Rendall) which she worked intimately for many years as the organiser of the supervised work experience of our students. We have also lost our next door neighbour in August, Pat – who got me into Pilates many years ago now. Finally we lost another colleague of ours who lived in Thurnby village with whom we were friendly because we not had shared academic interests but also lived in the same village in Lecestershire. When the task of writing and checking our Christmas cards envelopes was complete, we had our ‘elevenses’ at home because in a few minutes, we knew that I needed to get ready for my Pilates class later on.

Our Pilates class ran as normal with a lot of good natured banter and anticipation of what might happen in the final class of the year next Tuesday (when it is rumoured that Santa Claus might appear and, by tradition, brings with him some little bottles of home-made damson gin!)

After a late dinner had been consumed, it was a trip down into town by car to both pick up our newspaper and also to post the batch of Christmas cards – some 40+ in number, excluding the local ones that will get written and then hand delivered to neighbours and nearby friends in a day or so. We were pleased that we had got inside the posting ‘limit’ for Spain which is next Thursday so that we hope that the three Spanish cards that we have stent this year should arrive before Christmas Day itself.

A very large number of Conservative MPs (approx. 100) have voted against their own party tonight, to express their displeasure at the new ‘Plan B’ regulations which the Government are putting in place to attempt to hold the wall against th spread of the Omicron variant – which is spreading at the most alarming rate. As the size of the revolt (100+) is in excess of the Government majority of 80, then we have the interesting position of a government passing legislation (statutory instruments) only with the assistance of the Labour party. Whereas Tory MPs are not in the habit of rebelling, the experience can prove instructive for them. Loyalty is the Conservative Party’s secret weapon but rebellion does not come naturally to them. But, once MPs get the taste for rebellion, it gets easier for them. Aslo the role and influence of the government whips (in charge of party discipline) is very much diminished when the size of the rebellion is so large. Boris Johnson may well feel that his hold on power is a bit more tenuous after tonight’s votes but, of course, Tory MPs could ‘revolt’ knowing that the legislation would pass with Labour support. The really crucial event this week is the North Shropshire by election where a Tory majority of about 23,000 is under threat. The latest opinion polls put the Liberal Democrats 1% behind the Tories, whilst the bookmakers are favouring the Liberals. We shall know in the wee small hours of Friday morning and if the Tories were to lose this by election (unlikely, but not impossible) then Boris Johnson’s hold on power will be seriously under threat. Many Tory MPs always knew that Boris Jonson might be a brilliant campaigner (i.e. election winner) but was unlikely to be a success at the task of government itself. Compare his performance with John Major or Gordon Brown for example.