Meg and I always look forward to Tuesdays if only because it is the day when we typically meet with our friends in the Waitrose coffee bar. Today, having collected our newspaper, we popped round to Waitrose where we met up with Seasoned World Traveller, as we expected, and also one of our pre-pandemic Waitrose coffee bar friends. We also caught sight of one of our Irish friends from down the road so Meg popped out to thank her for the birthday presents left outside our front door last night. I also fleetingly made contact with the teacher of politics at Bromsgrove school with whom we used to share political stories. In particular, I wanted to convey to her what I had discovered and blogged a week or so ago, the story of how the Queen, perhaps through inexperience acceded to the illegitimate request of her recently resigned Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, that the leading candidates from the Commons be ignored and that an aristocratic Scottish landowner, Alec Dougls Home, known to her mother, be ‘sent for’ to form the next Conservative administration. So we had our merry little chats, did a spot of shopping nd then returned home after which I walked down into town to attend my normal Pilates session.
Tonight, a Scottish solicitor has died who was one of the last of group of students who in 1950 succesfully removed the ‘Stone of Scone’ from under the Coronation chair and transported it back to Scotland, admittedly in two pieces into which it had been broken. Then it stayed in Arbroath for 130 days after which it was successfully located and then returned to England. The full and fascinating story of the theft has been made into a film and is fully documented in Wikipedia but there are some twists to the story. One rumour is that a local stone mason made several copies of the stone, one of which was substituted for the stolen stone so the ‘Stone of Scone’ now residing again in the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey could be a copy. There are even further twists to this story. After some good detctive work, the perpetrators and location of the stone were discovered but although the police interviewed the four students, none of them was actually charged. This is because by the time it was judged to be too politically sensitive to go ahead with a prosecution. In another twist, the ‘original’ stone was actually returned to the Scots in 1996 on indefinite loan, on the understanding that when it is required again (which it will be for the coronation of Charles III), it is returned temporarily to London. There are two stories of a similar ilk that I have come across. One of them is caught inadvertently on the soundtrack of the film that was shot of the investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969. Towards the end of the film, there is a muffled ‘crumple’ sound which the Welsh police have identified as the home-made bomb of a Welsh anarchist/nationalist. The police had this well known character under close surveillance and made sure he and his device were kept well away from the ceremony – hence they were not surprised when the home-made device exploded prematurely but whether the anarchist died or not is not known. The oher Welsh event that I happen to know about is when the TV transmitter serving South Wales and adjudged to be an English propaganda tool was bombed and destroyed. I was at a small and rather exclusive dinner party provided by the Director of the Open University in Wales and certainly a man of nationalist convictions. He reckoned that the entire Welsh police and judiciary knew the identities of those responsible but they all chose to look the other way. Hence no-one was arrested, let alone prosecuted.
After I returned home and had a delayed lunch, we tuned into the rolling news programmes to see the latest civil war erupting in the Tory party. The latest dilemma is whether to uprate benefits, such as Universal Credit, in line with inflation which is of the order of 10% But were this to happen, the benefit recipients would have had a greater increase than those in work which is of the order of 6-7%. The dilemma for the Tories is that the small print of the agreement to abolish the 45% tax rate is a commitment to find £18 billion in public service funding. Leaving aside the NHS and the Ministry of Defence and pensioners protected by the triple lock, this only leaves the recipients of UC (Universal Credit) to go after. The Tory dilemma is that the rank and file and many of the Cabinet have a feeling that UC recipients are nearly always ‘undeserving’ or ‘feckless’ and hate providing any more money that is necessary. On the other hand, not to upgrade UC in line with inflation will mean a real cut which will be the largest real-time cut that UC recipients, some of the poorest and most handicapped in our society, have ever had. The arguments are raging back and forth and Liz Truss is saying that they are not ready to take a decision yet. But ultimately the decision might be made on the calculation of whatever benefit increases are chosen will pass a vote in the House of Commons. Interesting times!