20 September 2020
The Brexit Bill was passed by the House of Commons by a depressing number of conservative MPs more willing to break the law than risk their jobs. It makes you realise why the word ‘Commons’ is used.
Wouldn’t it great (if it survives the committee stages and the House of Lords) if the Queen declined to break the law herself and refused to sanction the Brexit Bill?
But even the right-wing press are critical of Boris Johnson’s promise to carry out 1 million tests a day followed three days later by his humiliating admission they hadn’t even reached 300,000 yet. Let’s paint “1 million tests a day” on a new Boris bus.
The American ‘justice’ system is now also flakier following the sad death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the 87-year old supreme court justice who had pancreatic cancer, and Trump now plans to nominate another Republican and the Senate will nod it through. Still, if this does happen, it’ll simplify the American justice system because all new applications to the supreme court will have to do is to ask which party the applicant supports.
In 2016, eight months before the presidential election, Mitch McConnell set a precedent by blocking Barack Obama from filling a court vacancy on the grounds that the time was too short and the position should be left vacancy for the next election winner to fill. In 2020, two months before the next presidential election, the same Mitch McConnell has now pledged to get a swift vote to appoint a Trump groupie before the election.
Even Johnson now realises a second spike is approaching and R, the average number of people who catch it from a single sufferer, is now over 1, the level at which it might be contained. The coronavirus test and trace system is still “barely functional” and The Independent has seen a leaked document saying that the Department of Health and Social Care has capped funding testing in the health service, leaving hospital doctors, nurses, teachers and other key workers unable to work because they can’t get tested.
However, it now appears that nowhere has recorded an infection rate of over about 50% and optimistic epidemiologists are hoping that about half the population might be naturally immune.
America has, of course been well-led and very lucky and, in an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News, Donald Trump said “It would go away without the vaccine, George … sure, over a period of time. You’ll develop like a herd mentality, it’s gonna be – it’s gonna be herd-developed, and that’s gonna happen. It will all happen.”
Even our stuttering prime minister could learn from this.
Trump’s latest wheeze is to create a ‘1776 Commission’ which will aim to educate people “about the miracle of American history”, erasing unnecessary irrelevancies like slavery and racism and making it clear to the native Americans that the continent actually was discovered by Columbus.
A similarly ingenuous attempt to mislead people appeared over here when an offer of 190p per share was rejected by the board of G4S, Britain’s most incompetent and scandal-ridden security firm, on the grounds that “the timing of the proposal is highly opportunistic”. Isn’t that one of the overriding principles of capitalism and market forces, that you take advantage of others’ weaknesses to make yourself a profit?
A fortnight ago, I commented on the quality of the water in our rivers, lakes and streams. Figures just released by the Environment Agency show that none of them have escaped pollution by sewage discharges and agricultural and industrial chemicals. Bit worrying really since some of our ‘lakes’ are actually reservoirs and we drink them.
I was saddened to hear of Shere Hite’s death this week. She produced her eponymous and ground-breaking report on female sexuality in 1976 and upset a lot of men who thought they knew better and criticised her sample of 4,500 women as being self-selected and unscientific despite the significant correlation between their responses. Her response was that Freud’s claim that clitoral orgasms were “immature” and women who couldn’t orgasm through penetration were “frigid” was based on a sample of three Viennese women. (I’ve always assumed that Freud enjoyed himself doing the research, which probably influenced his conclusions, and have wondered whether the women shared his self-satisfaction.)
I’d never known if her name, which sounds so much like a Spoonerism, was real. It turns out that her given name was Shirley, the same as her mother’s, so she was nicknamed Shere while still very young and later adopted the family name of her stepfather, Raymond Hite.
Our shamelessly absentee and utterly useless former MP gave up in 2020. Having been opposed by a local community activist who gained more votes than any other independent in the UK first time she stood against him, Swire could see the writing on the wall and stepped down in case he was humiliated by an independent who was not only younger but – ugh – a woman!
Now Sasha, a former journalist and his wife, has written a book about her time as an idle MP’s wife and implicitly, but probably unintentionally, recognises the success of our dedicated independent, Claire Wright, and compliments her by confirming that Swire started his own short-lived campaign to keep the local hospital open in competition with Wright’s longstanding campaign just to annoy her. How small-minded and bitter can a failed MP get?
While breaking my fast early on Wednesday before a trustees’ meeting, a large fly was zooming round the room so, next time it passed, I snatched out at it and yes, you guessed, it had beautiful yellow and black stripes and a pointy bit at the end which it managed to jab into my little finger before I dropped it and trod on it. I felt a bit guilty because it was only doing what it was designed for …
Chuck Feeney, who co-founded Duty Free Shoppers and made billions out of it, is an unusual man. In the early 1980s, he started asking himself how many yachts or pairs of shoes he needed and set up The Atlantic Philanthropies, a charitable foundation into which he transferred almost all his wealth although this wasn’t known until 1996 when he sold his stake in DFS.
He’s now 89 and has finally achieved his lifetime’s ambition: the foundation has given away all its money and is being wound up. A friend said “He has made reasonable provision for [his children], but he did feel that his family should be not be burdened with extraordinary sums”.
He wishes people like Jeff Bezos would follow his example. “Try it,” he’s said, “you’ll like it.”
Chuck, I love you.