Monday, 8th July, 2024 [Day 1575]

And so Monday morning dawned but not after a particularly happy night last night. Meg had been put to bed at 8.00 pm in the evening but could not or would not go to sleep until about 12.30 in the morning. Having been kept all yesterday evening, I was not in the best of moods today as well as being desperately tired – when the carers called round for their late morning call, they had to arouse me because I had fallen asleep in the armchair through sheer exhaustion. But the day seemed quite a fine one so we managed to make our trip to the park for our elevenses. In comparison with the last two days, I went both down and back at a fairly leisurely pace and as it is a Monday, we did expect to see any our park acquaintances today. After the carers had made their late morning call, I busied myself with a small stir fry of onions, peppers and tomatoes to enhance the cottage pie which we started yesterday and we ate this with a portion of runner beans (said to be stringless but I could not resist a quick flash down the length of the beans with my very sharp peeler).

Today we are in the early days of the new Labour administration and the media (as well as I myself) are interested how the new ministers are approaching their tasks, given the enormity of the task facing them. Today is the day when Rachel Reeves as the very first female Chancellor of the Exchequer is making her first major speech in the role. It appears that an important part of the growth agenda is to stimulate more house building and local authorities are having targets first given to them (and then withdrawn) by the previous administration. In order to do this, extra attention is being paid both to ‘brown’ and also to ‘grey’ land. The latter category is land which is technically classified as green (e.g. as part of the rolling fields of the countryside) but is actually pretty scrubby and non-descript. So a planning revolution is being planned but this might not be easy as might be thought. On the one hand, there are always those who live in quite pleasant surroundings and whose last desire is for new housing, especially so called ‘social’ housing, on their doorstep so this constitutes one barrier to be overcome. The point is being made today is that Labour MPs who have traditionally represented urban and large city constituencies might now find themselves elected to a constituency with a largely rural hinterland. So the new tranche of Labour MPs themselves may find themselves in the middle of planning decisions where their party and government are eager to pursue one policy (new house building) but the constituents who have elected them, perhaps with quite a small majority, have some very different ideas. In addition to this, as is evidenced by the spate of new house building literally all around us in Bromsgrove (even the fields at the back of us now being developed), building new houses without the appropriate infrastructure of roads, schools, medical facilities, local retail outlets and the like is a recipe for disaster. So much new housing is built all around us but with no extra road provision for the 2.5 cars per household (Mum, Dad and eventually teenage children) that I envisage that in some 5-10 years time. Bromsgrove may be the first town in history to be utterly gridlocked during the rush hours. I can quite vividly remember about ten years ago walking down the Kidderminster road shortly after 8.00am in order to attend an early doctor’s appointment and, even then, I walked to the end of the Kidderminster Road reaching the end of it before the slow moving traffic (if I had been in a car) This situation has worsened in the last ten years and will worsen again dramatically when the new houses being built all around us come on stream. The official advice, by the way, from Worcestershire County Council who model the traffic flows and provide the data for planning applications, is that they are assuming that many people will walk or cycle rather than going by car and this is being built into their model. But there is no evidence that these behavioural changes are in effect occurring. I do not suppose that Worcestershire in general and Bromsgrove are very aberrant in this respect and I suspect that the situation in which I found myself (practically gridlocked into one’s own streets during rush hours) is mirrored in many if not most parts of the country.

If we thought that we had intractable political problems here in the UK, then France is about to undergo probably years of turmoil. President Macron called elections to ‘see off’ and neutralise the far right in the French political system. But what has emerged has been an electorate divided into a left coalition of about 160 seats, Macron’s centrist party of about 140 seats and the far right National Rally associated with Le Pen with about 120 seats. So whether a Prime Minister can be chosen who will command the support of the majority of the parliament and whether any legislation can be passed under similar circumstances is an open question. Most commentators are of the view that just before Paris (and France) hosts the Olympics, we have the spectacle of a major Western European society which is in political deadlock for weeks if not months. But Belgium survived for over a year I think without a functioning government and whereas the civil services in these societies can ensure that ‘normal’ life can carry on, major decisions that need to be taken are avoided. So far in France the PM has offered to resign but President Macron has refused to accept this so we have a ‘lame duck’ prime minister in power in our nearest neighbour for the for seeable future. And although the political scene in the USA looks increasingly unstable, Jo Biden is resisting all attempts to suggest that he should step down. One has to raise the question that were he to be elected and just about ‘compus mentis’ to be the next President of the USA, would he remain sufficiently robust both physically and mentally to serve for a further team of four years? There was a rumour that Michelle Obama was been called upon to run as one projected poll suggests that she could beat Trump by 11 percentage points. But so far, she has indicated no desire to enter the political arena but I do wonder if she could be persuaded.

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