Corona Diary, Day 33

Friday, 17 April 2020

Feeling somewhat unsettled yesterday and today, wheels spinning around but not moving forward. I have finished my biography of Trotsky, all 800+ pages of it and read one review. I often dither when I’m between books. I skimmed through what the Bank of England had written about the financial state of the UK but as it all feels abstract now that Corona has pretty well turned everything upside down. I eventually settle for a Wikipedia article on the European Research Group, “a research support group for those of the UK’s Conservative MPs who choose to subscribe”. According to the Wiki article, the ERG “was criticised for its lack of transparency regarding its use of public funds to carry out research”. It hasn’t previously published details of membership but was obliged in 2019 by the Information Commissioner’s Office to reveal some information. Wikipedia has a list of 52 names, which presumably were made public when an e-mail from Steve Baker to the group was revealed. These 52 names were all or had recently been Conservative MPs at this time, presumably all or nearly all of them pro-Brexit. Googling through the list, I found that it was surprisingly meritocratic. There were relatively few members who had come from traditional upper layers of the bourgeoisie (perhaps such people don’t become MPs these days); there were only three old Etonians among the 52 and a couple of others who had attended prestigious public schools such as Marlborough and Dulwich. 14 out of the 52 had attended state schools (the actual figure was probably a bit higher as a number had attended voluntary-added schools or schools that later became academies and which were in or had a close relationship to the state sector). The remainder had attended a wide range of private schools. It was a relatively well educated group, almost all of whom had had some form of tertiary education. Eight of the group had attended Cambridge University either at undergraduate or postgraduate level and five Oxford, two had studied at St Andrews in Scotland. The rest had attended a broad range of higher education institutions red bricks, new universities and ex-polytechnics. Most of them were MPs for southern or south midland constituencies with the South-East and East Anglia well represented (reflecting the seats the Tories held at this time). There was a scattering of MPs from northern constituencies and a somewhat larger group of people from the north who represented southern constituencies. Interesting as far as it went but it didn’t throw much light on the possible financial and economic interests for supporting Brexit (the preponderance of MPs, especially from Essex and East Anglia did reflect the areas where support for Brexit was high, however).

I also managed to get started on the third language I had planned to work with during the Corona period, Anglo-Saxon (Old English). I’m not intending to become a fluent reader of Anglo-Saxon but want to know how the language is constructed and be aware of it for etymology. I’ve enjoyed exploring the common roots of English and Swedish (the older Scandinavians and the Anglo-Saxons could probably understand one another to some extent, even if this did lead to making a dog’s breakfast of “shall” and “will”, which we suffer from to this day). It enabled me to understand English much better. And the coming together of Anglo-Saxon, Norman and Danish to make English is fascinating. And that was about it for today.

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