Spending less time with your family...

Wouldn't we like our politicians more if they didn't treat us like children? Wouldn't we like them m

I hate politicians. They are idiots. Pretty much without exception. One has a vague feeling that there might have been some more honourable ones, in some bygone era, but in reality those George Washingtons and Mahatma Gandhis and William Gladstones were probably as hollow and rotten and transparent (not a good combination, as their festering emptiness is on full view to the world) as the ones we've got now.

As I went to bed last night I decided that I hated Ruth Kelly more than any living person. It's not just that she is religious and thus opposes stem-cell research and total equality for homosexuals, though those are both good reasons. It's because of her bare-faced cheek at claiming that her decision to step down from the cabinet so she can "spend more time with her family" is not motivated by any other political agenda.

It seems she even acknowledged that the "more time with the family" thing was generally a euphemism used by people who were in fact making political capital out of their actions. But she really wasn't doing that. She was doing it because she genuinely wanted to spend more time with her family.

And yet, if that was the case, don't you think the timing of her announcement was rather foolish. Sure, she's stepping down to spend more time with her family, but decides to make that public the day after Gordon Brown makes the speech in which he attempts to save his chubby arse. (Oh would that we could actually organise the boot for outgoing Prime Ministers - I think it would make democracy a lot more popular if we were all involved in the firing as well as the hiring).

How stupid does she think we are? I hate anyone who so blatantly tries to pass off a lie, whether it's a politician or a newspaper editor whose front page promises us a comedy guide written by top TV star Catherine Tate, when we're bound to immediately discover on purchase that she only wrote the introduction and the rest of it was written by some nobody called Richard Herring (interestingly today the front cover heralded the Memoir and Biography Guide as "Introduced by Antonia Fraser" so they've obviously realised they were insulting their readers' intelligence - though they do use a photo of Keira Knightley in her latest film role to try and suck in the celebrity loving idiots).

It's obvious that the timing of the resignation means that there is more to this than her spending time with her family and yet she insists that it isn't, even in the face of overwhelming common sense. It is just a lie. She knows it's a lie. We know it's a lie. Why don't politicians tell the truth and stop treating us like idiots? This is why we hate them.

If she just said, "I'm stepping down because Gordon Brown is going to demote me in any case and I'm trying to do him some damage just as he looked like he might bounce back a bit and think that if he's still PM come the election I will lose my seat. And he does that really stupid thing with his mouth every time he speaks and it scares the shit out of me. And he had to get his wife to introduce his speech, which is only one step away from getting his mum to do it, saying, "Stop being nasty to my boy, he's doing his best. If I find anyone plotting against him I will be having a word with their mums,"" then we'd respect the sinister, pudge faced, granny-haired Opus Dei member.

But everyone has to play this game of pretending that the obvious isn't happening. So she calls Gordon Brown as "a towering figure", which no one thinks or believes, unless the tower is the leaning Tower of Pisa or one of the World Trade Centre Towers, literally seconds before it came crashing to the ground. I look at his stupid, wan, pouting face and can't even believe he is the Prime Minister. Does everyone else still think that Tony Blair is in charge? Because I really have to slap myself to remember that he isn't. Brown just doesn't have the bearing. Maybe none of us have given him the chance, but he still looks like someone who has accidentally stumbled into the role like Peter Sellers in "Being There" (though less effective) or King Ralph.

And of course though I hate Ruth Kelly (and can't believe that I am older than her - though this is pretty much true of anyone with a proper job), Brown is just as much to blame for hiding his lies in a perspex display case. He obviously was going to get rid of Kelly, but will never say that, even though we all know it. He might claim he was talking about David Cameron when he said it was "no time for a novice", but he really meant David Milliband. He knows it. We know it. Why doesn't he admit it? Wouldn't we like our politicians more if they didn't treat us like children? Wouldn't we like them more if they were candid? What does Gordon Brown really have to lose at this point? If he said "David Milliband is a scary eyed Brutus trying to stab me in the back and Ruth Kelly is a stupid Christian twat. I'm in charge and they can all fuck off!" wouldn't we suddenly have a new found respect for him? Wouldn't we think, "Hey let's give old King Ralph a chance"?" He's going down in flames anyway, why not go down as the politician who suddenly cut out all the bullshit and told it like it was. He might just survive.

In the meantime, presuming he doesn't do that, I am just waiting to see how long after Brown is overthrown it will take for Ruth Kelly to announce that she's realised that her family is quite annoying and she's going to spend less time with them after all. I think it will be less than ten minutes.

Richard Herring began writing and performing comedy when he was 14. His career since Oxford has included a successful partnership with Stewart Lee and his hit one-man show Talking Cock
Getty Images.
Show Hide image

The problems with ending encryption to fight terrorism

Forcing tech firms to create a "backdoor" to access messages would be a gift to cyber-hackers.

The UK has endured its worst terrorist atrocity since 7 July 2005 and the threat level has been raised to "critical" for the first time in a decade. Though election campaigning has been suspended, the debate over potential new powers has already begun.

Today's Sun reports that the Conservatives will seek to force technology companies to hand over encrypted messages to the police and security services. The new Technical Capability Notices were proposed by Amber Rudd following the Westminster terrorist attack and a month-long consultation closed last week. A Tory minister told the Sun: "We will do this as soon as we can after the election, as long as we get back in. The level of threat clearly proves there is no more time to waste now. The social media companies have been laughing in our faces for too long."

Put that way, the plan sounds reasonable (orders would be approved by the home secretary and a senior judge). But there are irrefutable problems. Encryption means tech firms such as WhatsApp and Apple can't simply "hand over" suspect messages - they can't access them at all. The technology is designed precisely so that conversations are genuinely private (unless a suspect's device is obtained or hacked into). Were companies to create an encryption "backdoor", as the government proposes, they would also create new opportunities for criminals and cyberhackers (as in the case of the recent NHS attack).

Ian Levy, the technical director of the National Cyber Security, told the New Statesman's Will Dunn earlier this year: "Nobody in this organisation or our parent organisation will ever ask for a 'back door' in a large-scale encryption system, because it's dumb."

But there is a more profound problem: once created, a technology cannot be uninvented. Should large tech firms end encryption, terrorists will merely turn to other, lesser-known platforms. The only means of barring UK citizens from using the service would be a Chinese-style "great firewall", cutting Britain off from the rest of the internet. In 2015, before entering the cabinet, Brexit Secretary David Davis warned of ending encryption: "Such a move would have had devastating consequences for all financial transactions and online commerce, not to mention the security of all personal data. Its consequences for the City do not bear thinking about."

Labour's manifesto pledged to "provide our security agencies with the resources and the powers they need to protect our country and keep us all safe." But added: "We will also ensure that such powers do not weaken our individual rights or civil liberties". The Liberal Democrats have vowed to "oppose Conservative attempts to undermine encryption."

But with a large Conservative majority inevitable, according to polls, ministers will be confident of winning parliamentary support for the plan. Only a rebellion led by Davis-esque liberals is likely to stop them.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

0800 7318496