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
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The Brexit Beartraps, #2: Could dropping out of the open skies agreement cancel your holiday?

Flying to Europe is about to get a lot more difficult.

So what is it this time, eh? Brexit is going to wipe out every banana planet on the entire planet? Brexit will get the Last Night of the Proms cancelled? Brexit will bring about World War Three?

To be honest, I think we’re pretty well covered already on that last score, but no, this week it’s nothing so terrifying. It’s just that Brexit might get your holiday cancelled.

What are you blithering about now?

Well, only if you want to holiday in Europe, I suppose. If you’re going to Blackpool you’ll be fine. Or Pakistan, according to some people...

You’re making this up.

I’m honestly not, though we can’t entirely rule out the possibility somebody is. Last month Michael O’Leary, the Ryanair boss who attracts headlines the way certain other things attract flies, warned that, “There is a real prospect... that there are going to be no flights between the UK and Europe for a period of weeks, months beyond March 2019... We will be cancelling people’s holidays for summer of 2019.”

He’s just trying to block Brexit, the bloody saboteur.

Well, yes, he’s been quite explicit about that, and says we should just ignore the referendum result. Honestly, he’s so Remainiac he makes me look like Dan Hannan.

But he’s not wrong that there are issues: please fasten your seatbelt, and brace yourself for some turbulence.

Not so long ago, aviation was a very national sort of a business: many of the big airports were owned by nation states, and the airline industry was dominated by the state-backed national flag carriers (British Airways, Air France and so on). Since governments set airline regulations too, that meant those airlines were given all sorts of competitive advantages in their own country, and pretty much everyone faced barriers to entry in others. 

The EU changed all that. Since 1994, the European Single Aviation Market (ESAM) has allowed free movement of people and cargo; established common rules over safety, security, the environment and so on; and ensured fair competition between European airlines. It also means that an AOC – an Air Operator Certificate, the bit of paper an airline needs to fly – from any European country would be enough to operate in all of them. 

Do we really need all these acronyms?

No, alas, we need more of them. There’s also ECAA, the European Common Aviation Area – that’s the area ESAM covers; basically, ESAM is the aviation bit of the single market, and ECAA the aviation bit of the European Economic Area, or EEA. Then there’s ESAA, the European Aviation Safety Agency, which regulates, well, you can probably guess what it regulates to be honest.

All this may sound a bit dry-

It is.

-it is a bit dry, yes. But it’s also the thing that made it much easier to travel around Europe. It made the European aviation industry much more competitive, which is where the whole cheap flights thing came from.

In a speech last December, Andrew Haines, the boss of Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority said that, since 2000, the number of destinations served from UK airports has doubled; since 1993, fares have dropped by a third. Which is brilliant.

Brexit, though, means we’re probably going to have to pull out of these arrangements.

Stop talking Britain down.

Don’t tell me, tell Brexit secretary David Davis. To monitor and enforce all these international agreements, you need an international court system. That’s the European Court of Justice, which ministers have repeatedly made clear that we’re leaving.

So: last March, when Davis was asked by a select committee whether the open skies system would persist, he replied: “One would presume that would not apply to us” – although he promised he’d fight for a successor, which is very reassuring. 

We can always holiday elsewhere. 

Perhaps you can – O’Leary also claimed (I’m still not making this up) that a senior Brexit minister had told him that lost European airline traffic could be made up for through a bilateral agreement with Pakistan. Which seems a bit optimistic to me, but what do I know.

Intercontinental flights are still likely to be more difficult, though. Since 2007, flights between Europe and the US have operated under a separate open skies agreement, and leaving the EU means we’re we’re about to fall out of that, too.  

Surely we’ll just revert to whatever rules there were before.

Apparently not. Airlines for America – a trade body for... well, you can probably guess that, too – has pointed out that, if we do, there are no historic rules to fall back on: there’s no aviation equivalent of the WTO.

The claim that flights are going to just stop is definitely a worst case scenario: in practice, we can probably negotiate a bunch of new agreements. But we’re already negotiating a lot of other things, and we’re on a deadline, so we’re tight for time.

In fact, we’re really tight for time. Airlines for America has also argued that – because so many tickets are sold a year or more in advance – airlines really need a new deal in place by March 2018, if they’re to have faith they can keep flying. So it’s asking for aviation to be prioritised in negotiations.

The only problem is, we can’t negotiate anything else until the EU decides we’ve made enough progress on the divorce bill and the rights of EU nationals. And the clock’s ticking.

This is just remoaning. Brexit will set us free.

A little bit, maybe. CAA’s Haines has also said he believes “talk of significant retrenchment is very much over-stated, and Brexit offers potential opportunities in other areas”. Falling out of Europe means falling out of European ownership rules, so itcould bring foreign capital into the UK aviation industry (assuming anyone still wants to invest, of course). It would also mean more flexibility on “slot rules”, by which airports have to hand out landing times, and which are I gather a source of some contention at the moment.

But Haines also pointed out that the UK has been one of the most influential contributors to European aviation regulations: leaving the European system will mean we lose that influence. And let’s not forget that it was European law that gave passengers the right to redress when things go wrong: if you’ve ever had a refund after long delays, you’ve got the EU to thank.

So: the planes may not stop flying. But the UK will have less influence over the future of aviation; passengers might have fewer consumer rights; and while it’s not clear that Brexit will mean vastly fewer flights, it’s hard to see how it will mean more, so between that and the slide in sterling, prices are likely to rise, too.

It’s not that Brexit is inevitably going to mean disaster. It’s just that it’ll take a lot of effort for very little obvious reward. Which is becoming something of a theme.

Still, we’ll be free of those bureaucrats at the ECJ, won’t be?

This’ll be a great comfort when we’re all holidaying in Grimsby.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Brexit. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.