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
Photo: Getty
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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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