We Are Experiencing Turbulence

Stephen Irvine, 17 May 2012

To explain my recent absence, dear readers, I ask you to look back almost 200 years to the epic journey undertaken by Captain George Pollard of the doomed whaleship Essex, as I too found myself clinging on to sanity in the face of unimaginable despair this week; the slow procession of time showing no mercy as the end of everything neared. But unlike Pollard I hadn’t floated thousands of miles in a battered boat, starving, mad, and clutching the bones of cannibalised shipmates – no, my journey had been much worse than that. I’d travelled with Ryanair.

With a sales effort from the airline more forceful than a Geoff Capes log-lift and a cabin in which the plastic seats and screaming infants give one the impression of being squeezed into a 189-seat pram, it was with no little relief that I and the rest of the herd were spewed forth from this most budget of airlines. Whilst awaiting my driver I was somewhat bemused to hear that things had been no less shambolic at the other end of the aviationary scale whilst I’d been out of the country, with news of a government U-turn on the type of fighter planes to buy for the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier making the news.

In a nutshell, this means abandoning plans to buy the conventional take-off version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in favour of the jump-jet model of the same plane. Indifferent? Me too, until I heard that this story was more easily understood when described as a massive government cock-up, with Defence Secretary Philip Hammond the subject of particularly strong finger-wagging. A quick look at Hammond’s profile and it’s hard to determine what he might know about military issues anyway, and it’s now clear that the ‘I know jets need long enough carriers to take off’ box remains unticked on his CV.

Labour peer and former First Sea Lord, Admiral Alan West told the BBC: “It is extraordinary, it does smack of total incompetence. I’m just absolutely amazed, the shambles of it” with £250m of the defence budget disappearing like flesh from the bones of the holder of the short straw on Captain Pollard’s haunted vessel. Hardly the sort of PR balls-up the government need as the country slides back into recession, despite their best austerity efforts.

Things haven’t got much better for the Tories in the last couple of days either, after Rebekah Brooks, the woman who looks like Mick McCarthy (football managing failure) wearing a Mick Hucknall wig, was charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice following the phone-hacking inquiry. The ex News International chief executive had creepily told the Leveson Inquiry about texts from none other than David Cameron, signed off with ‘LOL’ – apparently meaning ‘lots of love.’ It remains to be seen whether this is the sort of dirty water the PM can bail out of his battered ship as he becomes drawn into one of the murkiest affairs of recent years.

On the plus side, one recent piece of good news for the government was of course the ruling that crazed cleric Abu Qatada was to be deported to Jordan under Theresa May’s orders. Make him fly all the way there on Ryanair I say; that’ll teach him what the real face of the infidel looks like when he has to pay £9.99 for a Twix and a cup of tea whilst being constantly bothered with sales pitches for electric cigarettes, lottery tickets and plastic aeroplanes.

Better still, give him a little battered boat with a few of his most loyal followers and let them make their own way to Jordan. The preacher would certainly find out about his god then, with the emaciated crew wildly eyeing each other’s remaining flesh as the unforgiving elements beat down on their pathetic frames; the last of the survivors drifting into port with blood and offal swilling about the ghostly craft. Let him pray for death as Pollard and myself have.