Who represents real Britain?
a) Solitary Green MP Caroline Lucas; Guardian readers; other tofu-munching eco-freaks; anyone else who lives in Brighton or Totnes; Greenpeace; Fiends of the Earth; Greta Thunberg; Extinction Rebellion.
b) Normal people who like driving in their cars, taking regular holidays, being able to afford to keep their houses warm when it’s cold, and who are bored rigid with being lectured by hectoring little nobodies with crappy pretend science degrees from the University of East Anglia about how the planet’s dying and it’s all their fault and something must be done by yesterday or we’re all doomed.
Boris Johnson is no fool and he seems to have worked out using his Oxford Classics mega-brain that the correct answer is b). At least this is what we can infer from his most significant environmental decision since his landslide general election victory — bailing out the stricken airline company Flybe.
Flybe is the kind of cheap and cheerful budget airline that normal British people use for their holidays. That’s why it is so important that it should not be allowed to die, and why Boris Johnson has just done the right thing by saving the cash-strapped airline with a government rescue package.
The details of the rescue package are not yet clear but they will likely involve some kind of relaxation of the Air Passenger Duty (APD) costs which had driven Flybe to the point of insolvency:
Chancellor Sajid Javid had been holding talks with colleagues to decide whether to let Flybe defer its estimated £106 million APD bill for three years or whether the tax should be cut for all domestic flights, according to multiple reports.
The airline would not comment when asked if the Treasury had separately agreed to the deferral of a portion of the airline’s outstanding tax bill over a period of months.
The emergency agreement seeks to prevent Flybe becoming the second UK carrier to fail in four months after Thomas Cook went bust in September.
Sajid Javid said: “I welcome Flybe’s confirmation that they will continue to operate as normal, safeguarding jobs in UK and ensuring flights continue to serve communities across the whole of the UK.
Normally — in fact ideally never — any conservative government worth the name should not be in the business of bailing out failing industry. But this, I would argue, isn’t so much a bail-out as a correction of bad government policy.
Air Passenger Duty was a typically weaselish tax introduced in 1994 by weaselish fake Conservative prime minister, philanderer, and future anti-Brexit campaigner John ‘I wunt you, Edwina’ Major.
APD adds £26 to the price of most return domestic flights – when departure and arrival takes place in the same country – such as those operated by Flybe.
When it was introduced in 1994, it started out as £5 for flights within the UK and to other countries in the European Economic Area (EEA), and £10 for flights elsewhere.
Rates have been raised by successive governments, and the duty is currently charged at £13 for a short-haul flight in economy and £78 for its long-haul counterpart.
Think about that: round about one sixth of the cost of a budget flight to New York has nothing to do with airline costs but is a straightforward government levy to punish you for your having the temerity to want to travel somewhere by aeroplane.
If a family of four wants to go somewhere exotic for a treat, that’s nearly £320 down the drain straightaway — yet more of your hard-earned cash going into the government coffers to be spent on something pointless.
But that £26 (for a return) on British domestic flights is more insulting still because it represents such a significant and distorting proportion of the total ticket price. If someone wants to fly to Cornwall or Edinburgh or Manchester or wherever, what business has the government disincentivising them to do so? Why should airlines providing this service have their margins shredded and rival services (trains, cars, taxis, etc.) be put at a competitive advantage by government levies?
The simple answer to those questions is, of course, that successive government have decided, in their wisdom, that flying is bad for the environment and that therefore travellers should be discouraged from using aeroplanes.
What none of them, Conservative or Labour, appears to have considered are the consequences of their virtue-signalling green tax.
First, it’s a regressive tax which hits the poor hardest.
Second, it undermines an important part of the British economy. Whether for business or pleasure, it’s entirely right that British people should have the opportunity to get from A to B as quickly and conveniently as possible by whatever means they wish, including by plane.
— Rory Boland (@roryboland) January 13, 2020
If this new administration means what it says about rebalancing Britain in favour of all those previously marginalised working-class voters in the North and the Midlands who voted Conservative, then it needs to prioritise the economy over green virtue-signalling.
And make no mistake: the two are inimical. There is no such thing as “green” growth; there are no environmental levies that do anything other than harm the broader economy; there is no way of decarbonising the British economy without hurting people, most especially those aforementioned salt-of-the-earth working-class voters.
By standing up for travellers and businessmen and for the airline industry rather than for the eco-loon killjoys who want to stop people flying, Boris Johnson’s administration has signalled what I hope will prove to be its general direction of travel: pro-ordinary people; anti-disgusting, whiny, pampered liberal elite.
The best thing about the rescue of Flybe is the wailing and gnashing of teeth it has caused among all the usual suspects.
Aviation already subsidised – no tax on fuel
Domestic flights need to be reduced, not made cheaper https://t.co/Ak5e2BfetW
— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) January 14, 2020
People are asking "what about the jobs if #Flybe goes under?".
But what about the jobs if the planet goes under?
And the lives?
There is no monstrosity that cannot be justified by the creation or continuation of employment. Including the destruction of human life.
— George Monbiot (@GeorgeMonbiot) January 14, 2020
The sooner these grim misanthropes disappear to live on a remote island somewhere, the better for us all. They have absolutely no place in post-Brexit Britain, that’s for sure.