Through the UK media – and only out of passing interest – I have kept myself broadly across the developing situation this week at the Sharm el-Sheikh resort in Egypt, from which the Russian aeroplane crashed (or now perhaps was blown up) not too long after take-off last weekend with the deaths of all 224 people on board.
I have watched and read about there being some initial confusion – and indeed media silence – among the consortia of investigators (including those from Russia, Egypt, France, Germany and Ireland) visiting the site of the crash as to the sequence of events, what happened, how and why.
Was it the result of human error, a technical fault, a terrible military-related accident, or possibly terrorist action of some description? It seems increasingly as if the cause was the last of these, most probably via an explosive device being planted in the luggage hold at the airport before it departed.
There was then the diplomatic drama of David Cameron receiving the Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for talks at Number 10 on what had been planned as general topics including trade, this just after Mr Cameron had ordered the temporary suspension of British flights to Sharm el-Sheikh, having listened to advice from British security services.
The Egyptian government felt this was distinctly premature, not least because the investigators were still on site and had so far made no pronouncement. A day or so later, it transpired that Mr Cameron had been told by his advisers not only that there had been a great deal of social media/internet ‘chatter’ about the incident amongst Isis and/or jihadist groups around the time the incident took place, but that only a few weeks before a British plane had to take evasive action when a missile of some sort (possibly even from an otherwise innocent Egyptian military exercise) came within 1,000 feet of it.
Ever since the Russian aeroplane was brought to earth – against the background of the developments outlined above – we have been bombarded with news and developments regarding those UK citizens who are, have been, or are about to go at some point in the future, to Sharm el-Sheikh on holiday.
We’ve had tales of the some 20,000 Brits whose flights home have been delayed or cancelled, some even as they were queueing to board at the airport.
Of chaos and confusion following Mr Cameron’s temporary suspension of British flights … then their resumption … then (apparently) Egypt’s refusal to allow flights from Britain to land at Sharm el-Sheikh, possibly either in a fit of pique at Mr Cameron’s decision or, alternatively, because of straightforward logistical issues arising from an ever-increasing number of flights to and from said resort being planned.
Of some poor hapless British diplomat or ambassador to Egypt turning out to explain things at Sharm el-Sheikh airport and being publicly pilloried by a swarm of Brit holidaymakers angry, not only at what was happening generally, but at the lack of information being made available to them about what was going on.
We’ve also had UK travel experts dishing out advice on radio and television – on what is happening and indeed what to do generally – to those who are trapped in Sharma el-Sheikh and have had their flights cancelled; those who are about to fly out there for holidays and have also had their flights postponed or cancelled; and those who have booked holidays in Sharma el-Sheikh at some point in 2016 and are now wishing to cancel them because of the potential dangers involved and/or simply want advice as to what they should do … and indeed asking whether or not they’ll get a refund if they cancel and/or perhaps be hit by extra charges if they switch their holidays from Sharm el-Sheikh to a different destination.
There is one aspect of all this that has been bugging me above all others for several days now and which, as far as I am aware, has yet to occur to anyone in the world of domestic UK politics – well, at least to the extent that it has become mentioned in Parliament and/or in the political discussion television or radio programmes.
In recent times we’ve been bombarded with coverage of such vexed issues as the proposed changes (reductions or abolishing in some cases) to Universal Credit – on which chancellor George Osborne and the Government have been bobbing and weaving on the ropes; on the chronic lack of house-building; on the proliferation of food banks up and down the country and low-income and vulnerable people becoming reliant for day-today-living upon them; on how the Tories govern solely with the interests of the ‘haves’ – the rich and powerful – at the expense of the ‘have-nots’, whom they are deliberately making bear the brunt of the cuts whilst their toffee-nosed pals quaff champagne and the finest caviar at Ascot, Henley and Lord’s.
We’ve also had demonstrations on behalf of the anti-austerity campaign, the continued existence of student loans and university tuition fees, and – most recently – some sort of generalised ‘anti-capitalist’ anarchist collation movement.
Here I’m not making a political point or, if I am, I do not mean to do so.
Nevertheless, given the above issues and their media coverage, the average impartial but interested observer like myself could be forgiven for gaining the impression that the Government is wholly out of touch with the vast bulk of the UK population and completely oblivious and/or uncaring about the blight, poverty and misery that its every policy causes to all those who are incapable of fending for themselves and/or are denied the life chances to better themselves that their more privileged fellow Britons (i.e. those that the Government cow-tows to) take for granted.
If even just 50% of those allegations – and indeed 50% of all the various issues mentioned above – are true, can someone please explain to me just what the hell are some 20,000 UK citizens are doing going on holiday in Sharm el-Sheikh in November?
I mean, it’s not half-term anymore (therefore the problem of taking kids out of school is not an issue) so presumably we’re talking about couples, or families in which the children are beyond school age, who have simply booked some of their annual leave entitlement from work – or perhaps saved up their benefit monies – in order to go there.
I’m hopeless with figures and, even when via Google I gain advice as to how to work out percentages etc., I don’t understand what I’m being told to do.
However. If you take the current total population of the UK as 64.5 million and the ‘working age’ (16 to 65) population of the UK as approximately 35 million – those are the best estimates I’ve come across – by my calculation it means that, at the point when the Russian aeroplane was blown up, as much as 0.57% of the working UK population and 0.31% of the total UK population was holidaying in Egypt.
[I must make a large disclaimer here. As mentioned above, maths is not one of my strengths and if any of my readers can recalculate the figures above and prove them totally erroneous, I would be perfectly happy to bow to their superior expertise …]
Contemplating this revelation, I suppose that there are only two possible explanations.
Firstly, that all those Brits holidaying in Sharm el-Sheikh are Tory-voting, champagne-swilling toffs and personal friends of David Cameron and George Osborne. [That said, judging by those I’ve seen or listened to being interviewed in the media, they seem to me to range across the entire social spectrum.]
Or secondly, that those who are making out that the Tories only govern in the interests of their own kind and take delight in exploiting all ‘working class’ UK citizens, deliberately reducing them into abject poverty, have simply got it wrong and/or are deliberately making it up for political purposes.
How else can anyone explain 20,000 Brits holidaying in Sharm el-Sheikh all at one time?