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Britain in the departure lounge

Mark Easton | 11:44 UK time, Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Britain fidgets nervously in a deserted airport terminal. A black cloud of volcanic ash has forced all the engines to be turned off. We are hanging around waiting for the departures board to ripple back into life.

Departure board

And we fear what it will tell us when it does.

The machinery of government has been put on auto-pilot, a silent glide until new ministers have been told what really happens if they press any of the cockpit buttons.

After years moaning at the crew, now they are in charge, but before they take over the controls they must listen to a pre-flight briefing explaining how it is all a bit more complicated than they thought.

I rang a departmental press office this week and asked if I could interview a minister about one of the new government's flagship policies. No-one was available. Why? Because they are still learning how they might keep the promises they made to the electorate.

So we sit and we wait.

Businesses, public services, charities: all must sit on their hands until the government flight plan has been published. It will be a few more days yet before the details of the route captain Cameron and co-pilot Clegg are planning for Britain.

The forecast is grim. Dangerous volcanic clouds drift overhead. Storms are on their way. Lightning strikes look certain.

Ashen-faced and white-knuckled, some of the passengers in the departure hall suffer a profound fear of flying.

Buckle up Britain. It is going to be a bumpy ride.

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