I've been amused by Peter Mandelson's ostentatious portrayal of how he manages his work life balance over this weekend. The papers are, of course, whipped up in a frenzy about the fact that mobile reception at the villa of Nat Goldsmith can be a bit dodgy, and, horror of horrors, Mandelson might end up practicing his dark arts via an Albanian mobile phone network.
I want to be reassured that no extra public money is being spent so that Mandelson can have an extra few days in the sun, but otherwise I doubt we're in any great danger. And anyway, if there were a real crisis, I bet you anything that the Great Clunking Fist would be back in Downing Street. He's way too much of a control freak to stay away.
It amuses me that 3 people, Harman, Mandelson and Brown, can't manage to work out a timetable where their holidays don't overlap over almost 2 months between Parliament rising and the Party Conference season starting.
If a senior civil servant in any Government Department had asked to carry out their supervisory role from some luxury holiday destination, I expect they would have been laughed out of the room. One rule for one lot, another if you're Peter Mandelson, it seems.
At least,the Dark Lord flew by Easyjet - although, of course, he would have been paying for that himself. The Sunday Times also includes an article telling us that the Ego of Bute House charged us more than five grand for a first class flight to Washington DC. Jeesh! Under figures obtained by Freedom of Information, it transpires that when our SNP ministers travel, they do so in style. Out of £57,410 spent on travel, business and first class flights totalled £48,365 while only £9,045 was spent on economy flights.
I don't see why on earth we should be having to shell out for all this luxury travel. If Ross Brawn and all his Formula One race team can fly out to a race destination by Easyjet on a Wednesday or Thursday and then spend all weekend working atrocious hours getting their cars sorted for the race on Sunday, and do this pretty much every second week for seven months of the year, then the same method is good enough for our Ministers when all they have to do is go to a few meetings, or even a trip to the theatre. If it's really long haul, I could just about put up with the odd business class flight if there's a really good reason for it, but otherwise, make them fly economy.
The typical response of the SNP was to look back to the previous administration and point out that they cost us more. We're in different times now - everyone is strapped for cash and the Scottish Government should cut their cloth accordingly. If I were a Minister, I would not permit anything other than economy travel to be booked for me and I'd only take trips that were absolutely necessary to promote Scotland's cause. I'm not entirely convinced it was necessary to spend almost another five grand to send Jim Mather to Kentucky for the Ryder Cup, for example.
It's time the SNP showed some restraint, particularly while financial black holes are appearing in the country's finances, most notably, as Andrew pointed out this week, for Strathclyde Police. My Granny always used to say that if you looked after the pennies, the pounds looked after themselves. She was a lot cleverer than Scottish Ministers, it seems.