Sunday, August 09, 2009

Nice work, if you can get it, Peter and Alex

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.


CrazyDaisy said...

Soor plooms glaekit wan!

subrosa said...

Oh Caron, dearie me. So it was ok for the libdem MSP when in government with labour to fly first class or business class but it's not ok now because firstly it's an SNP government and also labour have brought the UK to its knees.

I do agree with you though. It's not common knowledge but did you know when any members of the military (other than the really top brass) travel, they have to travel cattle class?

Yes, if they're told to attend an international military conference in say Australia, they're expected to travel basic class then get off a plane and talk for Britain. Meanwhile the US representatives at the Australian conference have been there for 3 days, relaxed and travelled first class of course.

So not everyone travels first/business class. In fact the military aren't even permitted to upgrade at their own cost in case the public jump up and down at that.

Brian Hill said...

Those who want the FM and Cabinet Ministers to fly economy rather than business or first obviously haven't done much flying themselves.

A 3 hour flight to Italy or Spain in economy is one thing but double that to the Sates or worse still quadruple it to the Far East and economy is suddenly far less of an option.

Besides, these guys are not local councillors, they are the leaders of your country. Don't you think they deserve a little respect?

Unknown said...

Subrosa, thanks for that insight - it puts it all in perspective.

Like I said, if I were a minister, I'd be quite mindful of unnecessary expense so I wouldn't expect to travel anything other than economy class, especially given current circumstances. It is Labour's recession, but we're all in it and we all, whether in our own houses or at work, have to cut our cloth accordingly.

Brian, I have flown cattle class to the US and survived, as have most of us who have made that journey. If it's good enough for us, it's good enough for Alex Salmond. And, as Subrosa points out, others who are representing this country have to do so.

Brian Hill said...

Caron I think we have to draw a distinction between our MPs/MSPs living the life of Reilly, spending our money left right and centre on needless luxuries and doing their job in comfort.

You may well have flown cattle class to the USA as I did once in my younger day, but I was on a 4 month working holiday. Salmond and co would not only have engagements but another long flight back within days and he's at an age where a little comfort in life goes a long way.

Unless of course you think he and the cabinet are of no real importance and should be lobbed in with the rest of us? No doubt the same would apply to the Queen, the Pope, the US President?

Let's get real, these guys are doing a great job for Scotland, if they can't have a few perks it's a pretty poor show.

They need to look good and stay relaxed yet alert. You don't get much of that in economy.

Jeff said...


the first thought that immediately springs to mind is the tens of thousands Tavish Scott is making off his taxpayer funded Edinburgh home.

A few thousands pounds for the First Minister to travel is small fry compared to some of the costs some of our MPs are racking up.

I happen to be content with Tavish's housing arrangements and I am happy with our dear leader paying a lot for airfare, but I just thought I'd flag up the faint whiff of hypocrisy in your post.


Unknown said...

Well if you look back through my postings, you'll see that I'm in favour of Nick Clegg's position on this - that no parliamentarian should make a profit out of a taxpayer funded property.

Jeff said...

Good stuff, so your granny is cleverer than Tavish Scott.

Glad we got that sorted...


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