From now on ministers were to travel second class on railways as other MPs now have to do (unless they felt, as Mr Winterton did that the kind of people they would encounter in cattle class were completely beneath them, in which case they could pay for their own upgrade). No longer were they to have chauffeur-driven cars, we were told, to take them wherever they wanted to go. There was to be car sharing.
Whilst of course it is understood that there will be times when they will require to use cars, they were told by their bosses that, where it was possible, they should use public transport, share cars or walk. The idea was to save around £3 million on ministerial costs, and of course to set an example to the rest of us. The “we’re all in this together” message doesn’t really wash if it can be read as “you’re all in this together”.
So it was with disappointment that, only days after that announcement, that I heard that the Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, was found to have used a chauffeured limo to take her the 400 meters from her home to her office. Now I would have thought that Ms Spelman’s coat might already be on a shoogly peg given Nannygate, and the fact that she charged £40,000 for cleaning bills (yes, she must be some dirty sod) for a second home, when her husband described it as their main home. And that’s without mentioning her over-claimed council tax, and the fact that her husband’s (and hers, according to Wikipedia) business may conflict with her current post.... So altogether, if I were her I’d be watching all my Ps & Qs before my backside got fired... but no, she summoned a car to take her 400 meters, because her boxes were too heavy... Awww. It was only 400 meters. I’d have used my gumption and made two or three trips! But she’s only a minister.
Another junior minister took a car, complete with chauffeur, to France for a Dunkirk ceremony, presumably because he wanted to look important turning up with his own chauffeur driven car, rather than depending on being picked up at the station by his French hosts. Clearly Junior Minister Mr Robathan needs a kick in his pampered backside from his boss. Incidentally, a look at his Wikipedia page does nothing to reassure me about him. He seems like runs off at the mouth, to the disgust of even his own side on occasions.... and he thinks that, as an MP, he was worth £110,000 a year! Nuff said.
Apparently, and quite rightly, it is unheard of for a car to be taken abroad. Ministers of the Crown have to be invited to go abroad on official business and cars are sent for them by their hosts. Wise-up fella!
It’s early days, and people will make mistakes at the beginning, but it’s little things like this, that even the meanest intelligence would find easy to solve, that start to really tick people off about up-their-own-backside, self-important ministers.
Messers Cameron and Clegg need to stamp their authority on these people tout de suite.