Wednesday, 30 March 2011

We should have bought 'Blair Force 1'

News reaches me that yet another government minister, travelling abroad on official business, has had to hitch a lift with one of our European allies who are also attending the multi-lateral talks in foreign climes.
Other world powers (France, Germany, US, China, Russia plus many others) have at least one plane to transport their heads of state and senior ministers in secure and comfortable surroundings to important meetings around the world. The Queen and her ministers are forced to either beg a lift or travel on scheduled flights.
This is frankly ludicrous but who is to blame? Unfortunately the Conservative Party largely is, working in cahoots with the Daily Mail, Daily Express and Daily Telegraph. When Tony Blair tried to buy a plane for the use of the PM and The Queen it was dubbed ‘Blair Force 1’ and slapped down in jealousy and irritation by the then Chancellor Gordon Brown. Blair tried again a few years later – after an engine blew on his charter plane on one foreign visit – only to be roundly attacked as out of touch and wasteful by the Conservative opposition.
The press officer who ran the rebuttal operation that day was, I am afraid and ashamed to admit, your correspondent. I didn’t like the knee-jerk politics of the position the party took then but sadly now recognise the likelihood of a plane or two being bought with the current strained public finances is zero.
I wonder whether Conservative ministers and their officials, deprived of sleep and worried about the security of sensitive papers, regret opposing for opposition sake the purchase of ‘Blair Force 1’?

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