Dear Red Arrows

The RAF's aerobatic display team are under threat from defence cuts. Disgraceful! We should preserve them at all costs, classified under the category: 'nice but useless'
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The Independent Online
I hear they are closing your base in Lincolnshire and cannot find anywhere else to put you. There are suggestions that your aircraft should be mothballed and that you should be sent on extended leave. Ominous, that; you cost pounds 17m a year, only half of which is earned back through performance charges. I hope the Treasury does not decide to extend your leave rather more than you expected.

I know the way these Treasury chaps think. They will hear what defence ministers say about the Arrows being a recruitment draw and will say: "There must be cheaper ways of getting chaps into the RAF - surely a few postcards in job centres will do the trick?" They will hear talk of the Arrows advertising British air power and will think: "Where's the return on that?" They may even point out that you can pay for quite a few hospital beds/school places with pounds 8m. Yes, to the bean-counters you will look eminently cutable. Sorry.

Now, I am all in favour of cutting wasteful public spending. As we seem to have lost our ability to create wealth, we have to adjust as best we can to straitened circumstances - there is a need, whether we like it or not, for a palace full of Mr and Mrs Scrooges in Whitehall.

Most of the time the Scrooges are kept busy squeezing health, housing, education and the like, because that is where the big spending goes. Occasionally, though, they are given an excuse to pounce on something nice and useless - the royal yacht, ambassadorial Rolls-Royces, that sort of thing. I fear a homeless aerial acrobatic team falls into the same category.

This is a shame because, however poor we are, we need things that are more or less useless. They are what makes one country, or town, or house, different from another and therefore interesting. Why is Europe more interesting than America? Because it has barmy King Ludwig's castles, the Eiffel Tower, the House of Lords and superfluous twiddles on modest Victorian houses. America has never been good at the truly useless - its houses are square, its streets straight, and its upper house full of people who have been elected, for heaven's sake.

The Great British Uselessness is, of course, the Royal Family - which is why it must be kept at all costs. Look at the royals who have started making themselves useful: queens and princes in the Netherlands and Scandinavia. I cannot see the point, because there is now no difference between their countries and republics. I am upset that the Queen has started paying income tax: she should stop immediately.

I seem to have linked your fate with that of the House of Windsor. Well, let's face it, you are almost as useless. You provide a spectacle by flying very fast and using up lots of fuel; you also cost us taxpayers a lot of money. You, too, must survive. God bless you, sirs.

DAVID BOWEN

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