Sarah Barrell: Head for the seaside! But you may not see a peer
Sunday 31 July 2011
So, the annual scrum begins. School holidays are here and, according to the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta), some 13 million of us will leave this island to go on holiday in the next two months.
It was silly season in parks and playgrounds in England as the final British schools kicked out last week. And it was quite daft on the roads too, with the usual warnings from the AA about travel chaos as some 14 million cars ploughed out to coast, cottage and port.
This is the silly season for the press too. Starved of proper news, we resort to door-stepping ministers in Tuscan villas. Or we did. Of course there is no lack of political news at the moment and none of us want to be seen to be prying too closely into the personal life of ministers. But if we did, it's the peers we should be peering at.
Members of the unelected chamber, not surprisingly, are more exotic in their holiday choices. The annual Abta report came out last week, a true silly-season survey that looks into the holidaying behaviour the establishment. It reveals that, despite or perhaps because of current hacking horrors, some 42 per cent of parliamentarians will flee the UK to spend a fortnight or more in foreign climes.
The survey says members of the House of Lords are more likely to holiday abroad this summer than their colleagues in the Commons. The Mediterranean is still the most popular overseas choice for MPs. Scotland, last year's favourite UK destination, retains top spot; South-west England is a close second (no ranking for the supposed Shangri-La of Chipping Norton).
Their colleagues in the House of Lords, meanwhile, are more likely to jet off, with 44 per cent of those surveyed going overseas, and four in 10 of these opting for exotic long-haul destinations. But before we all start harrumphing about inflated salaries and villa-rental nepotism it's also interesting to read that eight out of 10 MPs, and more than half the peers surveyed, intend to take less than the national average of three holidays this year.
"Abta research indicates that the Treasury will collect an eye-watering £328m in air passenger duty (APD) over the next two months from UK holidaymakers, with parliamentarians poised to contribute more than £17,000 to that total," concludes Abta's Stephen D'Alfonso. "MPs and peers will know how important a holiday can be, and should rethink any further rise in aviation taxation as family budgets will have to stretch ever further this year."
It is always good to draw attention to the scandalous hikes in APD, the real motivation for this survey, but I suspect that sun, sea and sangria aren't going to change MPs' minds over this big-earner tax.
Another campaign recently launched and likely to be more easily won, is fronted by Jeremy Paxman. Not content with badgering politicians and the press to clean house, Paxo is focusing his innate fury on the British Isles.
Clean Up Britain is a more contemporary (and, let's face it, with Paxman at the helm, more butt-kicking) version of the Fifties Keep Britain Tidy campaign. This volunteer initiative aims to clear litter-strangled streets ahead of the Olympics but is backed by organisations with more long-term environmental and social interest. To learn more go to cleanupbritain.org.
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