Natalie Haynes: Pity our poor ministers forced to go by Tube to the Olympics

Being asked to talk to a guest while watching some archery is surely the toughest job of all

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Could there be a more oppressed minority in our society than cabinet ministers? I know you might want to wave words like the disabled or impoverished children around, but it's time for some proper perspective. Downing Street has forbidden ministers from using the Olympic lanes, or even taking their cars to the Olympics. They've been told to use the Tube, like everyone else.

The deprivation must be almost unthinkable. And it doesn't end there: even if they are prepared to buy a ticket for a family member to accompany them to an event at which they are supposed to be working, they can't. Purely because some nasty-minded taxpayer might think that if cabinet ministers are supposed to be schmoozing some VIPs, they might make a bit more of an effort if they haven't taken their wives to chat to instead.

No wonder these have been described as "hair shirt rules". Being asked to talk to a guest while watching some archery is surely the toughest job of all. One cabinet minister has even suggested that after enduring public transport, they might not actually feel like being nice to their official guests.

Oddly, it doesn't seem to have occurred to any of them that every cleaner, every burger-flipper, every ticket-checker at the Olympic site will have had to endure the same thing every day of their working lives. Hair shirts, by the standards of a cabinet minister, are regular work for their voters.

Pretty much the defining characteristic of the service industry is that you have to schlep to work, often on hot, overcrowded public transport, and then when you get there, you have to be nice to people. Not just to one person, but to dozens of them, all day, until you clock off. And you don't even get to sit down and watch some fella run the 400 metres while you do it.

www.nataliehaynes.com

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