The Third Leader: Ride 'em in

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The Independent Online

Sometimes, the holidays cannot come too soon. Particularly if you're in the Government. Yesterday, as well as the end of the Child Support Agency and the usual disarray over policy, there was yet more to entertain the cynics and mockers, already entertained by the image of the Deputy Prime Minister in his boots and Stetson down on the "cattley ranch", as he terms it (presumably picked up from Carry on Cowboy, featuring the immortal memory of Charles Hawtrey as Chief Big Heap and Sid James as the, ah, Rumpo Kid).

This was joined by details of other ministerial gifts which the lucky recipients decided to buy for themselves, allowing some enjoyable speculation of the Frost-Grossman variety: Mr Blair's Italian vase, for example; and the canny decision of Jack Straw, obviously anticipating retirement as Foreign Secretary, to buy his own carriage clock.

Next, hard on the Bishop of London's weekend anathema on wasteful flying, came news of the Prime Minister's spending going up in the air, doubled to £2m for flights last year. A suggestion to relieve the pressure: how about travelling economy class? Democratic, good for meeting the people, and might lead to a review of a trip's urgency.

Hardly surprising, then, that the Government's Insolvency Service also chose yesterday to warn future clients of the serious repercussions attendant on borrowing to finance gambling and spending large sums of money on travel.

You will have your own thoughts, meanwhile, following another announcement, on whether it might be a bit rash giving Mrs Blair the freedom of the City of London; I want to know when Mr Prescott's getting himself a hoss.

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