Of all the aspects of Tony Blair's legacy, there can have been few more resonant of the character of the man himself than his decision to commission two private jets to serve the Prime Minister.
True, Mr Blair would never have had the pleasure of sinking into those padded seats himself, having endorsed the proposal for a dedicated Boeing 737 and a smaller executive aeroplane as one of his last acts in Downing Street. But what better way for the leader who holidayed regularly with princes, tycoons and various other members of the jet-setting classes, to sign off? And what better way for Gordon Brown to attempt to distance himself from his predecessor, than by scrapping the so-called "Blair Force One"?
The aircraft were to be reserved for official business, but at a time when the public is choking on the extravagance of MPs' expenditures, this seems a timely decision. And with Britain's public finances running into some severe turbulence, the predicted £100m cost of permanently leasing the aircraft no doubt counted against the whole idea.
The junior Transport minister, Jim Fitzpatrick, argued yesterday that continuing with the existing regime of procuring small aircraft for official travel within the UK and chartering planes for longer journeys, would ensure better value for taxpayers and minimise the environmental impact of prime ministerial travel. But we can think of a better way of doing both: taking the train wherever feasible. Why not exchange Blair Force One for the Non-Flying Scotsman?Reuse content