Leading article: No brainer

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Some choices aren't what they're cracked up to be. Offer most people a choice between a free holiday in Skegness or, say, Mauritius, and you can guess the response.

Similarly, offer a cabinet minister the "choice" of a free Jaguar (top speed 141mph, estimated cost price £43-49,000) or a Toyota Prius (top speed 106mph, price from £17,445) and no prizes for guessing what most of them will plump for.

One car mets the Government's commitments on good environmental practice. It runs on a combination of rechargeable batteries and petrol and has low CO 2 emissions. Driving it won't much harm the planet. The other is bigger, faster, and generally more likely to excite feelings of envy or admiration among those who worship the rich and the powerful.

Whitehall hasn't had much trouble in anticipating which way most ministers are likely to swing in this nail-biting contest. Moving into damage-limitation gear, officials suggest the Jags will win out for "security considerations".

Presumably, really expensive cars equipped with super-soft leather seats are that much safer from terrorists than the modest, eco-friendly, green alternative.

For shame that civil servants have been reduced to finding such pathetic rationales. Better to admit brazenly that most ministers, including women ministers, hanker for the symbols of the alpha male - and for the chance to roar up and down at rocket speed.

Honesty is the best policy here, not weasel words about security. Look at John Prescott. His love of Jags is not exactly a state secret. But has it done him much harm with the voters? Not at all.

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