Letter: Tunnel vision over tube sale?

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Sir: Suppose I (a) sell a widget to a friend for, say, pounds 10; and then (b) immediately give him the pounds 10 back to maintain and improve the widget. An impartial observer would say that I had not sold it at all, but had given my friend the widget.

She would be confirmed in her view if (c) I told my friend he was to enjoy whatever benefits arose from owning the widget. And suppose too that the widget belonged not only to me but to my family. Several relatives might think it wrong of me to have given it away.

On Tuesday night I saw and heard on TV a minister of the Crown, who seemed to have something to do with transport, announce his intention (a) to sell the London Underground; (b) to hand the purchase money back to the buyer to maintain and improve it; and (c) to allow the buyer to keep all the advantages that result from owning the Underground, which previously had been publicly owned.

No honourable government with an eye to sound finance would behave in a way parallel to mine in my silly example of the widgets. So what have I not understood?


Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire