Sorry, David Cameron, but pimping out a massive jet isn't the most efficient way of saving taxpayers' money

There are loads of cheaper ways to do this. Maybe, just like at the Malta summit last week, we could send the Dutch Prime Minister to represent us everywhere? I’m sure he’d love to

David Cameron and wife Samantha flying on a private jet in 2012
David Cameron and wife Samantha flying on a private jet in 2012

When asked what perk Barack Obama would miss the most from his time in the presidency, he said in a GQ interview: “The clear answer would be Air Force One: an amazing plane with an amazing crew, they clear out airspace so you don’t have to wait. And you land anytime, you leave anytime.” If David Cameron was reading, I’m sure he would have shaken the magazine in anguish while his face turned from red to green, flooded by memories of being “tucked up in bed” by his American counterpart on the presidential jet.

But now, he will have one less reason to gaze across the Atlantic in envy. It isn’t clear if the PM personally pushed for the initiative – I know I sure as hell would – but the government has just announced plans to refit the RAF’s largest plane, the Voyager, at the cost of £10 million, to transport top politicians, civil servants and, of course, the Royal Family.

Considering our Chancellor has just convinced seven government departments to cut cumulative spending by 24% by 2020, you can see why people might not be fully behind the idea. And, lest we forget, it was the Conservatives themselves who were apparently (and vocally) shocked by the Blair Government’s plan for a £100 million ‘Blair Force One’. This scheme was eventually rejected in 2008 by the most needlessly maligned politician of our time – Gordon Brown – on the grounds of excessive expense.

Contrary to its predecessor, this new scheme has actually been dubbed a cost-saving measure. This, surprisingly, is partly true. It does cost a lot less than Blair’s plan – who later decided to buy his own private jet instead – and will supposedly save the taxpayer £775,000 a year. It shouldn’t be surprising the Government racks up such a bill when their chartered flights cost £6,700 an hour.

Conversely, the converted RAF Voyager A330 is expected to cost £2,000 an hour. Indeed, it will still perform its mid-air refuelling duties when hauling our politicians across the planet is not an utmost imperative. So we need not worry about this plane being turned into a bastion of luxury or anything like that.

But if money-saving is the priority, then pimping out a massive jet doesn’t seem like the most efficient method. Now, of course I don’t expect our ruling to elite to fly Ryanair – “Remember Dave, only carry-on luggage for your trip to Geneva” – and security is a big issue, but I find it hard to believe there is no way to make long-haul air travel cheaper for our politicians. Surely renting out the entire first-class section would cost less than £6,700 an hour. Or maybe, just like at the Malta summit last week, we could send the Dutch Prime Minister to represent us everywhere? I’m sure he’d love to.

But if Cameron has his heart set on a big plane - and I can’t really blame him - then he should instead be concerned about perpetuating the idea that our ruling government is dominated by champagne-swilling Etonians. But luckily, Mr. Cameron, you can have your plane and fly it too. Just let a budget airline handle it. Or at least self-impose the kind of torture us regular folk are exposed to with cheap air travel.

Anyone using the Voyager should also have severe baggage restrictions - and they better prioritise Government documents over their jumper when frantically rearranging their bag at the check-in desk; the seats should be laid out as if people don’t have knees or anything below them; the food should be expensive or atrocious, but ideally both at the same time; and perhaps, when there is nothing too pressing on the agenda, the flight should just land at the wrong airport. At the very least, your luggage should find its way to a different country. Maybe then people will be more understanding.

Or you could also just ask Blair for a lift.

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