Axe the Ministerial Cars

 Ministers don’t fear being recognised, they fear not being recognised or being confused with someone

Sometime in the next 18 months, people are going to be groping for ways to sum up what was so wonderful about the new Tory government. They will be trying to convey just what it was about the new Cameron administration that gave everyone that feeling of minty freshness. Why, they will say, was that long-delayed election like jumping into a lovely mountain stream on a hot summer day?

In these days of financial hardship, there will be a huge media appetite for those small symbolic acts that somehow defined the ethic of the nation’s new masters. Everyone will want to see which sacred cows are slaughtered, which vested interests are taken on, which received wisdom is scrapped. So today I take as my text some gloomy reflections by the late Alan Clark MP, who wondered quite what he and his fellow government ministers were doing with their lives, sitting in the back of their ministerial Rovers and contracting brain cancer while talking on their mobiles to their mistresses.

As ever, Clark had a point. If George Osborne wants to create a new aroma for the incoming Tory administration – that hates, hates, hates wasteful public spending – then he should pick up his axe and chop the ministerial car. Car Ninja Australia can provide more information.


 He quotes the melancholy diaries of Chris Mullin, the former Labour minister, to illustrate this racket:  Mullin began his hilariously ineffectual ministerial career by pointing out to his civil servants that he lived on two excellent London bus routes, and therefore had no need of a car. Er, sorry, minister, they said. You can’t give up the car, because that would mean the Department of Paperclips (or whatever it was) would have to pay a penalty of £704.75p per week to the Government Car Service. And if he continued to refuse the car, and it became necessary to sell my car Atlanta – why then the department would have to pay £4,000 for “depreciation”!

Apparently there are about 170 ministerial cars; and under the mad elf and safety regime that dictates how long a driver may spend snoozing in the front seat while waiting for the minister to finish the ministerial dinner party, there are even more drivers than there are cars. The whole thing costs about £20 million per year.

He suggests that ministers can take a briefcase safely on the Tube or a bus or they could try walking.  He doesn’t believe they would be badgered at the Tube station or have annoying encounteres withh members of the public on the bus.  Amusingly, he says that ministers don’t fear being recognised – they fear not being recognised, or being confused with someone!  Red boxes and ministerial cars are all about status he alleges and makes ministers feel important – and there is of course no reason why the taxpayer should be coughing up for that.  He further recommends that this principle should apply to all pointless perks and we would save billions:   just as shareholders should be more aggressive in demanding an end to the privileges of corporate fat cats.

There is a need here, he argues, to shine a light on what is going on and to know those BBC salaries.  We should know exactly how many BBC chiefs are riding around in taxpayer-funded limos. 

In conclusion he calls on the incoming government to end this outrage, axe the ministerial cars, and if necessary equip ministers with a “lovely red ministerial bicycle with EIIR on the saddle” – or else we will know that nothing has changed.

This full article is here in The Daily Telegraph today

32 thoughts on “Axe the Ministerial Cars”

  1. Boris is a good example of how anyone in public life can use public transport, bicycles and even walk.

    Not only is it good for taxpayer value it is also healthier and more environmentally friendly.

  2. There are some occasions when a car would be deemed necessary, but quite rightly, the majority of the time it is a total waste of money and is used solely to boost the ego of the one who is using it at the time.
    In my eyes, for what it’s worth, there should be a small pool of cars and drivers which are allocated on a daily basis to whoever is in most need for reasons of security or whatever other purpose it may be deemed vital for that particular day. The rest should be made to get to work under their own steam as everyone else is. If they feel a real need for a car and driver, then maybe they could pay for it out of their own pockets.
    Yet again Boris comes up trumps.

  3. Good idea Lorraine – so many ministerial cars are simply lying in wait for their cargo – it would be a lot more efficient to have a pool of drivers and perhaps some ministers could even car share

  4. Excellent suggestion – and moreover one that would very probably double the parlimentary support for crossrail and other public transport improvements. Nothing like having to use public transport (as I do when visiting London) to encourage proper funding for improvements which pay for themselves through increased overall productivity. Health and evironmental benefits are merely a bonus.

  5. Imagine – you have travelled up for the day and are taking your children for a nice day out, showing them Trafalgar Square and then walking down Whitehall for a glimpse of the PM’s house through the bars of his cage, when suddenly – argh! It’s Harriet Harman in a nasty mood, with a face like a slate-hanger’s nail-bag! The children scream and run away in terror! The poor mites have nightmares and go back to wetting the bed, while the social worker is convinced you terrified them on purpose. Spare us!

  6. This is a really brilliant idea. The image of MPs is at its lowest since Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice Davies flashed their knicks for the press, and something really drastic is needed to redeem the damage of the expenses debacle.

    If government ministers give up ministerial cars, it will show that they are prepared to make sacrifices for the good of the country. It will also show that the trappings of office are not of major importance to them, it is far more important to heed the dire economic situation and help the country by saving the cost of the cars.

    Ministers can zip about on “a lovely red ministerial bicycle with EIIR on the saddle” which will also help global warming.

    An emminently practical suggestion from the Mayor, which is also symbolic, redolent of sacrifice and a new beginning. Genius.

  7. The next new government must change the way how The House Of Parliament is run and managed. And that includes MPs’ wages and allowances, of course, or the public will rebel with their votes.

    Talking about British ministerial cars. What about Labour increasing their foreign aid monies – so dictators can buy fleets of luxury Mercedes Limousines for themselves?


    ( Whitehall did not deny that the Muluzi government had bought the cars with foreign aid, but was adamant the purchase was not with British aid… ??!!!)

    And make sure [Ed. Inappropriate comment ] Gordon Brown does not pay a cleaner with taxpayers’ money to clean his house And his older brother’s house, too. Very uncool.

    Talking about [Ed. Inappropriate comment] Brown. Frumpy Sarah flew to USA to attend the late Senator E. Kennedy’s funeral ( minus her wally Che-beret, thanks God ). She should sack her spin doctor for always dishing out wrong advices. That’s all I’m saying in respect of the dead.

  8. Circus monkey, it’s going to take a long long time for that stench to abate. The carrion reek of corruption permeates everything.

  9. Everyone thinks this is just a great idea, and Lorraine’s suggestion is brilliant. Why is this not being put into effect immediately?


    Excellent interview by Boris Johnson for Radio 5, don’t miss it. I precis’d some of the points he made on twitter.

    You have to move the track along until just before halfway, which is when the BJ interview begins. He is talking to Simon Mayo and Simon is going out on Cycle Friday with Boris, so that Simon can feel more comfortable and safe on his bike.
    (Marshals help you and you go out in a convoy!)

  11. ps. Boris also talked about how cuts at City Hall have enabled him to freeze council tax, how banks need to contribute more to the voluntary sector, and how all ministers should give up governmental cars and get on their bikes.

    Boris says he is most proud of bearing down on basic rate of tax. Safety on public transport is much better, down 18%. Knife crime is down and such a hugely emotive subject as knife crime needs all the effort they have put into reducing it and more.

  12. Boris has reminded me of something from Vaclav Havel’s radio message on New Year’s Day, 1990, a few weeks after his country had thrown out the Communists. He referred to the old regime as ‘the men who did not look out of the aeroplane window’. Our people do not look out of the tinted car windows.

  13. one-e..-sc……-id… Gordon Brown flew to Afghanistan ” to visit British soldiers to boost up their morals ” ( to make amends for releasing the Lockerbie bomber more like ! ) and was ambushed by a young British soldier who asked him why British soldiers had to pay tax while the US soldiers did not have to.

    The soldier’s mum said her son was a straight talking lad. Well, he should have also asked Brown the obvious question: ” Why did you send us here to fight the terrorists while back home you have just released the biggest terrorist from your jail for a multi-billion-pound trade deal? ”

    Brown has stubbornly refused to say if he backed the release of the Lockerbie bomber. But finally, today secret papers reveal that he, Jack Straw, Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson and other Labour ministers backing the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

    Yet Jack Straw had always insisted that Ronnie Biggs would have to die in jail even he was dying from cancer ” because he’s a dangerous man “.

    Also, newspapers have reported that Brown’s spin doctors keep a calendar of David Cameron’s activities. Cameron’s trip to visit British soldiers had been planned in June last year. It was NOTED on Brown’s spin doctors’s calendar (!!!). When they heard Cameron had decided to cancel the trip because of the unnecessary cost on the army in Afghanistan to provide security, they told Brown to fly to Afghanistan straight away to make amends for releasing the Lockerbie bomber. Clever but not wise.

    Brown has always boasted that the late Senator E. Kennedy was his buddy (!). Yet, when E. Kennedy popped his clogs, his spin doctors told him not to go to his funeral because of the scandals surrounding E. Kennedy’s political and private life (!) and let Frumpy Sarah go instead, because he was their buddy (!) . And they told Brown to visit our troops in Afghanistan so he could have an excuse not being able to go to the funeral (!). Clever but not wise.


    Boris flew to Brussels today to meet MEPs to discuss plans to introduce new European regulations on hedge funds and similar businesses. The Mayor believes strongly that “the draft directive should be amended to ensure we do not cut off a vital supply of investment funding at a time when the economy needs it most.”

    In his usual forthright style, the Mayor has described plans to impose fresh taxes on the City as “crackers”.

    The leader in the Standard today said “The Mayor must do all he can to show that driving business out of London will damage the EU as a whole.”

  15. If that ( singular, not two )-( you use them to look )-( man who wears a tartan mini jupe )-(not clever)-Gordon Brown could share his thoughts with a dictator, why can’t he, a British Prime Minister, share his thoughts with British people over the release of the Lockerbie bomber?


    By Simon Walters, Political Editor, The Mail On Sunday, August 30.09

    Brown clashed with Cameron over Afghanistan yesterday, as the Tory leader was forced to call off a trip to the country after discovering the Prime Minister had beaten him to it.

    Brown flew to Afghanistan yesterday to meet British troops and military leaders just 48 hours before Cameron was scheduled to make an identical journey.

    Cameron scrapped his own visit – which has been in his diary since July – to avoid an unseemly cat-and-mouse game and wasting overstretched military resources. Unbeknown to the Tories, Cameron’s plans were highlighted in No 10’s weekly ‘grid’ – a confidential Whitehall spin doctor’s guide to key political events designed to help Labour win the propaganda war – just like the Russians communists’ way.

    Cameron had no idea until a few days ago about Brown’s trip and decided he had no choice but to postpone his own visit.

    Last night, Downing Street rejected claims that Brown had brought forward his plans to upstage Cameron. However, the row mirrors a similar one shortly after Brown became Premier 2 years ago.

    As speculation mounted that he was about to call a General Election, Brown was accused of trying to steal the limelight from Cameron bt flying to Iraq in the middle of the Conservative conference.

    Brown used the visit to announced that 1,000 British troops would be withdrawn from Iraq by the following Christmas. But the stunt was backfired when it emerged that the return of 500 of the soldiers had already been announced – and 250 were home.

    Last night, Brown denied the claims, saying: ” If I hadn’t made 4 trips to Afghanistan within the year, you could make the case I was choosing the timing to fit a particular moment. ”

    A spokesman for the ( singular, not two ) – ( you use them to look with ) – ( man who wears a tartan mini jupe ) – ( not clever ) – Brown declared: ” The British Prime Minister ain’t happy at all about this. To be honest with you all. He won’t mind if people ask him if his dangling feel the cold under his tartan mini jupe. To be honest with you all. He’s been crying all day about this. To be honest with you all. ”

    A spokesman for Cameron said gentelmanly: ” The decision to postpone our trip to Afghanistan was ours and ours alone, and we have no complaint to make about the timing of the Prime Minister’s visit. We were conscious of the military resources required for our trip and chose to reschedule! “.

    Why do British soldiers fighting terrorists have to pay tax ? Brown was tackled by British soldier ( but there’s nothing down there ) in Afghanistan over tax issues…

  17. In spite of all that our troops have had to endure fighting in Afghanistan, I agree that Gordon Brown sees the situation merely in political terms. It is crystal clear he has no care for our troops who are risking their lives to carry out the policy of this country and who frequently go into battle so badly equipped that their families are spending thousands of pounds to make sure they have everything they need.

  18. Britain has been accused of ” bare-cheeked lies ” (!!!) over the Lockerbie bomber’s release which will damage its special relationship with the US for years and years. Oh dear. Oh dear.

    I’m not surprised the Yanks used the word ” bare-cheeked lies ” about Brown, seeing as it is that our British Scottish Gordon Brown has a habit of going commando in his tartan mini jupe which was specially made-to-order by Jean Paul Gaultier. A trend of which even Carla Bruni had to say: ” I would not dream of tottering around Paris in a mini jupe sans-panty like that man, showing my [Ed. Inappropriate comment] to all and sundries! “. Oh, la la.

    Gordon Brown is facing a backlash at home and abroad after it was confirmed that Brown told Libyan dictator General Gaddafi’s son that Brown did not want the Lockerbie bomber to die in the Scottish jail. Brown’s spokesman confirmed: ” As you all know that now the secret papers have revealed that the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown talked to Libyan General Sir Gaddafi’s son. I would like to confirm that Gordon Brown, indeed, did tell Libyan General Sir Gaddafi’s son that he would order the Scottish government to release Sir Abdelbaset Al Magrahi from their jail at once. ”

  19. I do think minsterial cars should be axed this would save money and would show the government is going green and mean it plus they would then know what the general public have to put up with as regards to public transport and this includes how much the fares actually cost.Also exspenses should be kept to minmum. Ministers should only charge expenses when they actually come to london to sit in the house of commons

  20. “Gordon Brown has a habit of going commando in his tartan mini jupe which was specially made-to-order by Jean Paul Gaultier”

    Shouldn’t you write “allegedly” when making this comment? I don’t mind the bit about going commando, (an old Scottish custom) but do you honestly believe that Gordon Brown has the taste to buy a kilt from Jean Paul Gaultier?

  21. If he likes to show his chipolata to all and sundries, it’s up to him. It’s a good job he did not show it in Afghanistan or his chipolata would have shrunk into a sultana. What a disgrace, though.

    Anyway, latest news is that one of Brown’s minister has quit and launched a devastating criticism of Brown’s handling of the war in Afghanistan and the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

    Down and out

  22. ( Now works behind an Olay anti-aging creme counter )

    Gentlemen, are yooous being served? I’m free! I’m freeeeeeeeeeee…


    In today’s London Standard, David Cameron says pithily he is planning to scraps MPs’ cheap meals and alcohol and wants to stop them “swanning around like Royals” in ministerial cars! I wonder if he read Boris’s column!

    I am all in favour of the swapping cars for bikes thing and maybe meals could be less subsidised. Call me soft hearted though, I am beginning to feel a bit sorry for MPs, who now seem to be lower in status than estate agents and loan sharks. It wasn’t all of them who transgressed, but they are all getting the blame.

    Also, rather than have David Cameron beat them up like recalcitrant kids, I would be more convinced that things were going to change if MPs all got together and made sacrifices themselves, rather than being pushed into it.

  24. Angie – I bet you anything that Cameron hangs by every word that Boris writes and says. It cannot be any coincidence at all.

  25. The thing I like about BJ is the ideas seem to flow in a never ending torrent and they are all first class. He is not like other politicians, who come up with one thing, which they trumpet all over the place, or say nothing at all.

    I truly respect the way David Cameron grabbed the leadership, that was totally well deserved. I also admired tremendously the way he strolled onto the stage at that Tory Conference, when he had been taking all the flack, and turned it all around with a really good speech and loads of savoir faire and aplomb.

    However, I am deeply concerned about his enigmatic stance – the way he will not come out and say what he really stands for. Maybe it is just a supremely clever bluff – if you don’t say anything, you don’t offend anyone, and so you get voted in because people have nothing to object to. But it is not fair on the British people. We need to know more about what we are voting for and he needs to show more of the real person behind the mask by acting spontaneously.

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