Peter Mandelson, President of the Board of Trade

It is not often that fate hands you what appears to be a total moral and political victory. But this one looked like a slam dunk. As some of the world’s most self-important people descended last week on the World Economic Forum in Davos, I was delighted to find myself on the same plane as Peter Mandelson, President of the Board of Trade, deputy prime minister and Lord High Everything Else.

I was thrilled, that is, because my colleague and I were travelling steerage, in keeping with the new spartan regime at City Hall. Mandy and his entourage, of course, were flying sharp end; and as we struggled on down the aisle they subjected us to a certain amount of jocular raillery. They would send us some food, they scoffed, and perhaps a glass of champagne.

Boris continues:  “In a spirit of glorious self-righteousness, we shouted back over our shoulders that this was the difference between Labour and Tories. Ours, I bragged, was the approach that the recession-battered public wanted to see. We were the ones who were being frugal with taxpayers’ money. This was how an incoming Tory government would run the economy, I cried, and it was with considerable nostril-flaring satisfaction that we eventually found our seats. They may have been narrow. They may have been located near the loos in the tail of the plane. But they unquestionably occupied the moral high ground.

It was only then that the doubts began to set in. Which of us – Mandy or I – was really doing the right thing by the British economy? It is a question that perfectly illuminates the state of the debate between the parties today. Consider the plight of British Airways – namely, the cabin crew strikes they are facing and the worrying decline in revenues from first and business class travel.

Imagine if tomorrow there was a ban on all public sector officials flying in first or in club. Imagine if the Tories came in and decreed that every taxpayer-funded ticket must be an economy ticket. What then? What would be the corporate impact on a business as precariously perched on the cliff edge as the coach at the end of The Italian Job? What if that great company was suddenly pitched – by the abrupt and unexpected withdrawal of this concealed taxpayer subsidy – over the edge?

Think of the carnage. Think of the thousands of unemployed staff, the cabin crew, the handlers – and think of the bill we would all have to pick up in benefits. Think of the catastrophic loss of British prestige if our flag carrier went under. What would the markets say then?

Yes, I thought to myself. Maybe that is no ordinary champagne being guzzled by the staff of Lord Mandelson up there in first class. Maybe that is the golden elixir that is keeping British Airways airborne and the economy moving. They are not just a group of politicians and civil servants on a first-class jolly. Perhaps they incarnate the very fiscal stimulus that is necessary for recovery.

And for a moment or two, I flirted with the logical progression of this thought – that Labour could even be right about the economy as a whole. If we cut too fast and too soon – if we are not sensitive in the way we withdraw that fiscal stimulus, as the actress said to the bishop – then Labour says that we risk a double-dip recession. With a sudden fiscal contraction, a withdrawal of state spending, we could deal a blow to business confidence; we could be hammered by renewed unemployment.

Perhaps there really is no finer investment for society than pouring taxpayer-funded champagne down the gullets of Mandelson’s team, I thought despairingly.

Perhaps, in fact, it was my moral duty to fly first class myself! And then lunch came round. Refreshed by a cup of water and something called a Frusli bar (all we were offered) I had the answer. Listen, I reasoned to myself, this isn’t proper free-market thinking. In fact, it is the economics of the madhouse. If BA’s business model depends on large numbers of state officials travelling first class then BA has the wrong business model. It needs to get more private-sector people to use its more expensive services and put the black back into its balance sheet.

And how are we going to get more private-sector people to be able to afford to travel first class? We need to ensure that they have the confidence to hire good people and pay them good salaries, and fly them in every comfort from A to B. And how will they have such confidence? If they think that they are not going to be clobbered by high taxes and high interest rates. How do you ensure that British interest rates do not soar, as the market extorts an unbearable cost for our colossal national borrowing? You show that you have the guts to cut public spending.

And what kind of early and vivid sign could you give of your willingness to cut public spending? You could kick Peter Mandelson out of first class. And how do you cut corporation tax and give business the leeway to pay for its staff to fly at the front of the plane? You cut the costs and perks of the state and you kick Peter Mandelson out of first class.

It is time to bring an end to all the pointless status differentiators that have made the British public sector as bloated and burdensome as the bureaucracy of fourth-century Rome. There is no advantage to the UK economy in us all paying for state officials to fly first class and swig champagne. Those cakes do not represent a vital fiscal stimulus. They are just the sign of an anachronistic desire on the part of top public-sector officials to be segregated from the rest of the plane. Mandy’s champagne is not the way to get the country out of recession; it is the way to prolong the recession.

The servants of the people should travel with the people. And politicians should create the conditions in which British business, not British politicians, can afford to travel up front.”

This piece appears in the Daily Telegraph today

39 thoughts on “Peter Mandelson, President of the Board of Trade”

  1. The servants of the people should travel with the people. And politicians should create the conditions in which British business, not British politicians, can afford to travel up front.”

    Yes indeed. Well said that man.

    But I’ve seen local councillors act like Mandy. Give them some authority and they think they’re a god. Talk about noses in the trough! yes, some politicians (and some journos for that matter), should try to get to grips with the fact that they are certainly no better than ‘the great unwashed’ and are not a breed apart. But if you dragged Mandy out of first class and chained him to steerage he still wouldn’t have it. What’s galling is that the likes of ‘Two-jags’ Prescott wouldn’t either. I’m reminded of the pigs in ‘Animal Farm’ for some strange reason.

  2. Well most oil companies I have worked for have the following standards, if the flight is below 3 housr you travel economy and 3 upwards Business!
    So all flights within the EU should be economy!

  3. It is so ironic how these left wing so called men of the people revel in luxury, necking back the champers and caviar. John Prescott is a good example, with his lavish cars, lusty appetites and fondness for grand residences.

    Boris is our hero for his abstemiousness, and we know Lord M. has always been high maintenance. I cannot imagine him ever slumming it in economy, and his teasing of our principled Mayor shows some nerve. However, even Lord M’s extravagance pales into insignificance compared to David Miliband. Mr. Miliband’s preferred mode of travel is the Queen’s private jet. He uses it twice as often as Her Maj., although Foreign Secretaries are supposed to take commercial flights whenever these are available.

    A bas les aristos, but in the case of air travel, les aristos are all in the Labour Party.

  4. And I have to add this, David Miliband is a ruddy spineless Foreign Secretary. I will never forget how in the teddy bear called Mohammed incident, when poor, innocent teacher Gillian Gibbons was facing a jail term, David M’s solution was “oh well she might as well serve her sentence!”

    David Cameron had to send in Baronness Varsi to do Miliband’s job and bale the hapless teacher out of trouble.

    Now we see Mr. Miliband cravenly skulking across our screens talking about the Chandlers, the couple captured by pirates. They have been stuck in captivity for 3 months, suffering isolation and awful anxiety while Sissy Miliband waffles about doing all they possibly can. On the Foreign Secretary’s past record, I wouldn’t be feeling too optimistic.

  5. The best thing about our leaders travelling economy class on planes or standard class on trains is that it might result in better conditions for us common folk. When you are carried everywhere in a golden palanquin surrounded by a platoon of machine-gunners it is hard to empathise with the plebs.

  6. I remember standing in line for steerage on an Easyjet flight once, and turning round to find Michael Howard and his wife queuing behind me. He sat in front of me on the flight in the end, and did not tip his seat back once.

    I was quietly impressed.

  7. Boris – the typeface is too PALE for this bespectacled old git to read with any ease – so I don’t often bother. Anyone with any visual impairment will have trouble with it, I suspect. Get your web folk to check the W3C accessibility guidelines; amongst them are pointers as to how different typeface and background colour should be – for sure, white and pale grey is hopeless for me.

  8. No I hope they continue to travel Business Class and up the pointy end — how often do you hear of planes reversing into mountain sides?

    Good on yer Boris!

  9. Boris and Mandy? Not much to choose between them really.

    The real stories here are because of Peak Oil air travel will atrophy; the world wreckers Davos party is an irrelevance; and Boris is clearly threatened by Mandy.

    Also if you spending your time properly running a 7.3 million populated city, how do you find the time to write 1,300 word blogs?

  10. It makes me sick! So many of the Labour Party are hypocrites and frauds! Lord Mandelson was asked by journalists what were comments to the situation that Boris travelled economy class while he travelled first class and his answer was”There were no first class seats on the flight.” OK, fine, they were travelling club class. Does that make it any better? The evasive rationalisation is typical of Labour, ruddy smart alec sliding away from the real issue. Disgusting.

    How can the Tories only be seven points ahead! How can that be! With a shamed, fake, dishonest government who have ruined the country, how can the Tories be only seven points ahead? They have such excellent Shadow Ministers!

    One thing I believe from the bottom of my heart. The Tories will win the next election and they will win with a good majority. Right will prevail.

  11. …and there I was, expecting “I was brought down to earth with a bump – not literally of course but with the dawning revelation…”

    I’m quite happy for anyone who’s made good through the sweat of their own brow to enjoy the fruits of their labour including travelling at the ‘sharp end’ if they so choose. Politicians at any level haven’t done so through working as politicians. They should remember well that they are servants of the people.

    Politicians treat the public purse with the view that ‘there’s plenty more where that came from’. NO! There isn’t! It’s OUR money and we want value for OUR money. And nowadays, it’s our kids and their kids’ money too…

    What’s truly disgusting is that this government is borrowing enough money EVERY YEAR to finance ANOTHER TWO NHSs. Imagine what that could do for public health and waiting lists IF it wasn’t being peed up the wall on first class champagne business flights et al.

  12. In the last recession (or maybe it was the last but one), the company I worked for was heading for the bin. We all knew it. In the last few months every manager flew First Class, Hotels were now 5 star instead of three.Lots of urgent trips to Thailand, Sardinia and other places with sunshine. The Boss flew from Johannesburg to London, First Class with his wife, three children and domestic servant. His Mistress had to sit in Business. His Mercedes followed on by Air Cargo.
    Likewise as the banking crisis hit at the end of 2008 high-priced restaurants in the city did ever-so well.
    Despite their assumed airs and graces the current crop of ruling politicians are not Toffs, they come from humble origins. Lord High Mandleson’s East-end cockney roots show most when he can spend other people’s money–wonder if he has a gold chain around his neck?

  13. What grates with me is the imperial sense of entitlement of Mandelson and his ilk. New Labour seem to have this idea that as long as they are on the side of the “ordinary joe”, however nominally, that that gives them a license to guzzle.It’s almost as if they think that poking their snouts as deep into the trough as they can they are poking those “tory toffs” in the eye on behalf of their constituents. How convenient to be able to feed your own greed while cloaking yourself in righteousness! Anyway, surely Mandy has a perfectly good broomstick gathering dust somewhere. He could have used that and saved himself all that airport bother!

  14. Queen P’s mum died and left him about £450,000. Soon after that, he bought a £2.5million luxury London house paying entirely in cash (no mortgage needed).

    Asked how he could afford it with his salary, he just simply said that he had never pretended to be a tramp so he did not know what the problem was.

    Two months before he started his job as the EU Trade Minister, he was spotted dinning in a Monaco’s restaurant with a Russian mafia/ billionaire businessman who exports metals to the EU. On becoming the EU Trade Minister, he signed a new law lowering tax on metals entering the EU. This saved the Russian billionaire £20million on tax.

    How much did the Russian billionaire pay Queen P for this big favour? Shame!

    Queen P was spotted having a talk with Gaddafi’s son in Rothchild’s Greek villa. One week later he ordered Straw to release the Great Train robber Ronnie Biggs from jail to pave way for the later release of the Lockerbie bomber. Two weeks later he ordered the Scottish puppet government to release the Lockerbie bomber. He told the Scottish puppet government to tell the press that it was their idea alone and not his idea to release the Lockerbie bomber. Shame!

    How much did Gaddafi pay him for this favour?

    ( Three weeks ago, one of Gaddafi’s sons paid Beyonce £1.2 million to sing at his New Year Eve party on the Caribbean island of St Barts. Shame! )

    These hardcore so called socialists/ communists are all the same- forever sprouting Equality/ Fairness/ Anti-richness but all along are busy making as much money as possible for themselves by any means.

    Look at Putin – he bought a £17million French villa. Elton’s and Madonna’s only cost £5million or £7million. Putin next bought a £32million private jet for his family. Neither Elton or Madonna can afford to buy any private jets.

  15. I apologise to all of those who cherish my views on this topic, my RSS feed has only just notified me of the latest pontifications of dear old Bozza.
    My view is that neither of you should be travelling anywhere at the public expense. You should all be returning your salaries and expenses to the exchequer in recognition of your pitiful performances and petty squabbles.
    Let’s strike a bargain. You won’t travel anywhere at my expense, and I will ensure you are not put in the cart on the way to the guillotine when the revolution comes.
    Will this do Melissa?

  16. @Jeremy Poynton: Hi, *waves*.

    @Mel, what happened to the reply function? Is gone. Don’t think it a prob but thought I’d mention it. Like the darker text. (Must get down to Specsavers)

  17. Vicus there is a movement insisting that you stand for Parliament. Every day this grows stronger. Will you answer the voice of the people?

  18. @vicusscurra Wonderful, that’s the spirit!

    We’ll just all have to dive for cover if the revolution does ever come and avoid the Lord High Executioner

  19. Last month, the Batman Joker Cherie Blair told the press that she has nightmares sometimes worrying that she hasn’t made enough money and she blamed it on her grandparents’ poor background. The mind boggles!

  20. Impressed at the serious way Boris thinks about his duty started me thinking. What are our duties as citizens?

    For me, one of the most important duties we have is to take an interest in the political issues of the day, weigh up our options and vote. I also think it is a civic duty to get behind any politician whose ideas we admire and help that person. Although many people might not wish to do the second bit, the first part should be non-negotiable.

    La Buff will you forgive me, but I don’t think it is fair to call Lord M. Queen P. I think it is unfair.

  21. Hi Angela,

    Alreet, love? Now you must know me by now that I’m not one who lives on gossips or likes to spread gossips far and wide. But I must inform you at once that Tom Ford’s new flick ” A SINGLE MAN ” has been nominated for Best Actor Oscar ( Colin Firth ).

    Tom Ford. The Gucci man. yeah, that’s reet. The Gucci man. The man who never smiles in all his photos. That’s reet. I mean, when folks don’t smile in their photos, they look like they haven’t squeezed one out for months. But Tom is so cool, even when he’s not smiling he still looks cool. That’s reet, Ang. ( google: Tom Ford’s pics )

    You know what, Ang. They group Tom’s new film with the low budget films. I mean, it just to shows you that you don’t need a big budget to make a good film. All you need is a good director with arty eyes and good actors.

    I mean, Tom has never done anything like this before. This’s his first ever film, Ang. Can you believe it? Oooooh, I’m so pleased for Tom. I hope Firth wins.

    Alreet, love? Must dash!

  22. Boris Johnson: “my colleague and I were travelling steerage, in keeping with the new spartan regime at City Hall”

    It doesn’t matter how Boris Johnson dresses it up, he still travels far too much. It must be great fun to go all these conferences etc, but it’s on our money and it’s irresponsible.

    I for one find the thought of being represented overseas by an Eton / Bullingdon public-schoolboy quite embarrassing.

  23. Hettie are you off your bonce? It is so necessary at the moment that someone promotes British industry and the City of London. It is absolutely vital and Boris is brilliant at it. It’s not some jamboree, it is vital publicity to attract business to London and to promote London at the leading financial centre of the world.

  24. And you find it embarrassing to be represented by a super intelligent, highly educated, brilliantly creative, ultra persuasive, exquisitely mannered product of the best that our education system has to offer. Okay then!

  25. The investment programme report for the second quarter 2009/10 estimates the final cost of the cycle hire scheme at £91.6m. This is a 60% increase in comparison to figures produced in early 2009 when the costs for this project were estimated at £58.9m. Can Boris Johnson explain the reasons behind this huge increase?

    This is a huge sum of money. The bikes will probably be vandalised as in Paris. It’s ill thought out and poor value for money,

  26. I agree with Angela. It is unfair to ridicule someone for their sexuality. Didn’t Boris come in favour of banning anti homophobic behaviour recently? Quite right Boris.

  27. I like David Cameron very much. He is honorable, intelligent, and a good person. But he is letting things slip and from the bottom of my heart, I believe Boris would never never ever let that happen if he led the party. He would be in there heart and soul and his meaning and intentions on every issue would be so clear. As crystal.

  28. Aye, me too, Edna. I’m not the sort who hear a bit of gossip then spread it aroooound faaaaar and wiiiide at all, Edna. I really hate that. My motto is: If you hear something, keep it for yourself because knowledge is power. Aye, aye. Anyway, Edna d’you still remember last summer Sarkozy fainted while out jogging with his missus Carla in St Tropez and he was taken hospital by ambulance and Carla followed right behind his ambulance driving a Harley Davidson at high speed, donning designer Aviator shades? Oh my world. Who does she think she is? Steve McQueen? Some people these days. I don’t know. As soon as they got a bit of a position they think they’re tops, don’t they. And us are peasants. Just don’t care, do they? Oh I don’t really know. This country has gone to the dogs. Over to you Edna.

  29. Alreet, Edith? Thanks for converse with me. What you informed me about Carla really sent a chill down my love box, Edith. Did she really do that? My Cyril did not fight in the war for her to do that. My Cyril would turn in his grave if he saw that. Did she really do that, Edith? Oh my sweet Lord. She should be ashamed of herself. Alreet, Edith. Keep me informed regularly, alreet Edith. Must dash.

  30. Well “Stupid is as stupid does!” in this set of circumstances. My co-worker burnt his dwelling down testing out his brand new frying maching. What a reject! I cannot believe this person could be so dense. I am sure there are instructions that say don’t use this inside or something like that. Most typical people would consider the garage in the house. They lost the whole lot. Here is a image of the flames:

    I was in fact asked if I wanted to come over and consume some pre-Thanksgiving turkey for this weekends Cowboys game. I am really relieved I was occupied! I guess the turkey fryer was like this one turkey fryers.

    Anybody else famailiar with a relative who has burned their house down to the ground with a turkey fryer?

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