Gordon Brown (you may remember him, greying scottish bloke who had a tendency to be quite grumpy) had a great idea to boost Labour’s support in the marginal cities: take the cabinet out on a day trip, hold cabinet there and then ‘fan out’ ministers across the region getting lots of lovely local and regional media coverage.
The only problem was, as the cabinet is a pretty important group of people, they need protecting. They also need transport, food and suchlike. All in, some put the bill for each of these events at £250,000 a pop.
Quite rightly, they were lambasted at the time as a “scandalous waste of money” by then Shadow Treasury Minister Mark Hoban and in 2008 George Osborne said“The cabinet taking a day trip out of London is not going to solve Britain’s economic problems.”
He isn’t wrong. This isnt a hugely important policy or sign of the ‘new politics’ - it’s just good, old fashioned hypocracy. While increasing VAT may have not been explicitly ruled out, I think it’s fair to say quotes like this would give people the idea that the junket would stop under a Tory government. I mean, I assume we’re still for stopping scandalous wastes of money? (Although I havent double checked this in the coalition agreement)
It’s also tough to avoid the irony of the Westminster Conservative-led cabinet going on tour to Bradford (within spitting distance of about 4 or 5 marginal seats) days after the Conservatives in Scotland said the SNP should pay for the Scottish Cabinet tour events as they were held in, erm, marginal seats.
I think I’m not alone in thinking that the important thing about cabinet is the decisions made there and the strategic direction set for the country. Where they hold it is not a big deal. And if ministers are serious about getting out into the country to learn more about their departments, why not go nuts and visit!?
But what really irks me is the fact that simply by going from opposition to Government, our former anger of wasting taxpayers money has overnight become a desire to ‘engage the regional communities’ or whatever bollocks phrase is used to justify the events.
And we wonder why people don’t trust politicians.