Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Sir Nicholas Winterton and standard class travel

I have just heard what Tory MP Sir Nicholas Winterton said about standard class train travel on Stephen Nolan's 5 Live show this morning. You can listen to the highlights here.

He said that the sort of people you get in standard class are "a totally different type of people" to those you get in first class. He said that there is too much noise and people would be looking over his shoulder all the time. He also suggested that that is why business people travel first class. Stephen tried to point out to him that business people often travel standard class too and gave him opportunities to row back from what he was saying but Sir Nicholas was having none of it and insisted that he was entitled to first class travel.

Now I know he is going to be jumped on from all sides for this. To be fair, I actually think there is a kernel of a fair point in what he is saying. There is more room in first class, a guaranteed power point for a laptop, less people, it's quieter etc. When I have been travelling on business I do try and get a first class seat. However, I do it by booking well in advance. If the price differential is only a few quid between first and standard (which it sometimes is if you book far enough ahead) then I will go for the first class option. Often though I am unable to do this.

However I suspect that Sir Nicholas travels first class all the time, even when the cost is much more than standard class. The sense of entitlement comes through loud and clear. He is almost indignant that his "need" for first class travel could even be questioned. His remarks also echo those of former transport minister Stephen Norris in the early 1990's when he described his dislike of public transport and having to put up with "dreadful human beings". Even worse, the out-of-touch-ometer is pushing past the display by Eric Pickles on BBC Question Time last year when Pickles was adamant that MPs had to be in Parliament at a certain time because (banging the desk) "it runs like clockwork", completely failing to understand that lots of people are under severe time pressure and don't get the benefits that MPs get.

Overall this was a woeful performance. It demonstrates that some MPs (especially it would seem long serving ones) just do not get it. He is not entitled to first class travel as a right and he ill-serves his constituents and the public through this sort of petulant display.

I expect David Cameron will be furious about his remarks. Sir Nicholas probably couldn't care less though given that he is standing down imminently.

Cameron better hope that this is the last such display by the dinosaurs on his back-benches this side of the election.


Tode said...

I think that our elected representatives ought to be able to travel first class when travelling on official business e.g. between constituency and Westminster. But they also ought to have the respect of the public. The two go together and having forfeited one, they can't expect the other. Tough on those MPs who haven't done anything wrong but that's the way it is.

BushBaby said...

was he wearing a Victorian frock coat and sniffing on his perfumed lace kerchief to hide the smells of the underclass.
No doubt he pops into economy class with a sack of potato peelings his philanthropic act of the day.
Thank G** he is retiring to his castle and moat

Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

"having to put up with "dreadful human beings"" is part of the rod that anyone entering politics makes for their own back and most MPs, I would expect, have to put up with the truly dreadful quite often.

Discharging one's political duties with the benefit of first class travel (often not so very far differentiated from other classes) seems a very meagre recompense, especially as it may often facilitate effective discharge of such duties.

Outrageous troughers are outrageous troughers though - so give them no quarter: the message to MPs should be:- rough it second class with all the dreadful types who vote for you.