I suppose that if you have been elected leader of the people of Gibraltar at four consecutive elections you rightly deserve the title Very Important Person albeit in a very small pond.
Now it appears that the chief minister of Gibraltar, Peter Caruana, is not only a VIP but a VEP as well – a Very Expensive Person.
According to figures produced by the Gibraltar daily newspaper, Panorama, the chief minister pays up to £1,000 to fly to the UK and back. Well that’s more than I’ve ever forked out flying Monarch or EasyJet but then he does fly British Airways Club Class.
However that is the least of it. The Gibraltar tax payer also has to fund an extra £1,586.26 per trip so that he can use the VIP lounge.
Apparently if he is summoned by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to see a Government minister it picks up the tab. Now that the lounge is available on a commercial basis, well there is a recession on, he uses it on every visit.
I know that gin and tonics come at a prohibitive cost at the Gatwick airport bars but you have to down a lot of Gordon’s to hand over £1,586.26. So what else does this exorbitant charge give the chief minister? He still has to show his passport but he is excused flashing his toiletries at a security official and bearing his feet. At a guess I suspect there is less chance of Caruana being embarrassed by having a hole in his socks than the likes of me, one of the hoi-polloi, so that little ritual should cause him no grief.
The chief minister is the elected leader of Gibraltar but not the head of state. That honour goes to the Queen and her representative on the Rock is the Governor. I wonder how much he pays to fly back to Blighty?
I also understand that if you are a leader of a small nation you might feel the need to have your status recognised. However it is the people of the Rock who elect their leader and not the waiting staff in the Gatwick VIP lounge who are used to looking after really important people. I wonder how this excess goes down with the residents of the drab apartment blocks in Gibraltar? Ah, but they probably didn’t vote GSD!
On the numerous flights I have taken from Gibraltar on the budget airlines I have frequently rubbed shoulders with the great and good of the financial services sector. On one occasion I espied a British multi-millionaire with his wife and mother flying Monarch and sharing the rubber ham sandwich and indifferent coffee with the rest of us. Then I guess that’s the money-saving savvy that made him a rich man. If the people of Gibraltar are paying the bill – why worry?
There is one other expense the chief minister has to face in the UK – getting from the airport to London. That apparently is solved by paying a chauffer £150 each way. It is common practice for British politicians, from the Prime Minister down, to let the train take the strain by travelling first class. However I hesitate to suggest this mode of transport to the chief minister as I suspect the Royal Train isn’t for hire and if it is, it comes at an enormous cost. But then of course - it isn’t him that’s paying!