One of the lower profile ministers in this rather poor government is Margaret Hodge who, we are told, is the person charged with promoting this country's tourism. According to the main story on the front page of yesterday's 'Western Morning News' she has been interviewed in the 'Holiday Which' magazine and it would seem has been making some uncomplimentary remarks about the providers of Britain's tourism. Moreover she prefers Italy to Britain as her own holiday destination! Gordon Brown like Tony Blair before him seems to excel in finding square pegs to go in round holes!
Looking at the Italy preference first - there's nothing intrinsically wrong in being biased toward a particular country for a holiday. But wouldn't you think that the person selected for her portfolio would be someone passionate about the virtues of our own country? So once again our prime minister is guilty of very poor judgment. I think I made a blog entry some considerable time ago when I was perhaps a little harsh about Tony and Cherie Blair forever jetting off abroad for their hols when Mr Blair was PM. Perhaps I should reign in that criticism a little. My point then was that the Blairs were showing a very poor example in not cutting down on air miles but I'm absolutely sure the two of them really didn't like holidaying in this country and, with Blair's then responsibilities, it could be fairly argued perhaps that it was important for him to properly recharge his batteries during his break; if that meant disappearing to Sir Cliff Richards' island hideaway or some such place then so be it. (I do recall by the way that the Blairs spent a few days in Cornwall following the 2001 foot and mouth crisis, but that was I think just a token gesture following pressure from our tourist industry which was suffering as a result of the F & M. It was followed by their usual much longer holiday abroad, I have a feeling the Cornish experience was duty, not something they particularly enjoyed)
Back to Margaret Hodge then. Yes she might complain that English hotels are too expensive compared to those in Italy say. I would like to see a comparison between the overheads carried by similar hotels in the two countries, we know that the VAT rate here is greater than almost everywhere else in the EU. I get the feeling that more and more hotels are upping their game in the UK, there may well still be hotels and other accommodation providers who still need to do better but why has Ms Hodge decided to use this particular journal to berate them? Morale in that industry cannot be at its best what with the appalling weather and the ever increasing overheads and bureaucracy they face so why kick them in this very public way. If there are things she feels need saying surely the industry have conferences where she can make her points.
Once again we have a minister delivering very insensitive comments at the most inappropriate moments. We deserve much better than this.