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Leg room and wiggle room

Betsan Powys | 12:35 UK time, Wednesday, 15 July 2009

As I wrote here Rhodri Morgan was adamant yesterday that the Liberal Democrats were guilty of mishandling the story about International Business Wales civil servants and the expenses they'd put on their credit cards.

It had been "repugnant" to allege that civil servants had flown first class. "Civil servants do not use first class travel" said the First Minister. "I don't think I've ever used first class travel. But certainly civil servants can't. I don't think I ever have to be honest. And if I can't I'm sure they can't".

It was, in fact, "an outright lie."

That sort of attack leaves no escape when copies of first class flight tickets turn up, as they have done. Four so far.

In February Geraint Jones, IBW's Head of Americas flew first class from New York to Los Angeles with Virgin America. Their blurb for first class flying goes like this:

"With roomy massage thrones, unlimited entertainment choices and fresh, hot food at your request, you will feel like royalty all flight long".

In November 2008 Christopher Williams, Vice President ICT, flew first class from New York to Los Angeles and then on to San Franciso. He returned, turning left when he got onto the plane once again, from San Francisco to New York three days later.

Is it wrong for civil servants to take first class flights? According to the First Minister, yes it is.

But what is undoubtedly wrong is letting that First Minister paint himself into the tightest of corners by accusing the Liberal Democrats of telling an "outright lie" - when they, apparently, did not. Using the First Minister's own yardstick, it seems he did. He, after all, made no allowances for good intentions.


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  • 1. At 3:56pm on 15 Jul 2009, mapexx wrote:

    Betsan, one thing is certain, in calling someone something, no matter what, one has to be absolutely sure of one's facts, in what they are saying.

    That the leader did not make damned sure he was totally correct, was a failure of classic proportions, and without doubt such faux pas will be constantly picked up and on, no matter how much he may wriggle on the hook of his own casting.

    Also, if the 'blurb' is seemingly being taken literally by the traveller, then we may, no doubt about it, expect some sort of Welsh coronation ceremnony in the not too distant future.

    The only question to be answered...Who will wear the crown?

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  • 2. At 3:59pm on 15 Jul 2009, nomorepowers wrote:

    Gaff or lie..... It is time the First Minister stood down. To say that ministers have never travelled first class is hard to believe also. I'm sure people will agree ministerial chauffeur driven cars can be viewed as first class travel.

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  • 3. At 5:20pm on 15 Jul 2009, Hazeyboo wrote:

    I don't know much abut Welsh civil servants but unless they are VERY different from English ones then when you get to a certain grade you used to travel first class automatically. I never reached those dizzy heights but often travelled that way with someone who did - and we had to work throughout the journey to justify the cost.

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  • 4. At 7:05pm on 15 Jul 2009, Sullywatcher wrote:

    He says ""I don't think I've ever used first class travel. But certainly civil servants can't. I don't think I ever have to be honest. And if I can't I'm sure they can't".

    Well, I'm an English civil servant, and I'm allowed to use first class travel. I frequently travel to London and I often see someone suspiciously like Rhodri Morgan, sometimes alone, sometimes with a colleague, sitting in the same first class carriage as me. In fact, I've even spoken to him and he sounds just like Rhodri! But it must be his body-double....

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  • 5. At 00:55am on 16 Jul 2009, Ian wrote:

    I used first class on the train once from Carmarhten back to Swansea, after a very boozy birthday bash-along with several others. I regret to say that our tickets did not match the class of travel but a few cans of double dragon seemed to persuade the train guard otherwise.

    Does this get me on the front page of the Western Mail in the silly season, or do I have to feed this admission through an FOI request first?

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  • 6. At 10:02am on 16 Jul 2009, Igotitallwrongsorry wrote:

    No4. It must mean surely that our Rhodri has got a "doppelganger" to travel amongst his "subjects" whilst carrying out his duties with his Deputy First Minister in screwing up the road building programme to satisfy NATS in government!!!.It could mean that is was our Rhodri travelling FIRST CLASS when according to this post he never travels FIRST CLASS,so thats the value of an Oxford/Harvard education (very rarely mentioned by him).It proves that The Right Honourable Anthony Charles Lynton Blair PM was right in not giving him a "bag carriers" job in 1997 as for such an intelligent man he seems somewhat "bemused" as to the actuality of life in "government"

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  • 7. At 7:19pm on 16 Jul 2009, mapexx wrote:

    Message 6...

    Yes, HE may well be bemused, however WE are not amused by the whole sorry mess that WE are paying for.

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