The next time Prime Minister Manmohan Singh comes visiting Britain, could he please bring along an Ambassador car? I know it’s vying for attention with the BMW in Delhi, but it’s important for David Cameron to have one. And soon.
The car is aptly named of course, but that’s not why. It is do with style — how the men of government look as they go about their difficult business. Overweight and usually white, the Hindustan Ambassador is the symbol of authority without appearing ostentatious.
Having lived through a half-century of frugality, India can teach Britain a few things in its hour of recession-fuelled need. If Cameron and co had Ambassadors to move around in, they might have had an easier job of selling the sweeping public sector cuts announced last week.
Instead, the British Prime Minister travels in a sleek Jaguar X350 (priced at £65,000-74,000) or the luxurious Daimler Super V8 (£80,000), usually escorted by a Land Rover.
Things are becoming difficult for Britain’s youthful trio of Cameron, Deputy PM Nick Clegg and finance minister George Osborne, all of whom belong to the Maharaja class. Last year, then PM Gordon Brown controversially suggested that Cameron’s policies appeared to be “dreamed up in the playing fields of Eton” — Cameron’s and Osborne’s alma mater, the world’s most expensive.
When Cameron and Osborne announced the budget cuts, some commentators criticised them — given that 490,000 government jobs are to go. Now, the independent Institute of Fiscal Studies says the poorest Britons (those earning around £10,000-20,000 a year) will be hit hardest by the cuts.
If style is the man, then this trio should probably dress down. In the runup to this year’s general election, Cameron was said to have been embarrassed that he wore a £3,500 suit, while wife Samantha — of royal descent — wore a £65 Marks and Spencer dress.
Now, rumour in Bangkok has it that the British premier is planning a Christmas break in Thailand. The Thai Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, was in Cameron’s year at — you guessed it — Eton.