Troughing is not an exclusively English Parliamentarian pursuit after all.
The German Social Democrat (”we speak for the poor and the vulnerable”) Health Minister, Ulla Schmidt, has been caught out arranging for her S-Class armoured chauffeur driven Mercedes to drive some 2,000 kilometers to Spain ahead of her arrival – presumably to put the towels out on the ‘roasting racks’ of Southern Spain in good time.
But when the €100,000 Euro car was stolen last week from the Spanish resort of Denia, some 80 kilometers north of Alicante, the case became a public relations debacle. According to German police, the car was recovered in Spain on Tuesday evening. The theft has prompted uncomfortable questions about why Schmidt needed her limousine during her vacation, especially since the German embassy in Madrid could presumably have arranged transport for her official engagements there.
On Wednesday, further details of the theft emerged. It turns out Schmidt’s driver was drugged by thieves on the night the car was stolen. “Evidence suggests that the perpetrators pried open a ventilation duct and drugged the driver in order to enter the room and take the keys to the car and his personal belongings.”
The German Taxpayer’s Association, a non-profit watchdog group, has demanded a full accounting of costs incurred. According to their estimates, the health minister’s vacation cost taxpayers more than €10,000 euro.
“The minister is explaining things bit by bit, and each time things look worse and worse for her.”
Schmidt’s case hasn’t been helped by the minor nature of her official engagements. It’s not as if she’s meeting King Juan Carlos, after all. The only visits that have come to light so far haven’t exactly required long-distance journeys — she attended a reception given by the mayor of Denia, the village where she is staying, and she held a talk to 250 German pensioners in a public hall in the town of Els Poblets, just eight kilometres from Denia, on Monday night.
Did her armored limousine really have to drive all the way from Germany for that?
According to the Telegraph this morning, the battle of the beach loungers has been won – by the Germans; they can now pre-book them for a mere €2.60 before they even leave home.
Business daily Financial Times Deutschland commented on Monday: “What will stick is the message that an SPD minister who speaks up for the poor and the weak in her speeches has herself driven around in an armored S-class vehicle while on vacation. You can’t get much further removed from the people than that.”
……Now where were we? What are our British MPs up to on holiday? Anybody spotted one yet?