THE other day when I was researching a feature article on 30 years of King Juan Carlos in Majorca I found a whole batch of photographs taken 18 years ago when Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh sailed into Palma aboard the royal yacht Britannia. It was quite a memorable day. At the time I was a young reporter on this newspaper and it is a memory I will treasure. Looking back it does seem quite amazing that the Britannia was scrapped and not replaced. I noticed that Prince Charles writing in his controversial diaries, the subject of a liabel case involving a British Sunday newspaper, said the same thing. The Britannia was not just a royal yacht, it was a symbol. Now, while I agree that costs sometimes have to be reduced, it does seem rather amazing that the Blair government, which said that the nation couldn't afford the Britannia, is looking into the possibility of buying a Boeing 747, for use by government ministers and the Royal Family. The so-called Blair Force One would really be for the government rather than the royals. Refitting the Britannia would have cost about the same as Blair Force One's yearly fuel bill. Why does the government need a Jumbo jet? Isn't flying First Class on a British Airways 747 not enough? Just because President Bush has got one, Tony Blair has to have the same. Shouldn't one of the world's premier maritime nations have a royal yacht; not just as a so-called toy for the Royal Family but to celebrate Britain's long maritime history. I have seen the Presidential Air Force 1 land in Palma, and it doesn't compare to the sight of the Britannia steaming into Palma. Its not nostalgia it is a symbol that Britain needs.
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