Sitting in the Pavilion at the Oval today, watching Surrey play Bangladesh, I saw two helicopters hovering in the distance, roughly over Downing Street. Then a third came zooming overhead to join them. Something seemed to be up.
I called my wife, who works in Westminster, to ask whether the moment had finally come. Was Gordon Brown heading to Buckingham Palace to hand in his resignation?
No. Apparently those three helicopters were there to capture the moment when Brown drove back to Downing Street after a day in Scotland. Thrilling, but surely a story that could be covered adequately from the ground. And with helicopters costing about £500 an hour to hire, it seems an extravagant use of money for the broadcasters each to need their own.
Presumably these three helicopters are on permanent stand-by for that moment when smoke emerges from the roof of the Cabinet Office to herald the selection of a new Government and staff at Buckingham Palace are asked to put the kettle on for when the new PM calls by.
I can understand the desire to capture that historic drive from the air (left out of Downing Street, up Whitehall, left at Trafalgar Square, under Admiralty Arch and down the Mall), but it must be expensive to keep three newscopters and their pilots hanging around in a hangar somewhere near the M25, waiting for Nick Clegg and David Cameron to cut a deal.
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