AND I thought New Labour, emboldened by its steamroller majority in the Commons and the pathetic Opposition, had reached the heights of arrogance last week when Tony Blair advised ministers not to talk about the jet-set lifestyle so many of them have been revealed to be enjoying at taxpayers' expense.

Now, they go even further - by refusing to answer even when asked and even when the public spending watchdog has been called in to investigate.

For that was the reaction of the latest accused of sky-high living, Chancellor Gordon Brown. He refused to say whether it had cost Joe Public as much as £60,000 when he chartered a jet to fly from South Africa to Thailand in 1997 to discuss the Asian economic crisis.

"Our ministers take the view that we are not going into detail of travel arrangements. They have to get from A to B frequently all around the world and that is done in the quickest and most efficient way possible," said a Treasury spokesman.

Perhaps they do. But it is the disdain for accountability; the assumption that they are above questioning by the people who put them in power that stinks.

Yet let them keep it up. For no matter how much they fly about in luxury on government business while thumbing their noses at their critics at the same time, they will find out yet that it is they who will pay a price for it - at the hands of the voters they are so contemptuous of now.

But won't someone wake up dozy William Hague and tell him to sink his teeth in on this?

Converted for the new archive on 14 July 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.