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T5 fiasco. Just send everything to Milan.

When the going gets tough the tough get going – to Milan as it happened. That’s where the beleaguered baggage handlers of London Heathrow’s Terminal Five sent thousands of pieces of luggage to be sorted because they, er, couldn’t handle them. It took twenty four hours to get them to Italy in a fleet of lorries, but this was much faster, apparently, than sending them by air. Which must tell you something.

The idea of sending baggage to another country to be dealt with – a kind of extraordinary rendition for suitcases – was a brilliant piece of lateral thinking. But why not send the passengers there as well? In fact, why go to all the bother of handling air travellers at all when you could send everyone to Milan and then get one of those nice european trains to take them to London?

Some people lost more than their luggage. The superannuated supermodel, Naomi Campbell, lost her rag and ended up being handcuffed for spitting at a policeman. Which provoked unkind comment about about useless old bags who needed their tickets stamped. But she had a point. Did you know that BA loses 1.4 million bags every year, even without new terminals? That’s three thousand bags a day. Only a staggeringly dysfunctional organisation could manage that degree of inefficiency. Milan is clearly onto a winner here.

Perhaps rail travellers, sick of delays and dirty trains, could also be sent to Milan. Journey times might be longer, but at least it would be a pleasant trip and you would be sure of arriving on time. It would allow the train companies could do what they do best anyway, which is syphon public subsidies to their shareholders. Passengers just get in the way.

In one sense, the government has already been employing the ‘just-get-shot-of-it’ strategy. Last November, the Revenue lost two computer discs with the bank and national insurance details of 25 million people by popping them in the internal post. If only they’d sent them to Milan.

In fact, why not get Europe to run our public services? The NHS has already been sending patients on hospital waiting lists abroad to get their operations, around a thousand a year. But far more go privately. 70,000 patients a year are leaving Britain for treatment in hospitals in Europe, and the number is set to rise to 200,000 by the end of the decade.

This is surely another great export success story for Britain. We may not do manufacturing anymore, but by God when it comes to exporting suitcases or medical cases, we are world beaters.

We have discovered a fundamental truth about ourselves as a nation through the terminal chaos at Heathrow: that we really cannot organise a piss up in a brewery Which is why so many of us fly abroad these days to get drunk.

About @iainmacwhirter

I'm a columnist for the Herald. Author of "Road to Referendum" and "Disunited Kingdom". Was a BBC TV and radio presenter for 25 years - "Westminster Live" and "Holyrood Live" mainly. Spent time as columnist for The Observer, Guardian, New Statesman. Former Rector of Edinburgh University. Live in Edinburgh and spend a lot of time in the French Pyrenees. Will that do?


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