The RAF Voyager, an Airbus A330 jet used by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as well as members of the British Royal Family for official international engagements, is being repainted in the colours of the Union Jack, to “better represent” the UK abroad.
According to reports by the BBC, the rebranding of the plane with the Union’s red white and blue will cost about £900,000, a cost that has been highly criticised amid a national – and global – health and economic crisis.
Meanwhile, Downing Street stated the rebranding represented good “value for money” and insisted that all the work was being done within the UK, to the benefit of UK suppliers.
The aircraft is currently in Cambridgeshire for pre-planned repainting in “national branding”, according to the Prime Minister’s office.
British opposition parties argued in the public eye that the project comes at an inappropriate time, with millions of people across the UK sent out of work, and amid a global aviation downturn.
Critics stated that the cost would be better spent elsewhere, such as on social services, or helping the victims of COVID-19 pandemic.
Taking to Twitter, Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey stated that the money being poured into the aeroplane rebrand could be better spent elsewhere.
He noted that the Prime Minister could provide 180,000 doses of a potentially life-saving drug – dexamethasone – to those struck with COVID-19 with the £900,000, “but instead he’s painting a flag on a plane”.
Meanwhile, the SNP argued that the funds could better be utilised in a proposed program that would provide school meal vouchers to low-income families, a motion that the government ultimately ruled out on Tuesday.
“PM won’t find an extra £20 a week to support the most vulnerable in society and help parents feed their children in these difficult times. But he can find almost a million pounds to paint a plane,” they said in a tweet.
Labour questioned why the government was spending nearly a million pounds “redecorating a plane which in all likelihood has been grounded for months because of the coronavirus”.
“When families across the country are worried about their jobs, health and the education of their children, they will rightly question the government’s priorities,” said shadow Northern Ireland secretary Louise Haigh.
And Labour MP Chris Bryant claimed to the BBC that the whole ordeal was “just a vanity project for the Prime Minister”.
“People who are on furlough in my constituency and are terrified they are going to lose their jobs will be wondering why on earth this is a priority,” he said.
During the daily COVID-19 press briefing, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden defended the cost of the rebrand, saying, “We have always spent money on promoting the UK around the world.”
It is said the makeover would mean the plane “can better represent the UK around the world, while also maintaining its military air to air refuelling capacity”.