The closure of Gatwick, the second largest airport in Britain, just before Christmas after the sighting of a mysterious drone near the runway, received wall-to-wall coverage from the British media, dominating the news agenda for the best part of a week.
Contrast this with the limited interest shown when a majority stake in the airport was sold by its owners to a French company. A consortium led by the US investment fund Global Infrastructure Partners, which included the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, were paid £2.9bn by the French group, Vinci Airports.
The change in ownership of an important part of the British infrastructure from one foreign corporation to another came at an interesting moment. It was only a couple of weeks after the Whitehall spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, had issued a report explaining one reason why the British army is short of new recruits.
It says that back in 2012 the army had agreed a £495m contract with the outsourcing group Capita Business Services to be its partner in the recruitment of soldiers. But problems with the recruiting systems put in place by the company have made it increasingly complicated for even the most enthusiastic recruit to join up.
This is at a time when there is a shortfall of 5,500 in the number of fully trained British soldiers with 77,000 in the ranks compared to a target of 82,500.
The auditor’s report says that it took 321 days for an aspirant soldier to…