So this is what an African coup feels like
Tradition has it that African dictators are at their weakest when they go abroad, leaving the coast clear for generals on the make to seize the radio station and declare power. Gordon Brown has had cause to invoke the analogy before, when he got off a plane in the US one night to find that while he was conveniently out of contact over the Atlantic, Tony Blair announced that he wouldn't fight another election.
Nice Work If You Can Get It
Fancy a nice little earner? Ever considered a career as a Whitehall special adviser? You can earn up to £137,400. Not bad, eh, with all the civil service perks like a big pay-off when your boss gets the sack, and a fat public sector pension? On what Tory MPs are calling "a good day to bury bad news", the Prime Minister has published details of how many special advisers - known in the trade as SPADs - are employed in Whitehall, who they are and how much they earn.
The maths of losing discs
Is the disc error just one of those things? Something that just happens and has nothing, really, to do with politics? Yes and then again no. With every action taken by a state organisation there is a small chance of an error. So the Government can reasonably protest that such things are just life. But in two ways Labour's philosophy of Government helped create this fiasco.
'Cover-up' or ignorance?
Did he cover up as the Tories claim or did he not know? The release of e-mails relating to the child benefit data fiasco have been used to suggest that the chancellor was guilty of a "cover-up" of the role of senior officials. Alastair Darling’s Commons statement focused purely on the role of "junior officials".
Revealed : HMRC were warned about delivering the disks safely by the National Audit Office
Information has been released by the government showing that the National Audit Office warned HMRC to ensure that the disks (the now famous disks) holding the personal information on 25 million people, be delivered "as safely as possible". The government apparently asked for this information to be released to "prove their case". The problem is, for them, is that I cannot see how it does.
Do you feel reassured?
We are now told that the CDs are "likely" to be still "on Government property". Do you feel safe now? How do "they" know this? Have they proof? If so, why aren't they telling us that the CDs are definitely safe? If not, then why start spinning? Nick Robinson has been going quite strongly on this, he now reveals the cavalier attitude of the Civil Servants to our private details and information security. Do you trust these people?
A day's a long time in politics
When Dave wrote it (two days ago - I apologise for the title of this post - poetic license) this was a reasonable, if overly generous, account of what had gone wrong at HMRC. Now it looks like pretty much every argument in Darling's defence is completely invalid.
A week is a long time in the Inland Revenue … : Hot Issue of the Week
This week’s hot issue has been on the first page for much of the week. It focuses on Alastair Darling and the loss of the the personal details of more than 25 million people through the downloading, writing to CD, and posting of this data. This is issue is large enough to even force the Prime Minister to apologise .
ID cards: money talks
My prediction on Wednesday that defenders of ID cards would quickly twist this child benefit data debacle to their advantage has been borne out. My expectation that it would be Polly's Friday column, though, has been stymied by her non-appearance in today's Guardian - but, via Dizzy, I see that David Blunkett has stepped up to the plate admirably with a letter in today's Times.
Playing with fire
For once, the BBC is ahead of the game. It is the only media outlet so far (at the time of writing) to recognise the political importance of the "unprecedented attack" on Gordon Brown by no less than five former defence chiefs in the House of Lords yesterday. Featuring it as its lead item on the ten o'clock news, the BBC had Admiral Lord Boyce mount a personal attack on the prime minister, attacking his decision to give Des Browne the combined role of defence secretary and Scottish secretary.
Now is not the time for a big shift in Tory policy on the EU
Gordon Brown's unwillingness to give the British people a referendum on the EU Treaty is back in the news this morning following the newly-elected Danish PM's decision to give his people a say on their country's relationship with the European Union.
The Left vs hierarchy
In a sense, HMRC’s loss of child benefit records highlights the weakness of the Left - it’s failure to challenge the assumption that organizations must be hierarchic.
For years, the Left seems to have believed, to quote Orwell, that Britain is a family with the wrong people in charge. All would be well, it has assumed, if only there were better people with better policies at the top. To listen to some calls for Sir Ian Blair to resign, you’d think that the only problem with the Met is that the wrong arse is in the Commissioner’s chair.
Can we believe the Guardian’s hustings poll?
Is Huhne really 20% ahead? In the absence of any proper polling of Lib Dem party members anybody wanting to have a punt on the leadership election has almost no hard evidence on which to make their choice. The Guardian, however, reports on a survey it carried out on Wednesday night amongst 200 members it questioned at a hustings meeting in Cambridge. The outcome was certainly encouraging for the former Guardian journalist and now party environment spokesman, Chris Huhne. This found 40% saying Huhne, 20% saying Clegg, and the balance being undecided or preferring not to say. But Guardian hustings polls have a record of getting it terribly terribly wrong as we saw during the 2006 race.
First poll since the missing discs
I expect the benefit data incident will result in a deluge of polls over the next few days - the first one is already out, a snap YouGov poll for Channel 4 news. The topline figures with changes from YouGov’s last poll are CON 41%(nc), LAB 32%(-3), LDEM 14(+1). Labour’s support is down, as might be expected, but it has not benefited the Conservatives who remain static at 41% (the same level they’ve been at for the last 4 polls), the benefit going instead to the Lib Dems, continuing to creep upwards from the appalling figures last month, and “others”. Not that this is likely to dismay the Conservatives too much, it is the largest lead YouGov have given them so far.