I hardly know how to my astonishment and anger over the events of the last few days. Twenty five million people’s privacy has been put at risk by the rank stupidity of people who work for HM Revenue & Customs. The chairman of HMRC has done the honourable thing and fallen on his sword. It happened on his watch and he has taken responsibility. I suspect we can whistle for political resignations. Nothing to do with them, guv. So what will the long term political fallout be from this cacophony of incompetence?
It depends partly on whether the discs have fallen into the wrong hands. If so, and the information is used to defraud members of the public then I think we can all agree that this drama then becomes a full blown crisis. Let’s hope we don’t reach that point.
George Osborne has made the point that this must signal the death knell for Identity Cards. No one will now trust the government with their private information. I suspect that if the government continues with its ill-judged ID Cards scheme there will be a mass outbreak of civil disobedience far greater than we saw over the poll tax. Government can only govern with the consent of the people. But it’s not just the ID Cards scheme which must be scrapped. Joining it in the dustbin of ill-conceived schemes should be the NHS computer system which is intended to computerise all our medical records. Can you imagine the situation if these sort of records were hacked into?
The Conservatives and the LibDems have been very careful not to jerk their knees and call for the Chancellor’s head. If anyone is to blame, it is the man who spent ten years in the job and who now runs the country. He was the one who presided over the merging of the Inland Revenue with HM Customs. He appointed Sir Paul Gray to run the new body and surely he is ultimately responsible.
The long term legacy will be a permanent stain on the government’s reputation. Not for sleaze. Not for deviousness. But for incompetence. A whole series of blunders have left this administration looking tired, weak and incompetent. It has the stench of incompetence which the Major government suffered from in its last two awful years.
People don’t re-elect governments they deem to be incompetent. They reckon the other lot can’t be worse and so decide to give them a go. I detect that is now the mood of the people. It’s now up to the ‘other lot’ to prove that they are up to the job.
This week Mid Norfolk MP Keith Simpson initiated a debate in the House of Commons on the future structure of local government in Norfolk. I won’t rehearse all the arguments about the benefits or otherwise of a unitary authority governing the so-called Greater Norwich area, but this whole episode reveals a startling degree of incompetence by the government. One week we’re told that the status quo, which most people favour, is not an option and the next week it’s back on the table again. But what stinks most of all is the complete lack of consultation for Norfolk residents. Why is it that the decision on Norfolk’s future will be taken by a Minister in Whitehall who has probably only ever been to Norfolk a handful of times? I’m becoming an increasing fan of local referendums on issues like this. Why can’t politicians let the people decide what’s good for them? Either you trust the people or you don’t. So come on, Minister, what’s it to be?
Being six feet two inches tall I have always had a bit of a problem with beds, in that my feet usually hang out the end. So I decided to order a seven foot long bed to avoid my feet getting frostbite this winter. I was told it would take five weeks to deliver so I ordered some specially made bedlinen and looked forward to a new sleeping experience. Earlier this week I got a call to say that my bed was ready for delivery. Yippee, I thought. But an hour later I got another call to say there was a problem, and that the bed was, er, the wrong size. It was eighteen inches wider than I had ordered. So I have now got to wait another few weeks until they actually make one the size I actually ordered. Why does this kind of thing always happen to me?