Archive for November 21st, 2007

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Darling and Brown – New Labour’s answer to Laurel and Hardy

21 November, 2007

Is it just me, or do others see Oliver Hardy every time Gordon Brown takes the floor? I can hear it now, “That’s another fine mess you’ve got me into, Darling.” And oh, how like Stan Laurel is our present Chancellor: an innocent victim of circumstance, he would have it, let down by the incompetence of others, none of it his fault.

Well, not quite, but, as he is merely the boot boy, a great deal of the blame must lie with his lord and master: once a Titan at the Treasury, he now raises a feeble hand, like Canute, unable to command the tide of blunders and crises that threaten to engulf him.

What I, and millions of other recipients of Child Benefit, would like to know (telephone conversation with sister today centred entirely around the possibility of someone’s using our details for identity theft) is why on earth anyone was able to download the database at all, let alone send it via snail mail.

All this talk of ‘procedures’ that weren’t followed is missing the point: it should have been physically impossible for this junior civil servant to copy such data – in my last job, systems security was so tight that I wasn’t able to alter the settings on my printer, it had to be done remotely by the IT manager. 

What is more, why is someone so junior even allowed access to, allowed to view, my bank account details? How much is he or she paid? How much would it take to bribe him or her to copy down relevant details and sell them? How easy would it be for an organised criminal gang to have one of their own apply for a relatively junior IT job in one of our big departments of state?

It’s terrifying.

Forget following procedures: such data should not be visible to any Tom, Dick or Harry who works in HMRC: are we to assume that the cleaners can look over anyone’s shoulder and make notes of details on the screen in front of them?

Gordon Brown can’t glower and say that it wisnae his fault, it wis an ijit in ra Treasury whit done it: ensuring proper systems security was very much his bag baby, when he was Chancellor.

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We need more generals like Sir Richard

21 November, 2007

I am uncomfortably aware that I can bore for Europe on the subject of Defence, but every time Mike Jackson takes to the air, I grind my teeth.

I confess that I was always underwhelmed by him, although my husband advised me to keep my opinion fairly quiet when we moved to Colchester (home of 16 Air Assault Brigade, where all berets are red, and Gen Jackson was a bit of a legend) in 2004, but, I am glad to say that, within a year, my view prevailed. I don’t know a soldier who doesn’t feel let down by Jackson’s tenure as Chief of the General Staff.

What irks everyone is that he kept his powder dry while in office, unwilling to criticise his political masters openly, only to do so as soon as he left (and had a book to publicise…)

All the hot air in the world about ‘using the proper channels’ won’t satisfy an army that feels undervalued and overstretched.  What soldiers want is to know that someone, somewhere, is fighting their corner where it counts, which is why General Sir Richard Dannat is now a bally hero in the field army.

Forget the pompous musings of armchair critics and retired Colonel Buffington Trumpingtons about keeping things ‘within the Chain of Command’, Richard Dannat has inspired those who matter: serving soldiers.

I’ve been around soldiers for 15 years now and never known junior soldiers to be aware of ‘CGS’ as the Chief of the General Staff is known: their most awe inspiring figure is that of the RSM; if CGS visits their regiment or battalion, they will be told to mind their manners, or the RSM will have them later.

But not now: now all the junior soldiers I speak to know the name of General Dannat, for he has spoken up publicly in their defence; he has done what a senior commander should do, and put their welfare before his career or public embarrassment for the government.

Surely his leadership serves as a paradigm for any officer in HM Armed Forces.