Unusual as it is for me to write anything topical, tonight's news that several million people who receive Child Benefit in this country have had their personal details put on disc by the Revenue, mailed out and subsequently lost, has drop-kicked me out of my usual after dinner sofa-coma and forced me to post something of my own. To say the least, losing a third of the population's personal information (including national insurance numbers, bank and savings details, along with those of their children) with the worrying prospect of this stuff getting into the wrong hands, is a cock-up of huge proportions with the possibility of dire consequences (ID fraud and theft being just two). It adds to an already long and varied list of cock-ups made by governmental departments within the UK. Heads will no doubt roll, arses will inevitably be kicked. And rightly so. The shit is certainly hitting the fan, and frankly so it should. It comes to something when we can get a more secure service from Amazon when ordering an Amy Winehouse CD over the internet than we can from HM Revenue and Customs.
But will the right heads roll, and the correct arses be kicked? The Chairman of the Revenue has resigned, apparently, not even waiting to be given the slow hand-clap, (or would that be the golden hand-shake - I can never remember which one it is that senior figures get when they've bolloxed things up and have to leave), but in isolation what good will his departure do us? Probably none at all because he, no doubt (like many other people in charge of huge organisations) had absolutely no bloody idea of what really goes on at less exalted levels, and was probably blissfully ignorant of how or why certain things were being done or by whom. OK, maybe he can be blamed for that in itself, and morally I suppose that as the head bloke he may feel that falling on his own sword is the honourable thing to do, but you have to ask yourself this.
Who really ordered such sensitive information to be downloaded in the first place (and how was that possible, given that computers can always be programmed to say "no" if asked to perform an "illegal" task?), and which blithering idiot stuck the discs in the post, not even sending them recorded delivery? And who's idea was that? Not the Chairman's, I'll bet, yet he must carry the can.
There is, however, a silver lining of delicious irony to this particular grey cloud of institutional ineptitude - whoever finds those CDs might well find themselves in possession of the personal and banking details of some very important people, including government officials and even extremely senior cabinet ministers, and that would never do. Unless of course the security services find them first. Or have I been watching too many episodes of Spooks?