A ‘Lost in the Post’ Post

Hi folks! You’re stuck with me again for this Last Roundup Before Advent, and the Blogging Gods have given me a very fruitful harvest this week.

This is primarily to do with the UK Government’s ability to lose discs with the details of 25,000,000 child benefit recipients. The story is so big that Bill Cameron has brought his blog out of retirement.

Meanwhile, over at Love and Garbage, we get two posts (oh, the value!) concerning a House of Lords report on Internet security, and the Government’s response.

The Government’s competence with IT naturally gets called into question: Angus Nicolson and Richard Leyton are stunned that these data can be put on a CD and sent in the internal mail when there is the technology around to transfer all and only the information that is needed electronically. Even my employers manage that. And AswaS suggests that the Government might want to use more traditional forms of communication from now on.

However, the people involved also generate interest. Tartan Hero is calling for the Chancellor’s head, but Alistair Darling gets an easier ride from IndyGal, who notes that Darling’s role in this fiasco was limited, and that his resignation wouldn’t achieve all that much.

Instead, blame appears to have fallen on a ‘junior official’, and Holyrood Watcher expresses concern for the staffer who will bear the weight of this whole episode on their shoulders for the rest of their career, and Ewan Watt is less than impressed that Ministers no longer appear to be responsible for what happens in their Department. But does the ‘junior official’ claim hold water? Mr. Eugenides points out that backing for the sending of the information came from people far higher up the food chain.

But attention has turned to the implications of this incident, and David Linden makes an interesting point: he worries about the safety of children, given that it was the child benefit, and the child benefit claimants’, details that were lost. He argues that these data could now be in anyone’s hands, including, potentially, sex offenders. However, most of the chatter focuses on identity theft: Carolyn Brodie notes the increased risk of this now that the details of 25,000,000 bank accounts have got out into the open. Caron, on the other hand, wonders if there’s any point in even trying to fight ID fraud when in one moment of glaring incompetence, the Government have made the crime so much easier.

On the same subject of identity fraud, Niall notes that ID card supporters are now arguing that the increased risk posed by this debacle actually increases the need for cards rather than proving why the Government can’t be trusted with our personal data. Garry flirts briefly with the idea that this is precisely what was intended, but decides not to buy it a drink, followed by a bite to eat. Indeed, Louise and Robert hope that the argument in favour of ID cards has now been lost.

Staying with ID cards, and Mr. Eugenides reliably informs us that former Home Secretary David Blunkett is in the pay of Entrust, the security company running Spain’s ID card scheme. Entrust want to run the UK’s scheme, should it happen, and David Blunkett is in favour of ID cards and will soon be free to lobby on Entrust’s behalf. Funny, that.

Anyway. One Government department that won’t have much postal trouble is the Scotland Office, because it receives so little mail in the first place, as noted by Mr. Smith. And despite the lack of meaningful activity in one of his Departments, Des Browne is taking pelters for being able to concentrate fully on both of them, as Angry Steve discusses.

Elsewhere, Clairwil tackles the BBC’s assertions that it’s easy to get Incapacity Benefit.

And now that we’ve started talking about money, Julie Hepburn gives us her reaction to the Budget, and in the wake of the Higher Education sector calling for more money, AswaS takes a look at the financial state of our universities.

Also, Scottish Tory Boy wonders if plans to cut ScotRail’s Glasgow-Edinburgh journey time by 10 minutes should be that big a priority, when the service isn’t all that bad at the moment and there are other parts of the rail network that need attention.

In other news, cross-party relations have come under scrutiny again. AswaS casts his eyes over suggestions that deals have been done between the SNP and the Tories, and isn’t convinced. And the Presiding Officer’s continued exasperation at cross-party egg-throwing manifesting itself in bogus points of order has generated this post over at A Scandal and A Disgrace.

Speaking of cross-party egg-throwing, Labour’s now ex-spin doctor Matthew Marr’s foul-mouthed outburst at the Scottish Politician of the Year Awards raises eyebrows, with DK surprisingly impressed. Sadly for Marr, this sentiment is not shared by all and claims that he was behaving out of character have been scoffed at by Mark Mcdonald and Osama Saeed, who have run into him before.

But with Marr’s resignation adding to the Brian Lironi-shaped hole in Labour’s PR team, Calum takes a look at a new recruit. Reactionary Snob thinks this latest episode shows what a dire state Scottish Labour are now in, and Wendy Alexander’s performance on Question Time gets panned by Justified Spinner.

And the short-staffed Labour PR department has had an effect on Scottish bloggery, with Labour blogger, and last week’s rounder-upper, Kezia Dugdale being transferred temporarily from George Foulkes’s office to help fill the gap. She worries that if she keeps blogging, her posts will be scrutinised by people in other parties for even the slightest hint of off-message-ness, but worries that if she stops, she’ll be accused of having been gagged by Party HQ. Kudos to her, then, for her declaration: “Sod it,” she says, “I’ll carry on…” But she gets a frosty reception from BellgroveBelle, Convener of Young Scots for Independence, who takes Kezia to task for a recent post on the YSI’s position on student funding, and wonders how Kezia will fare compared to Lironi and Marr.

Though there is something of a merry-go-round in Scottish Labour: Mr. Smith notes that the aforementioned Brian Lironi is now Leader of Glasgow City Council Steven Purcell’s PR man, and that he has filled the vacancy in that post left by a certain Matthew Marr. I have a headache now.

Anyway, on other matters, David Farrer has been talking about the Right in Scotland. Duncan, however, reckons that the labels ’Left’ and ‘Right’ are meaningless when a party that calls itself left wing can produce the sort of anti-immigrant rhetoric associated with the far right.

Moving swiftly on, and there was a By-Election in Dundee this week to replace SNP MSP Nigel Don, who resigned his seat on Dundee City Council to focus on Holyrood. The SNP won, and Tartan Hero celebrates the swing to the SNP from Labour. However, Dundee LibDem Councillor Fraser Macpherson argues that as the LibDems netted the biggest increase in the share of first preference votes in the ward, they have the most to celebrate. Not sure third place and 10% of the vote is a great reason to get the champers out myself, but, hey! Any excuse for a thrash…

Staying with the LibDems, and newly elected LibDem Vice-Convener Iain Rubie Dale is exasperated that party rules meant he couldn’t even mention his candidacy until after the election.

Meanwhile, Richard Havers looks at the language of the SNP Government and suggests that the talk has yet to be backed up with action. And on language, Angus Nicolson notes that plans for a Gaelic TV seem to have died.

This week, Ewan Aitken, Leader of Edinburgh Council’s Labour group, is getting to grips with Facebook, and wonders why anyone would want to throw a sheep at another person.

And Angry Steve is angry about various bits of kit for the hardened gadget lover being overly expensive for what they actually are.

I’ve been hesitating to cover the week’s other big story, but I suppose I can’t not. Alex Massie is disappointed at Scotland’s exit from Euro 2008, but is pleased with the team’s overall performance. Jennifer Dunn shares those sentiments but missed the agonising final minutes after the pub she was in lost the signal from the dodgy Greek satellite system they were watching the game on. Flying Rodent shares his very relevant dream with us, and chez BellgroveBelle the heartache was doubled on Wednesday.

Speaking of Wednesday, IndyGal feels an element of sympathy for now ex-England gaffer Steve McClaren. Mark McDonald doesn’t. And having discussed Gaelic media, Angus Nicolson also makes time for knob gags in Croatian.

Moving on to football in general, Shuggy asks that age-old question: what is the point in shouting instructions at the players when you’re watching the match on TV?!

Finally this week, another blogging birthday, with Osama Saeed putting a bit of stick about at Rolled-up Trousers for two years now.

And that, at last, is that for this week. I’m off to price up socks for relatives I don’t particularly like, and Duncan will be your host for the First Roundup of Advent. Why not give him an early Christmas present by leaving lots of nominations for him, either by using the jiggertywidget on the right or dropping an e-mail to scottishroundup@gmail.com?

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