Sunday, July 26, 2015

This Whitehall farce resembles a sinister version of Yes, Minister

WHERE governments are concerned, accidents and coincidences are not to be trusted. This doesn't mean they never happen. It doesn't mean we should surrender to every conspiracy theory passed off as fact thanks to the internet's Chinese whispers. But scepticism, plenty of it, never goes amiss when a government department is making excuses.

A lot of us are prepared to believe almost anything now about powerful individuals and the abuse of children. It isn't irrational. We know, too late, where doubt and disbelief have led us. Rumours dismissed for years have turned out to be terrifyingly true. Victims have been tortured twice, first by their attackers, then by an officialdom refusing, honestly or otherwise, to listen.

What do we say, then, to Whitehall's strange ability to lose and find files that might relate to abuse? That such is the complexity of government? That mistakes happen? That back in the olden days – say, less than 30 years ago – civil servants simply failed to understand the issues at stake? That somehow things are no better now? In each case, a remarkable degree of naivety would be involved.

We would have to have a high degree of tolerance, too, for sheer incompetence. That possibility might not test credulity too much. Government officials have shown a remarkable ability to lose their laptops, or leave their briefcases in taxi cabs. But the idea that officialdom cannot lay hands on its records, that it is in such a perpetual mess it cannot even vouch for the existence of files, invites derision. All you have to decide is who is being mocked.  (more...)

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