Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

A Wet Lunch Can Save Your Bacon. (E-Mail Scandals)

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

A Wet Lunch Can Save Your Bacon. (E-Mail Scandals)

Article excerpt

If only Dan Corry had gone out for a wet lunch with workmates. Instead, Stephen Byers's adviser sat soberly tap-tap-tapping at his computer in the transport department, sending e-mails to some sub-intelligence operative at Millbank. The e-mails, seeking information about the Paddington Survivors Group, found their way to the Independent and "Canny Danny" now looks foolish.

The Pam Warren affair, named after the Paddington rail crash victim whose lobby group Corry wanted Labour dirt-diggers to investigate, is probably not as evil as it first seemed. What it does tell us, however, is that special advisers send too many e-mails. And here is the shocking bit: Corry sent them during his lunch hour.

Dateline 23 May, 11.29am. We find Corry -- whose boss is somehow still Transport Secretary -- asking Labour HQ to run checks on Warren's collaborators in the group: "Basically, are they Tories?"

Millbank takes a sloppy look through the party's Excalibur database and gets back to Corryat 12.40 pm with what looks horribly like a "dunno about you, but I'm off to lunch" holding answer. According to released texts, the next contact is Corry to Millbank. It is timed at 1.59pm.

How different it could have been if, in his initial e-mail of the day (11.29am), Corry had wired: "Need help. How about a pint at the Red Lion?" The dirt-digging could have been requested amid the murmur of lunchtime boozers and would never have leaked.

At this point, were I Horace Rumpole, I'd snort triumphantly and say: "No further questions." For we have evidence (dread words) of a working lunch consumed at Corry's desk.

Sadly, new Labour apparatchiks do not do things that way. Instead, they are absurdly over-impressed by computers. Their addiction to e-mails is part of the whole West Wing thing. …

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