Isabel Oakeshott is interviewed. We are no wiser. The ins and outs of the story of Conservative Government Ministers during the COVID pandemic lockdowns is a story that will be written a thousand times. Hectares of the social media landscape will repeat every embarrassing blunder and poorly thought-out assertion. These ins and outs need to be dissected but it’s not work for those tying to improve their mental health.
People who have had some exposure to British politics often love “Yes Minister”, the BBC series that overflowed with wit, twists and turns. It lifted the lid on the stumbling workings of Whitehall and the political class. At the time the series was made there were no mobile phones in every pocket and paper was still king. Civil servants carried bundles of files down endless corridors. This wood panelled and stuffy environment was a commonplace image.
Opening a file really meant getting a folder and putting numerous memos and reports in it. Staking it high with the record of decision-making for future generations of historians to dissect.
In the 1970s, the speed of communication was mitigated by the medium. When it came to paper trails, that was a relatively human speed. Typed up memos were rarely dashed off without a thought. Documents were released with an official stamp and multiple signatories.
Fast forward to the 2020s. Office desks appear totally different from the past, that is if one exists at all. Mobiles have concentrated super-fast digital communication tools into the palm of a hand.
That said, official and unofficial communication channels continue to play their part in the corridors of power. What is shocking, in the current news stories is just how much the unofficial communication channels seem to dominate.
Afterall, we are not taking about a release of official Government emails. It’s worth asking; why are Government Ministers using WhatsApp so much? It’s a widely available commercial messaging application owned by the US company Meta.
Is the machinery of political governance getting so lax in the UK that we are behold unto a messaging mobile App over which we have no control what-so-ever?
Globally, WhatsApp may have over 2 billion users but that’s no guarantee of its integrity. The system does get hacked. Ministers using unofficial communication channels as if they were totally within their control are foolish, unethical, and naïve, to say the least.