One of the discussions I had at Jackie’s party was about government incompetence in IT procurement and management. Gazillions of pounds of our money goes to buy BMWs for “consultants” who I wouldn’t trust to format a floppy disk and the results are exactly as you would expect. Of course poorly thought out and chronically revised specifications don’t help, but there tends to be a common thread to these horror stories: ministers know nothing about IT and civil servants know nothing about IT and the people selling them IT know this. The problem isn’t restricted to the public sector of course. It’s just that the BBC doesn’t do prime time TV reports on network outages at Dorothy Perkins.
Another topic of debate at the gathering was Cherie Blair’s extracurricular activities. I was amused to find myself surrounded by capitalists getting sniffy about a woman who worked her way up from miserable circumstances to become a top barrister trying to make a bit of extra cash. (God knows her guitar-toting hippie husband isn’t maximising his earning potential.) I did point out there were good reasons to have a go at Mrs Blair, but it’s a reflection of their chronic frustration with the durability of her other half that even relatively rational Right-wingers resort to this kind of stuff instead. (It is, in fact, reminiscent of some of the more desperate “sleaze” allegations from the Left during Major’s dying days.) It probably doesn’t help that the Conservatives are currently being led by a man whose idea of intellectual coherence is wearing cufflinks that go with his tie.