back to article Cabinet Office takes over control of UK government data: Mundane machinery or Machiavellian manoeuvrings?

The UK Cabinet Office is to take control of government data from the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport. In ordinary times this may be seen as unremarkable, but these are far from ordinary times. A written statement from Prime Minister Boris Johnson under the heading "Machinery of Government", dated 22 July, …

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  1. xyz

    Breeding unicorns

    Getting gov depts to share data has been a Whitehall wet dream for years and everytime someone tries it, it crashes and burns from the withering fire of "who controls what" guns (data, servers, security on servers, yada yada). And if a dept gives up its data, then who needs that dept anymore... Job cuts, JOB CUTS!! Civil servants are well versed in the dark arts of protectng their pensións, so cat in hell's chance even for sCummings.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Breeding unicorns

      Back in the day, we had the DCMS, ie Department for Culture, Media and Sports. Mainly responsible for handing out complimentary tickets relating to those areas, and occasionally giving the BBC a hard time. Then it added 'Digital' to it's portfolio, for vague reasons, possibly e-ticketing.

      Meanwhile, we also have the Cabinet Office, responsible for Missions Impossible. Like implementing policy, complete with Julia Lopez, Minister for Implementation. Or the Cabinet Office basically being UK Plc's admin function, responsible for stuff like payroll, ordering official laptops & smartphones, making sure they're secure, and have a secure network to run on. Which can get promptly ignored by other departments.

      So makes more sense for the Cabinet Office to do IT given that's one of their main responsibilities.. And there's a long history of what happens when departments try doing it themselves. But data is possibly one of the least Machiavellian functions given the Cabinet Office is also responsible for Official Histories. He who controls the past etc..

      But I have some sympathy with the Cabinet Office's IT types. When I did government consulting, had some interesting meetings wrt policy around best practices, frameworks etc and got the general impression it was trying to do the right thing. But then other departments would end up doing their own thing, and we'd get to read about the outcomes here.

    2. Claverhouse Silver badge

      Re: Breeding unicorns

      And if a dept gives up its data, then who needs that dept anymore...

      Well really, who could ever doubt the necessity of a Minister of Sports ?

    3. VBF
      Happy

      Re: Breeding unicorns

      Yes, Minister

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    With Dominic Cummings in charge ...

    ... what could possibly go wrong?

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: With Dominic Cummings in charge ...

      I see that the Barnard Castle Eye Test™ revealed that DC needed new spectacles

    2. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: With Dominic Cummings in charge ...

      I believe such a statement is traditionally followed by three crashing chords:

      Dom Dom Dom!

      1. TechHeadToo

        Re: With Dominic Cummings in charge ...

        I count four, the last one is a little longer that the first, thus

        Dom Dom Dom Doom

  3. Andy 73

    You know you're in trouble..

    ..when Carole Cadwalladr is being sited as a news source. She is obsessed with conspiracy theories around the Referendum and the Tories.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: You know you're in trouble..

      Never suspect a conspiracy when incompetence will do. That said, there was skullduggery involved in the referendum, just not really by the Tory Party which increasingly lost control of proceedings to non-parliamentary groups.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: You know you're in trouble..

      Ah, you mean the journalist who investigated the Cambridge Analytica scandal and won the Pulitzer prize, amongst others?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You know you're in trouble..

      How's New Zealand treating you, Arron?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You know you're in trouble..

        If you Remoaner obliviots had an ounce of common sense you would realise having the UK inside the EU would have been far more beneficial to a resurgent USSR than having us tilting at windmills from outside, where we cannot interfere with what they get up to. If we stayed in, we could have caused all sorts of problems for the EU. But with us on the outside, we cannot influence a damn thing.

        Anyone who relies on a "news" paper that gets most of its "facts" from other people's sources (and still cannot spell properly! - maybe an attempt to make you think it is "all their own work"?) - and mindlessly followed their instructions to vote Remain - are the real problem, not those of us who used our own brains and voted Leave. If the staff and writers (not reporters, since it appears much of their own input is more fiction than anything else) at the Grauniad are so damn clever, how come they were still promising a Remain victory even while the vote was clearly going the other way?

        1. ICL1900-G3

          Re: You know you're in trouble..

          Don't know...I suppose because, as there were no obvious benefits not to be in the EU, and that leaving would cost us a shed-load of money, they thought no-one would be stupid enough to vote for it, when push came to shove. Still, as long as Cummings takes back control, all will be just fine.

        2. EnviableOne Silver badge

          Re: You know you're in trouble..

          the problem is not that they did or did not find any medling, which would have been a satisfactory outcome, the problem is that, given there was medling in the 2014 scotish independance vote, why were they not looking for it in the 2016 referendum?

          Can we please stop with the two tribes mantra, the vote was 4+ years ago, and there is nothing that can be done to change the fact that a no-deal brexit is going to happen, as the wheels of the EU dont work fast enough to get a deal done before the end of january.

          if covid has proved anything, its where the UK sits in the global hierachy, when it comes outside the EU, everyone else was getting their PPE to their specification, long before we were and they didnt have to send the military to pick it up.

          If you used your own brain and looked at even the facts that vote leave presented, the factual basis for leaving the EU, in the short to medium term was always bad. The posibility in the long term that the outcomes might be better was there, but not certain.

          the problem is there were very little in the way of facts available to make a decision at the time of the referendum, so most people did not have the facts to make a properly informed decision, and went on gut feeling and promises on the side of a bus.

          Since then many more facts have come to light, the Leave campaign has been convicted of breaking election rules, the side of the bus and the size of the brexit dividend have been disproved, the norway style brexit touted at the referendum, has turned into no deal, and covid happened.

          there are many senario that could have lead to the decisons going differently, especially considering the Labour party did not take an official position.

          The original intent of the refernedum, was to try to hold the Tory party together through the general election, and since the vote, not only them, but other parties too have fallen apart, we have had several General elections, the shortest parliment ever, and the longest minority government ever, and the country is know run by a self proclaimed genius that no-body elected and thinks a 30 minute drive on provincial roads with wife and son in tow is a good eye test.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: You know you're in trouble..

          "If you Remoaner obliviots"

          Is that Andy Wigmore in our hallowed comments section? Nice hair Andy. Very smart.

  4. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Keep it out of parliamentary scrutiny

    That's what you do when you give things to the Cabinet Office. It shouldn't be with the Deparment of Media, Culture and also Sport, but it should still fall under the normal rules of procurement, scrutiny, etc.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Keep it out of parliamentary scrutiny

      Normal rules of procurement, scrutiny, etc. are suspended due to the Covid legislation. Stuff is already being farmed out to mates at an exorbitant cost and little in the way of results.

      1. osakajin Bronze badge

        Re: Keep it out of parliamentary scrutiny

        And that's all you really need to know about all of the bs that is happening now.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Keep it out of parliamentary scrutiny

          Dom will just come up with a three word slogan, and everything will be OK.

          1. poohbear

            Re: Keep it out of parliamentary scrutiny

            "Everything'll be Okay"

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Keep it out of parliamentary scrutiny

              Together we nailed it!

            2. EnviableOne Silver badge

              Re: Keep it out of parliamentary scrutiny

              I thought they'd gone with "let's get going" , a thinly veiled message to their cronies to up sticks, or at least monies, to the nearest Tax haven

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    Cummins is a slippy f**ker

    'Nuff said.

    1. Dr_N Silver badge

      Re: Cummins is a slippy f**ker

      Is that any way to talk about a head of state like President Cummings?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cummins is a slippy f**ker

        You mean Cummings, superior and brilliant dear Leader, who is a perfect incarnation of the appearance that a leader should Have.

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "Is that any way to talk about a head of state like President Cummings?"

        I think he'd prefer the title "Lord Protector"

        Although I'm sure he'd be quite happy with MFWICH

  6. YetAnotherJoeBlow

    A bit lost here...

    I take it that Dominic Cummings is a less than stellar choice?

    1. JohnMurray

      Re: A bit lost here...

      Similar to Nixon, but with the social skills of a sociopath.

      1. Chrissy

        Re: A bit lost here...

        Sociopaths - and psychopaths - normally have impeccable social skills as the "acting" is their way to survive society, but takes a certain mental processing overhead.

        Cummings is POSSIBLY (legal!!) a sociopath who thinks he's risen to a level where he doesn't need to devote that mental overhead to "acting" pleasant anymore, hence why he's perceived as a nasty little ****.

        It does help him that he's mixing with people who are equally damaged, and in an environment where there are no checks on his behaviour. In a "normal" corporate environment - below upper management levels, anyway - he'd have had so many disciplinaries that he'd have got nowhere; it's just a quirk of the political scene in any country that allows these ill people to prosper and not be in jail. Just read any Private Eye.

        If he was born to parents with lesser means, its likely that he'd be on his 6th or 7th jail sentence by now; all this applies the same for Johnson.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          If he was born to parents with lesser means.. he'd be on his 6th or 7th jail sentence by now;

          all this applies the same for Johnson.

          Agreed.

          Cumins looks like someone who'd be behind some dodgy financial company while Johnson has got "Frontman" written all over him.

          In some ways so different, but in other ways so alike.

        2. Ordinary Donkey Bronze badge

          Re: A bit lost here...

          Cummings is POSSIBLY (legal!!) a sociopath who thinks he's risen to a level where he doesn't need to devote that mental overhead to "acting" pleasant anymore, hence why he's perceived as a nasty little ****.

          David Cameron called him a career psychopath.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "David Cameron called him a career psychopath."

            David Cameron promised a Referendum on remaining in or leaving the EU as soon as he was elected. He lied.

            David Cameron realised his continued political survival depended on his delivering at least one of his election promises. He sold out.

            David Cameron promised to hang around and steer the UK through the process of leaving the EU. He lied.

            David Cameron left his baby in a country pub.

            You hold him up as an example of wisdom.

            Foot, meet bullet.

            1. Ordinary Donkey Bronze badge

              Re: "David Cameron called him a career psychopath."

              Hello, Dominic.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A bit lost here...

        Like Bannon, but with more privilege and less charm.

    2. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: A bit lost here...

      He's like a pound-shop Rasputin.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A bit lost here...

      He's basically our Steve Bannon.

      (And Pritti Patel is our Stephen Miller)

  7. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    If you can't beat them, join them. A common sense approach/novel retort.

    Are Boris and Dom taking a leaf out of the Putin workshop manual to get things moving on apace? .......

    The Russian decision-making apparatus is concentrated on Putin and a small group of trusted and secretive advisers (many of whom share Putin’s background in the RIS). The limited number of individuals who are ‘in the know’ makes decision-making hard to understand, compared with systems where power and influence are dispersed among a great number of political players. Moreover, the President can make swift decisions that even his inner circle are not aware of – further complicating any ability to understand or predict Russian government intent.

    This centralised decision-making allows the Russian government to carry out decisions at speed. Putin’s inner circle appear to be willing and able to make and enact major decisions (for example, on the deployment of troops) within days, and they retain tight command and control over the whole government infrastructure – which can be put in the service of Russia’s foreign policy goals at a moment’s notice. It is difficult for the UK’s democratic and consensus-based structures to match this pace. ...... ISC Russia Report

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If you can't beat them, join them. A common sense approach/novel retort.

      Yes, and FYI here is the manual and the ticklist is nearly half done.

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Beware the Honeyed Jackanory* Traps of Snake Oil Salesmen

      And regarding the Russia Report, what is one to reasonably think and conclude whenever expert external witnesses to the Intelligence and Security Committeee include Mr Christopher Steele – Director, Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd and Mr William Browder – Head of the Global Magnitsky Justice Movement?

      Expert external witnesses in what exactly, especially whenever tales and evidently trails such as the following are available ? ..... https://www.realclearinvestigations.com/articles/2020/07/24/meet_steele_dossiers_primary_subsource_fabulist_russian_at_us_think_tank_whose_boozy_past_the_fbi_ignored_124601.html

      And simply googling "Browder" has one discovering why his testimony is bound to be influential in painting a crazy picture which does not include him starring in any sort of leading primary role.

      It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World in Deed indeed, and quite possibly why everything today is so very strange and completely different from everything ever thought normal before.

      Don't forget to wear your masks whenever out and about doing whatever you feel you need to be out and about doing.

      * Jackanory .... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackanory

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cummings

    Agreed with a mate of mine over lunch recently - in fact we almost said the same thing at the same time - that Cummings is the sort of kid who'd get beaten up at school just for the hell of it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: that Cummings is the sort of kid who'd get beaten up at school just for the hell of it.

      I'm not really very clear on what you are saying here. That it's fine to beat up "kids like Cummings"? That it would be fine to beat up to beat such up, if only you could be sure they would turn out "like Cummings"? Is the beating a precondition for the extant Cummings personality, or was it's lack the precondition? Or that maybe such a personal history would perhaps explain the person he is today?

      I personally may have little respect for Cummings as he is reported to be, and in most respects little sympathy; but neither do I condone beating up kids at school for the hell of it, or the trivializing of such violence, regardless of who the kid was, is, or might become.

      1. TechHeadToo

        Re: that Cummings is the sort of kid who'd get beaten up at school just for the hell of it.

        So is this your commentary on your own posting, or has your identity been hijacked?

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    "Cummings is the sort of kid who'd get beaten up at school just for the hell of it."

    And now a whole country pays the price for his unresolved trauma.*

    Thanks for that.

    *Although TBH I suspect he was an evil little s**t as a child as well.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Cummings is the sort of kid who'd get beaten up at school just for the hell of it."

      "*Although TBH I suspect he was an evil little s**t as a child as well."

      I bet there are dead animals hidden somewhere. And plenty of Kompromate. Cluedo prediction: In the hotel bathroom, with an orange and a plastic bag.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Happy

        "plenty of Kompromate"

        Is that a brand of personal lubricant?

        I think it's "kompromat"

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Jesus

    Have enough trouble with the shitty Cabinet Office regarding elections so giving them access to this is data as well is a mistake.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Jesus

      Though I'm sure Jake will explain why it IS a good idea since he proffers to know all...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Jesus

      The fact there is a pandemic on and PPE equipment really should be saved for NHS staff, it annoys me that the Electrical Commission, part of the Cabinet Office are attempting to force us to go door knocking regarding canvasing. They ignore that we'd have to provide all canvassers with PPE and ignore the fact people really shouldn't be out knocking on peoples doors when its not necessary.

      They are saying if we don't, we're breaking legislation.

      I have a lovely word for them:

      "Cunts"

      Cabinet Office, currently, shouldn't be in charge of anything.

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