back to article IT minister makes open source gaffe over browsers

The UK government’s current minister in charge of the IT brief has got her knickers in a twist over web browsers by wrongly stating that Opera is based on open source technology. Angela E Smith, Labour MP for Basildon and Thurrock, took over some of the Cabinet Office responsibilities of “digital engagement” minister Tom …


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  1. Bilgepipe


    Fail. Still, no-one important, eh?


  2. Dennis

    not Microsoft

    But surely "open source" is a synonym for "not Microsoft".

    So, to please the fanboyz the Minister should add Safari to the list.

  3. Eponymous Cowherd


    A Government Minister who is clueless about their brief.

    Whatever next?

  4. OffBeatMammal

    the Vikings are coming

    Oh great.

    So now our esteemed Govt. are going to mandate the use of Opera to access the interwebs.

    Great.. On a list of browsers I like to use it comes somewhere lower than Lynx - every time I try it I go back to IE or Chrome within a day because something just stops working.

    Why does it matter if the browser is Open Sauce or driven by a commercial company (IE has Microsoft behind it, Firefox and Chrome both look to Google for funding, Safari sits atop Webkit with it's hand in Apples chinos)

    Are they really wasting money on this rather than actually looking for efficiency and optimization in how tax revenue is spent?

  5. robert cooke

    Government Minisiter is an ignorant fool shocker

    This is hardly news, everything and everyone in this worthless shower that has the temerity to call it'self a government is hopelessly inept. I'm sure Dave and his crew will be better though </sarcasm>

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Presumably she's yet another idiot who thinks that open source = free and free = open source.

    One thing we can be sure of is that minister = idiot. Why do prime ministers always find the person least suited to each ministerial job. "You have long experience with IT matters? Good I'll make you minister for roads."

    1. kissingthecarpet

      Re:OSS = Free

      I'm sure you're right AC, shame about your advert brainwash though.

      (The worst thing about those ads is that they perpetuate the idea that webmasters sit at big control consoles & are able to see the web pages that people are viewing *directly*)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "Why do prime ministers always find the person least suited to each ministerial job"

      Because they are the people least likely to build up popular support by doing the job well, thus gaining a platform from which to mount a leadership challenge.

    3. CD001



      One thing we can be sure of is that minister = idiot. Why do prime ministers always find the person least suited to each ministerial job.


      All ministerial positions work that way... therefore:

      The Prime Minister is the most unqualified minister to do the Prime Minister's job - there is no-one better at being worse qualified for Prime Minister than the Prime Minister - they are, if you will, the lowest of the low.

      Therefore, by definition, they cannot fail BUT to appoint the worst possible minister for any other given position if they did they'd no longer be the most unsuitable Prime Minister and we'd have to have a referendum to appoint someone who is actually incapable of making the correct decision about anything... ever (including resigning).

  7. Anonymous Coward

    In a perfect world...

    you'd download Government Minister v3.1 from SourceForge, and upgrade.

    The complete Government Distro 2.0 is due for release later this year, after a long feud between competing teams of developers.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Can I then fork

      Yulia Tymoshenko

    2. Apocalypse Later

      Never install a major version

      Wait for X.02 or even X.06.

    3. Mad as a Bat

      ...hardly a perfect world

      I thought that we are on Goverment Distro 99.3 or something? The two major competing development teams are forever swapping out each others code base and performing major rewrites. The problem is that all these rewrites end up "fixing" the other teams bugs and nothing real ever gets done. Actually when I say "problem" I mean "actually a really good thing". It bad enough what these clowns do when they get to be lead developers for a few years. Imagine how bad it would be if one team of developers got decades to perform rewrites.

    4. Chronos

      Re: In a perfect world...

      ...which feud will erupt from a mailing list discussion about the colour of the paper used for members' bills, at which point everyone will fall out permanently and the project page will become yet another unpopulated orphan with 0 files in the repo and a perpetual alpha status.

      Don't try to deny it, you know it's true.

  8. FireBurn

    Qt is Open Source

    She was half right.

    Opera is created using the Qt

    Qt is open source. So it is based on open source, but the code for Opera the browser isn't


    1. Dan 10

      I agree

      ...and not only that, the statement was rather wide, also mentioning open standards. I've never actually tried Opera to be fair, but it does conform to standards, doesn't it?

      Let's face it, if thiis was the full extent of the gaffes made by IT ministers, we'd be in a far better place than we are now.

      "Pedantic nerds get worked up over non-story shocker"

  9. HollyX

    No shock, no story

    TBH it's an understandable mistake for a numpty to make ... and the government has an excess of numpties.

    The next government will too, and the one after that, etc.

  10. smudge

    Whose answer?

    I'm no supporter of these people, but I very much doubt that the written answer was the work of the minister.

    But it's easier to poke fun at Government ministers than at clueless junior civil servants, isn't it?

  11. moonface

    Opera friendly

    She must be a computer expert. I mean she has her very own Facebook page.

    Can someone befriend her and recommend this group.

    Opera Users Against New Facebook

    Also if there are any Opra users out there. Can they just check the official David Essex and The Osmond sites to see if they are Opra friendly.

    I would hate to think she would implement this across the whole Government infastructure, to later find some unforeseen gotchas.

  12. RichyS


    She got her knickers in a twist? Really? She's MP for Basildon and Thurrock, and like any good Essex girl, she isn't wearing any knickers to get twisted

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Not minister, some flunky

    To be honest, I doubt that Angela Smith actually wrote or even read the reply fully before issuing it. Its more likely that some assistant did some cack handed research and Angela just stuck her signature on it. Still shows the quality of the staff that she has working for her.

  14. Stuart 22

    Angela is not to blame

    So Angela is not a register style pedant on Open Source. While it would be nice if she was - that could only have helped her correct the erroneous brief she quoted from. That's the real problem the experts are not.

    I remember when minister after minister in justifying further repressive measures at Heathrow repeatedly quoted it as the "world's busiest airport". It isn't and the answer was only a google click away. Minister should learn to \be always sceptical about what they are advised and its dead easy to check it out. If only old Tone had done that before invading Iraq.

    But that's another story ...

  15. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Still, they saved the world, remember

    Oh, that was another verbal slip - but maybe not too far wrong.

    What Opera does have is open standards compliance - or at least they say so, make a point of it. It works like W3C says it should.

    But it isn't "free as in we give you the parts to make your own at home."

    Still, a bit of competition keeps publishers on their toes, however free they are or are not.

  16. Steven Raith

    Has to be said...

    ...I never looked at Operas background in detail, but I thought it was open source - so you learn something new every day.

    Having an insight inot how these things work, this is more likely the fault of an incompetent researcher rather than the minister herself - but still, for parliamentary questions and answers, strong fact checking should have been employed.

    Frankly, we should be grateful that the Govt is even looking at OpenSauce software IMHO - nothing quite like being held by the scorte by large, prorprietary tech when the company fails, even if you have ESCROW backup/source availability/etc - there are definitely uses for FLOSS software in the government, and internal browser choice is certainly one of the more relevant ones given how prevelant website hacks on respectable, whitelisted websites used for research are these days.

    Steven R

  17. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    @the Vikings are coming

    It's a very good browser to use if you are developing websites.

    It's about the most standards compliant browser, if it renders on Opera - it's correct.

    It might not look correct on IE6 but if you design for the bugs in IE6 or 7 or 8 you have to redesign next year for the bugs in the next IE 7,8,9

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FLOSS considered on a level basis??

    "In addition, the ‘Open Source, Open Standards, Re-use’ strategy requires departments to consider open source browsers such as Firefox and Opera on a level basis with proprietary browsers such as Internet Explorer.”

    On the day that my workplace chooses non-MS software in place of an MS offering, I'll dance naked in the streets... FLOSS is not really an option cosidered by those with the power to do so, and Open Source software is restricted to a small group of testing machines (if it exists at all).

    The only software 'in the wild' is Windows 2k/XP/Vista, MS Office, and some other specialised applications. Server-side is the same kind of story with MS SQL Server being used, except for a few proprietary business critical systems where the supplier dictates that Oracle be used (albeit on a Windows server....)

    Posted AC as my work email address ends in

    1. Anonymous Coward


      The whole situation is quite disturbing, while foreign governments are actively seeking to free themselves from proprietary lockin, the uk government despite supposedly having a policy to favour open standards, seems perfectly content to waste billions of pounds getting themselves even more totally dependent on ms.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Tit head

    One of many government officials who have titles but have absolutely NO idea about the service they are supposed to represent.

  20. Adam Azarchs

    Don't see the problem

    Microsoft is the only maker of closed-source technology, right?

  21. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Probably briefed by a civil servant

    Who knows as much about this subject as she does.

  22. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Government Distro 2.0

    Same basic proprietary OS - its just the menu items have been moved around and the eye candy is slightly more up to date but will still ignore any input after boot up. Will undergo several service packs but everything FNR as usual.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    big shock

    British Minister has no idea about the topic his/her portfolio covers. I'm stunned, have you ever seen one that looks like he/she has a clue? Most of them are either lying, pulling the party line, or reading a piece of paper given to them by a civil servant. I wouldn't trust most of them to look after a snow ball in the artic.

    Reminds me of when little "lying weasily pro torture scum bag" Miliband was in China and the students he was talking to what qualifications he had to be incharge of the environment portfolio, he had to fluster and say that being a "politician" and having "belief" (in what we don't know) makes him perfectly capable of doing anything. I don't think they were impressed.

  24. Peter 39

    quote sounds OK to me

    She might have erred in thinking that Opera was open-source but the earlier quote you quoted ...

    “Government policy regarding installation and use of web browsers is that all decisions must be in line with value for money requirements" seems OK.

    Is someone arguing that Opera does not score an "excellent" in that category ??

  25. Ted Treen
    Big Brother


    ...should be tattooed with a Government Health Warning.

    They're bad for you.


  26. davenewman

    Examinations for Ministers

    Let's have examinations to test if Ministers and Shadow Ministers are competent to govern.

  27. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up


    "Let's have examinations to test if Ministers and Shadow Ministers are competent to govern."

    This was tried IIRC at least once during some US elections (for a congress seat I think)

    Done by a TV station in the main city they were running in.

    Unimpressive results all round. 1 particular feature I recall was they asked what is the *main* industry of the state. None of them knew.

    Thumbs up for the idea.

  28. Relgoshan



    Perhaps when she heard about these "tubes", she thought the gov't was now going to open a new water-park? Yet the "surfing" may have thrown her off. Yet more proof that those who appoint the authorities don't actually know what the authorities need to be doing.

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