When I was a Minister from time to time I needed to write to all MPs to inform them about something. Either I wrote a letter myself,or I adapted a civil service draft so it was relevant to MPs receiving it. Once the letters had been typed and printed, I then topped and tailed each one, writing "Dear Jane (or whoever)…Yours ever John" to show I had taken an interest and wanted to communicate with each of my colleagues.
Yesterday it was Jane’s turn (Jane Kennedy, Financial Secretary to the Treasury) to write to me. She apparently wanted to tell me that "all efforts are being made to ensure that such a loss (of personal data) can never happen again". The "Dear John" was typed in. There was no "Yours ever" or "Yours truly" or "Yours sincerely". The letter ended with a printed version of her signature, Jane Kennedy.
My name at the top of the destination address overprinted the "HM Treasury " that appeared on the headed notepaper. The Treasury’s efforts to keep a slightly long letter on a single page meant it did not fit. It started with the abrupt "You are aware of the Chancellor’s statement to Parliament regarding the serious breach of procedure leading to the loss of personal data…" How couod I be unaware? Had she not seen me at the Statement? Which MP did not bother to go to hear? Which MP has failed to see the headlines in the papers or hear the odd thing about it on the news?
The letter went on to tell me "I am conscious that you may receive enquiries from constituents". She then repeated some information from the statement, and told me I could always ring the Child Benefit helpline.
There was no apology.
What did this letter tell me about this government?
1. The Minister could not be bothered to top and tail the letter herself as she clearly did not think communicating with colleagues mattered that much.
2. I doubt if the Minister wrote the letter or if she spent any time thinking about the draft. if she had, she would have seen that it was not helping MPs do their job.
3. She does not mind how silly the contents are or how badly the letter is set out on the page.
It was symptomatic of all that is wrong with this government. Ministers are not doing the detailed work necessary to provide a good service to the public or to MPs. Jane Kennedy trusted the civil sservice, and the civil service hastened out something to tick the box and hit the target for "communicating with MPs". Public money was wasted on a useless letter, and any MP who read it should see it confirms the low standards we now expect from this regime.