I don’t whether to laugh or cry — our liberty and safety is in the hands of buffoons like this…
It is a story that has dropped in to many an e-mail in-box or been passed on by word-of-mouth. And its distribution has picked up in these times of heightened security since the 11 September and 7 July attacks.
“My friend’s Aunt Sally was in a queue and this Middle Eastern-looking bloke in front of her dropped his wallet. When she gave it back to him, he told her to avoid central London on Saturday because something big might happen. Tell as many people as you can.”
Most people sigh, and delete the e-mail.
Most people, but not, apparently David Blunkett when he was Home Secretary. Oh, no.
An entry in his newly-published diary reveals how he had spoken to an old school friend, who had heard the story involving the return of a wallet to an Arab man and a warning not to be in London on 11 November.
“I immediately registered the significance of this,” Blunkett wrote at the time. “The 11th of November is Armistice Day, the one day in the year when all leading politicians from the three parties, the Queen, other members of the Royal family, and the leading personnel of the armed services are in the same place at the same time – a known time, in central London.
“I decided that I should at least tell Tony Blair as it was absolutely clear that nobody had fully thought through the significance.
“We agreed there was no way we could possibly cancel Armistice Day, but we were certainly going to have to take increased precautions.”
Then later: “Sunday 11th of November: And we’ve come through Remembrance Sunday safely. All the worry was for nothing, thank God.”
God Almighty! So, not was he signing warrants and whatever on being woken up in the middle of the night while on the edge of breakdown; he was making his informed assessments of terror threats on the basis of well-known email hoaxes and urban myths. And he was passing these bloody myths on to Blair, who, when Blunkett says, ‘And I know this is true because it happened to a man my mate works with….’ believed him.
Bloody hell, I mean, you’d have thought he’d have learned his lesson about dodgy intelligence briefings by then, wouldn’t you?
Just as well the
Abolition of Parliament Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill wasn’t then in force, isn’t it? Some minister examines his emails one morning, finds one that begins ‘ Urgent! Pass this on to everyone in your address book! This is not a HOAX!’ and before you know it, they’ll have banned disposable chopsticks and coca cola because you can’t be too careful.
Technorati tags: David Blunkett, Email hoaxes, urban myths, war on terror