All kinds of excuses have been advanced as to why Dominic Cummings, chief polecat to alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, might be unwilling for he and his colleagues in and around 10 Downing Street to pony up the data specified in the motion put before the Commons last night by Dominic Grieve under Standing Order 24, using the device known as the “Humble Address”.
As Zelo Street regulars will already know, Grieve’s motion specified all communications on or after 23 July last “relating to the prorogation of Parliament sent or received by one or more of the following individuals: Hugh Bennett, Simon Burton, Dominic Cummings, Nikki da Costa, Tom Irven, Sir Roy Stone, Christoper James, Lee Cain or Beatrice Timpson”. Why Dom may be reluctant has now been revealed.
Or rather, part of the reason for it has been revealed. Alex Spence at BuzzFeed News has told “I've been leaked a personal minute from Boris Johnson to cabinet ministers in which he says wants to turn the public GOV UK site into a platform for ‘targeted and personalised’ data to be gathered in the run-up to Brexit”. Oh, hello?
What it sounds like ...
Do go on. “the prime minister has instructed departments to share data they collect about usage of the GOV UK portal so that it can feed into preparations for leaving the European Union at the end of next month … Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief adviser, emailed senior officials instructing them to make sure that ministers, department heads and political aides know that the instruction is ‘TOP PRIORITY’”.
Why might that be? “In a personal minute on 19 August to members of the cabinet’s EU exit operations (‘XO’) committee, which is responsible for no-deal preparations, Johnson said centralised data was also necessary to accelerate his ambitions for a digital revolution in public services”. And to that I call bullshit. Digital revolution my arse.
What else might be happening by the end of October? Polecat Dom has something in mind, hence his urging “We must get this stuff finalised ASAP and there are many interdependencies resting on this happening”. Interdependencies like, oh I dunno, a General Election campaign where the Tories might benefit from a little personal targeting?
... someone who might be interested ...
Spence has that one covered, too: “some officials in Whitehall are concerned about such an enormous transfer of data being done at speed, behind closed doors, at a time of national crisis. It is not obvious, one said, how the Cabinet Office having access to all the GOV UK data from across Whitehall will aid its Brexit preparations”.
... and where it might end up being investigated
Not surprisingly, “Labour said it was suspicious of the urgency and timing of the demand, given that it came as Downing Street was preparing for a political showdown over Brexit and potentially a general election”. Paul Bernal has taken one look at this exercise and concluded “It’s Dominic Cummings’ underlying plan. This looks distinctly like Cambridge Analytica made official”. And remember, Dom was involved in Vote Leave.
That’s the Vote Leave who broke the law. Who could still find themselves the subject of investigation by the Met. And who were involved with Cambridge Analytica. Which is no more after it was rumbled by the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr. But now the data gathering appears to be using the Government’s website. And that’s out of order.
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