Sometimes. small things can decide about a political carreer (Imagine if security personell had checked Brutus before he entered the Temple of Venus Genetrix in the Ides of March 44 BC): In the current case, a junior civil servant’s careless handling of the bank and employment details of 25 million people is getting UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown into deep troubles.
Anyone living in the 21st century might find it crazy to burn sensitive data on two CD-Rs and send them over via postal service, anyway. But the damage has been done, and Mr Brown’s reputation, which was on the vain since hesitating to go for a snap-election a few months ago, is suffering more and more. Despite rising pressure, he is holding on to Chancellor Alistair Darling: Mr Darling is not only the responsible government official for the data loss, but also has to pray to find somebody who buys the wretched credit-house Northern Rock. The government has already given loans worth more than the complete defence budget, yet the bank seems unable to recover from the credit-crunch and finds itself in a shaky state. Northern Rock going bust would be the worse disaster for the government.
So what is next in these days of crisis for the Labour government? Do not expect Mr Darling to remain in office for too long if the data-scandal continues to linger in the headlines. Him resigning, maybe even before the end of the year, might weaken the party’s position even more, but could prove a decisive step for Mr Brown to retain some trust for himself. Yet, other dangers wait around the corner: The perspective of a slowing economy and a media campaign to hold a referendum on the EU Lisbon treaty could add up to bring opposition leader David Cameron in an advantageous position for elections. These will probably not be held before 2010, so it is yet too early to say that Mr Brown will not only have to deal with a loss of data, but also with a loss at the ballot; but signs are that English media and voters are not going to forget the last chaotic months very soon – and Mr Brown is in danger that his image returns to „not qualified for the job“.
As far as the current “CD-crisis”is concerned, Mr Brown’s advisers may spend secret hopes on another failure: If the English football team screws up its qualification for the European Championship tonight, the data-subject might be out of the headlines for the next couple of days. But as long as the problem is no solved, expect it to pop up now and then – even in unlikely places like Ebayâ€¦
Update from Thursday morning: Some things happen like if they were scripted….