It is said that a fish starts to rot from the head first, so it comes as no surprise that the ambitious, arrogant, yet inept, Government Minister with direct responsibility for the Government Gateway passwords etc. USB memory device scandal (see the immediately previous Spy Blog article) is James Purnell, the former Labour party apparatchik and now Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
The Sunday Mirror reports that:
By Kelly Jenkins and Vincent Moss, Political Editor 2/11/2008
CABINET Minister James Purnell has sparked a security row after losing confidential documents on a packed train.
The rising Labour star - tipped as a future PM - broke strict guidelines by taking documents out of his "red box" on the trip.
Ministers are warned against taking their Cabinet briefcases on public transport amid fears secret papers could be lost or stolen.
The embarrassing gaffe comes days after civil servant Richard Jackson was fined for leaving top secret documents relating to al-Qaeda and Iraq on a train.
Shocked passengers told how Work and Pensions Secretary Mr Purnell left his red box wide open while he wandered around the train making calls on his mobile.
To make matters worse, the 38-year-old then raced off the train, leaving a file of documents behind.
When can we be rid of such dangerously incompetent and arrogant people from positions of trust and power?
Among the private letters was one about the plight of Wayne Bowers, including his name, address and national insurance number.
He was furious last night when told of Mr Purnell's carelessness.
Jobless Mr Bowers, 35, from Manchester had asked for help from his MP Gerald Kaufman to sort out a benefit claim.
Mr Purnell's reply to Mr Kaufman was among documents left on the train.
An outraged Mr Bowers said: "I feel violated. To think that my personal details are in a letter a minister just leaves lying around on a train beggars belief. This is confidential information. It's out of order and I deserve an apology."
A personal, public apology from James Purnell would be fair, but, given his attitude, it seems unlikely.
Hopefully the electorate will punish him for his arrogance and incompetence.
Mr Purnell was travelling first class on the Virgin Pendolino 9.06am service from Macclesfield, Cheshire, to Euston, London, on October 4.
Fellow travellers said Mr Purnell thought nothing of emptying his ministerial box on to the table in front of him. He also left the red box - marked with the words Secretary of State. Department of Work and Pensions - unlocked and with papers on the table.
One fellow traveller told the Sunday Mirror: "We recognised him straight away and he seemed to be showing off a bit.
"He kept leaving the box and walking in and out of the carriage talking on his mobile.
"I think he realised people knew who he was and was playing the big man. His behaviour was unbelievable. He was very arrogant."
Arrogant, incompetent and criminally negligent with the public's private data - a typical Labour Cabinet Minister.
Some astonished passengers took photos and videoed Mr Purnell's red box as it lay unguarded in the carriage.
As the train pulled into Euston, Mr Purnell hurriedly pulled his papers together and rushed off.
Two women - on a business trip to France - picked up the documents he had left behind on the floor.
They tried to find Mr Purnell, but he had disappeared so they had to take the file to Paris with them.
Once there, one of the women tried to inform the authorities they had found government papers, but no one would take her seriously.
She said: "Even when I telephoned Mr Purnell's department in London I was told that nothing had gone missing.
That obviously highlights some incompetence or deliberate lies,
"In the end we simply put all the documents together and got them back to London early in the new week."
It took three days for the papers to find their way back to Mr Purnell's Whitehall HQ.
Last night, Mr Purnell denied he had been using his red box recklessly or was guilty of losing crucial info.
His spokesman said: "It was one file from an MP with the attached correspondence and was returned safely within three days.
"Obviously, James is very sorry for the mistake. He has not broken any rules or guidelines."
Very sorry that he got caught, probably.
James Purnell has broken the law, not just rules or guidelines.
The Data Protection Act 1998 applies to paper correspondence as well as to electronic documents, and specifically covers sensitive personal information, such as that of the MP's constituent.
The Official Secrets Act 1989 section 8 Safeguarding of information, specifically applies to a "Crown servant ", a term which includes a Cabinet Minister.
Former Cabinet minister Peter Kilfoyle set out guidelines on carrying red boxes in 1999.
He said: "Where it is necessary to carry red boxes by public transport, they should be effectively disguised."
One former minister said: "It seems he has been very careless."
With two such massive breaches in trust and security and privacy in his department, one of which he was personally responsible for, any Minister with any honour would offer his resignation,.
Will James Purnell resign with honour, or will he try to hang on to his position of power ?