BBC 4 is showing a 3 part series of one hour documentaries entitled The Great Offices of State by Michael Cockerell.
The first one, about the notorious Home Office, entitled The Dark Department was shown last night, but it is available online via the BBC iPlayer, for the next few days.
(26 seconds into the programme)
Obviously there are a lot of "talking heads" interviews, including all the current Labour Government''s six Home Secretaries (politicians),
- Jack Straw 2 May 1997 - 8 June 2001
- David Blunkett 8 June 2001 - 15 December 2004
- Charles Clarke 15 December 2004 - 5 May 2006
- John Reid 5 May 2006 - 27 June 2007
- Jacqui Smith 28 June 2007 - 5 June 2009
- Alan Johnson 5 June 2009 -
Also interviewed were three of the four Permanent Secretaries (top civil service mandarins like the fictional - Sir Humphrey Appleby from the classic TV comedy / satire Yes, Minister) i.e. the people who really run the Home Office, in spite of the meddling and ill thought out polices imposed by the by the politicians.
- Sir David Normington 2006-
- Sir John Gieve 2002-2006
- Sir David Omand 1997-2002 (not interviewed)
- Sir Richard Wilson 1994-1997 (now Lord Wilson of Dinton)
Several politicians and civil servants from the previous Conservative and Labour governments were interviewed as well.
There was a brief look at some of the catalogue of disasters which the Home Office has been responsible for in recent years, and quite a bit of mention of the out of touch, "bunker mentality" of the Home Office collectively as an institution.
No doubt the politicians babbled on at great length, but the soundbites which each of them got to broadcast, do seem to make them all seem a bit more human, given the impossible tasks which the Home Office claims to be able to deal with, and which they claim to be able to reform.
However, we do wonder about John Reid's extraordinary attack by implication. on the Secretary of State for Defence !
I believe, very very strongly, that there should be one Minister at Cabinet level, one Secretary of State, eh, eh, who got up, every morning, and thought, my main task today, is the safety, and security, of the people of this country. And , the Home Secretary can now do that.
(c.f. around 52 minutes and 18 seconds into the programme)
So no Secretary of State for Defence thinks daily about the "safety and security of the people of this country" ? Really ? The Labour incumbents in charge of the Ministry of Defence (including John Reid himself) may well have all been as incompetent and useless in practice, as the Labour Home Secretaries, but it is unlikely that any of them did not bother to think daily about the "safety and security of the people of this country".
The most interesting bits of the programme, were those filmed on the day of the arrival of the newly appointed, current Home Secretary Alan Johnson at the Marsham Street headquarters of the Home Office.
He was met by the current the Permanent Secretary Sir David Normington and
was shepherded about under the auspices of Simon Wren, the Home Office media spin doctor.
(4 minutes 5 seconds into the programme)
Censorship and Personnel Security
Presumably whole committees of Home Office civil servants and securocrats and BBC bureaucrats checked the BBC footage, in case it inadvertently reveled some sensitive information.
The scene (at around 9 minutes 23 seconds into the programme) where Sir David Normington shows Alan Johnson into his new office, displays a "blurred out" sign on the wall, the top half of which presumably might identify the location of the Home Secretary's office within the 3 building Marsham Street office complex.
(9 minutes 28 seconds into the programme)
Surely this is minor risk, compared with the complete lack of any censorship of the vehicle number plates of the Ministerial Jaguar
(2 minutes 54 seconds into the programme)
and the presumably armed escort Audi vehicle
(3 minutes 8 seconds into the programme)
in the underground car park "meet and greet" scenes ?
Obviously Spy Blog has censored these vehicle number plate images, but the "cat is out of the bag".
The unobscured faces of the Ministerial Driver and the presumably Metropolitan Police armed bodyguard, were also clearly visible in several scenes.
Some of the old Home Office ways still linger on
Was it really necessary to allow the audio sound to identify "Natasha" as the member of the Private Office staff who sits physically nearest to the Home Secretary's office, and who handles the Secret and Top Secret (paper) document folders ?
(37 minutes 12 seconds into the programme)
(37 minutes 20 seconds into the programme) - pixellation by Spy Blog.
Surely there should be a consistent policy for such censorship ?
We simply cannot be bothered to alert the BBC or the Home Office to these potential security risks - they usually ignore such warnings (the Home Office certainly does its best to try to evade or ignore our Freedom of Information Act requests), or they try to "shoot the messenger".