'Cover-up' or ignorance?
Did he cover up as the Tories claim or did he not know? The release of e-mails relating to the child benefit data fiasco have been used to suggest that the chancellor was guilty of a "cover-up" of the role of senior officials. Alastair Darling’s Commons statement focused purely on the role of "junior officials".
I am told that when he spoke to the Commons the chancellor had not seen the e-mails and had not been told of the potential involvement of a senior official. The briefing note produced for him by the NAO - which has now also been published - certainly did not mention a senior official.
The suggestion that a single 23-year-old on low pay at the Child Benefit Centre in Washington is solely responsible for this saga may suit certain people - including the managements of the NAO and HMRC who have clearly clashed in their accounts of this affair - but it beggars belief.
PS. The excellent blog by Ben Brogan, who’s travelling with the prime minister, neatly observes that just as our leader flew abroad, the generals moved in and took over all TV and radio broadcasters. Poor Gordon Brown has just suffered a very British coup.