Richard Ingrams: Hilton's blue sky thinking leaves me feeling low


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Lord Birt: where is he now? As John Birt he was the much-reviled director-general of the BBC, the man held responsible for the sad decline of the corporation, who turned it into just another big business run by management consultants.

Birt was subsequently given a peerage by his friend and admirer Tony Blair, who also gave him a job as his "blue sky thinker", with an office all to himself at 10 Downing Street. But political historians have searched in vain for any concrete results of Birt's meditation.

It comes as no surprise to read that David Cameron, who models himself entirely on Tony Blair, even down to appearing everywhere in his shirtsleeves, has appointed his own blue sky thinker in the person of Mr Steve Hilton.

And it is Mr Hilton, paid £90,000 a year, who has come up with the very Birt-ish idea of a national well-being project to find out how happy we all are. I could tell him that if you were feeling dispirited before, what with the cold weather and the cuts, our spirits are unlikely to be raised by news of his pointless exercise and his large salary.

The Bishop who tweeted too much

Though he was described by The Mail on Sunday as "a leading churchman", it can hardly be denied that until a week ago very few people indeed had heard of the Right Reverend Pete Broadbent, the Bishop of Willesden. An equally small number will have been aware that there was such a person as the Bishop of Willesden. (How many more such leading churchmen are there? Could there even be a Bishop of Neasden?)

Bishop Pete is another victim of compulsive twittering, which in his case led to him referring to "the nauseating tosh" surrounding the forthcoming royal wedding. He added that he gave the happy couple seven years before, like so many other royal couples, they split up.

Nauseating tosh is quite right, and there's going to be an awful lot more of it until the happy day dawns on 29 April next year. But like so many Christians, Bishop Pete has had to suffer for speaking the truth and will be "removed from public ministry until further notice". It may be OK for a bishop not to believe in God, but belief in the royal family is obligatory.

Hacked off with these demands to log on

If you read the papers, as some of us older folks still do, you will come across stories almost daily of individuals, usually young men, who have single-handedly perpetrated major frauds via the internet.

On one day alone this week, I read of a 19-year-old former public schoolboy from Manchester who plundered about £8m from 65,000 bank accounts, the details of which he had obtained on the web.

As a sideline he was offering instructions on how to hack into bank accounts and create computer viruses. Alongside was another story of a hacker, operating out of his mother's front room in Banffshire, who had sent out millions of virus-laden spam emails – again single handedly.

The question arises if a young man in his mother's front room can create so much havoc, what could an organised army of professionals achieve along the same kind of lines?

But we are now so dependent on computers that we don't want to think about that sort of thing, any more than we want to think about small children watching hardcore pornography on the web.

And in the meantime, in order to save huge amounts of money, the government is step by step forcing the millions – an estimated 27 per cent of the population – who have, perhaps wisely, hitherto given the internet the cold shoulder to log on. So in future you will be able to obtain a driving licence or a passport only online.

The Government points out that you can still do this at a post office – if you can find one in operation, that is.

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