Richard Ingrams: Lane Fox's digital crusade has another motive

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If a boy scout comes knocking on your door in the near future it won't necessarily be a sign of bob-a-job week.

He could well be one of a band of some 40,000 young volunteers enlisted by the Government's "digital champion" Martha Lane Fox. His task, according to Martha, will be to "engage people with the joys of being on the internet". Whether there will be a badge at the end of it, possibly with a mouse motif, has not so far been revealed.

Ms Lane Fox claims that she now has an army of 100,000 volunteers, including not only scouts but workers from Post Offices, libraries and even Mecca Bingo. All of them committed to spreading the good news. But the real purpose of this exercise, which is fully supported by David Cameron, is to save the Government a great deal of money by hopefully doing away with the need for any form of postal communication in future.

But the publicity will not make a point of this. Martha and her merry band of boy scouts will try to make out that the millions of digital deniers are missing out on one of life's greatest pleasures. There will certainly be no recognition that there are plenty of good reasons for steering well clear of the internet – the lack of security, the unwanted emails, the danger, where children are concerned, of addiction, not too mention the easy access to hardcore pornography.

The tender, forgiving nature of politicians

Politicians have always had difficulty in accepting the idea that corruption should disqualify you from public life. Why should an able, talented and popular individual lose his job just because he has been caught with his hand in the till or enjoying a bit on the side – things that have nothing whatever to do with his ability to be an MP or even a cabinet minister?

David Laws who was forced to resign from the Cabinet last year is the latest to be given the treatment by his friends and colleagues. After Laws was suspended for a week for "serious and substantial" breach of rules, David Cameron said he was "a very talented figure who has a lot to offer public life". Nick Clegg called him "a close colleague" while Michael Gove expressed the pious hope "that we will all be able once more to make use of his talents before long".

Besides, his friends and defenders argued, he had claimed that his partner was his landlord, not to make money, but to conceal his own homosexuality, which the parliamentary standards committee accepted. Except that there seemed to be rather more to it than that, judging from the long list of his offences including the fact that he was claiming for excessive rent well above the market average.

Never mind, his friends will say, he is a nice chap and was a very able minister. He has suffered enough, in other words.

A distastefully empty pledge to the McCanns

It would have been too much to hope that the Prime Minister when appealed to by Kate McCann, mother of the abducted Maddie, had told her that there was very little he could do to help, that the abduction took place over four years ago, and in a foreign country, that there had since been an extensive search, that the police have more important things to do and that it was extremely unlikely that at this late stage anything new would be uncovered.

Instead of which he replied with the standard cliché that what had happened was "every parent's worst nightmare", that his heart went out to Kate and Gerry and that he was asking the Metropolitan Police to look into the case once again. What will happen now is that someone at Scotland Yard will dig out the McCann file, possibly make the odd phone call to the Portuguese police and report back that there are no new leads. Never mind.

The tabloids, already grateful for receiving details from Kate McCann about her sex life or lack of it will have been given a good headline and Cameron will hope that he has gained further brownie points – except, of course, from those of us who will think even less of him now as a result of all this distasteful humbug.





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