The power of a good spoof: "Dear Minister, I am in the process of renewing my passport"

In early 2008 I asked some-one with whom I have worked for many years, who was angry about the failure of Government to join up its data sources while pressing ahead with ID cards, to do a paper that would encapsulate his concerns.

He demurred. He had held a very senior position and did not wish to get embroiled in public controversy that might get in the way of his current activities. Eventually he agreed to do me a guest blog – provided I would not say who wrote it. I used what he sent me during the “silly season” (August) in the entry “Would you trust identity papers/card from this system“. I have just received a comment from some-one who has found the result, “A letter to the minister” from “Disgusted of Tonbridge Wells” repeated, with variants, from around the anglo-saxon world. The author of the comment is concerned that the original was inaccurate (e.g. you no longer need a birth certificate to renew a passport unless you let it lapse before the new system came into being). He felt I had been irresponsible in helping spread calumnies around the world.

I have just Googled and found around 50,000 copies and variations. Most date from after the blog entry, although there is one source in March 2008. I do not know if my friend wrote the original, or found it and forwarded it. I do not intend to ask. But it is his style and I can imagine him enjoying writing it. Either way, it is good to think that it may have been “When IT meets politics” that helped spread a good spoof (the kind that draws attention to an indefensible reality) round the world.