Of course I give as good as I get, telling the Health Secretary that if he funded the NHS decently it wouldn’t still be using Windows XP.
Trouble is, the bunch of technological ignoramuses round the table didn’t even realise the NHS was using out-of-date, unsupported software, so my retort was ineffective and the Health Secretary, who is senior to me, was able to get it across that my Department has been delinquent in allowing the cyber-attacks to happen.
Persona non grata all round and the PM gave me her Angry Bird look. It’s all so unfair and, with a post-election re-shuffle on the way, it’s personally alarming.
“We have to restore the credit of the Department,” I tell the Permanent Secretary, “it’s most urgent.”
“Can’t we pin the blame on that GCHQ unit – the National Cyber Security Centre?” I ask.
“We tried that, Secretary of State but No.10 vetoed the press release.”
“Because it’s the government’s IT people who are expected to maintain government software not GCHQ.”
“Well stick the blame on the IT people.”
“They come under the Cabinet Office which is part of the Prime Minister’s Office, Secretary of State, blaming them could rebound back on us rather badly.”
“Can we blame the software suppliers?”
“Microsoft, Secretary of State? They are one of the companies we’re trying to get to invest more in the UK post-Brexit. No.10 might not appreciate Ministerial criticism.”
‘So what’s to be done.”
“I can arrange for a friendly, but respected analyst, to put it out that swift action from the Department has limited the spread of the virus and that the risk of further infections has been reduced, Secretary of State.”
“Is that the best you can do? I ask.”
“Yes, Secretary of State.”