Monitor has entered purdah. Oh yes, while the politicians are mounting soapboxes (but enough about their personal lives) Monitor has vowed to keep shtoom and not to say anything at all which could tip the 'delicate political balance' which is the run-up to even more New Labour. So Monitor is full of solidarity for the trillions of civil servants pacing up and down the country with masking tape over their mouths (no, wait, I am not going to be rude) to stop themselves emitting noises which could be construed as political.
I mean! Think of the poor wee denizens of the Department of Health meedja centre, for a start. Used to all that rush rush, busy busy, wildly important stuff and now this . . .
silence. For those of you not au fait with the nuts and bolts of that thing we call democracy, it works thus: now that an election has been called, staff in the meedja centre are no longer allowed to respond to any meedja questions. Not if they smell of politics. They can only regurgitate dull 'facts' and 'figures'.
Readers may be wondering what they will do with all their spare time between now and polling day. Perhaps they will just take a well-earned rest. After all, Monitor has already heard tell of the enormous workload the beleaguered centre handles.
Apparently the stalwarts there deal with some 500 queries each week!
It is official, the DoH's top comms lady, Helen McCallum, said so, in a regular presentation on communications earlier this month.
She also said the centre now has 33 staff. Monitor's maths is not what it used to be, and is sure that his sketchy calculations must be wrong. Because if Monitor's fave Helen Mirren (oh yes) lookalike has got her numbers right, that would leave the poor meedja types handling three queries a day. EACH.
Wizened old hacks on HSJ's news desk (or font of all things bitter) came up with a variety of explanations for the odd-looking stats. Could it be - suggested one - that among the golden 33 running the office there is a stratum of meedja people too senior to pick up the phone, and a whole raft of staff too incompetent to know how?
Anyway, little matter. What matters is what works (oops sorry, auto-pilot kicked in again). And Monitor is concerned as to how the press officers will keep the old grey matter ticking over, now they have lost their daily trio of calls. One naughty source came up with a possible answer. An e-mail forwarded from the press office (and even Monitor would not 'out' the seven familiar names on it) came straight to Monitor's email box. The forwardee suggested its content was 'too risque' for this family page. Too bloody right. Those of you of an adult perversion may be interested to know that the email provided a link to a website which can tell you what your name would be were you an - ahem - 'Prison Bitch'.
Is this what Ms McCallum's enthusiasm for open government has brought us to? As ruder and ruder versions of HSJ staff names popped up on screen, Monitor's dicky heart was having trouble. Until he entered Jack Straw (no, you misunderstand). By typing in the home secretary's name, he found that Mr Straw's 'Prison Bitch' nom de plume was Sugar Plum Fairy. Sweet.
Monitor is an old-fashioned kinda guy. Not so old-fashioned that he can't say 'kinda guy' but old-fashioned enough, perhaps, that the use of the phrase dates him. Anyway, the point is that the Berlin Wall (oh Lord, is that passe, too? ) between Monitor and all things computer-minded remains intact. And a missive from one Subhash Parmar from McKessonHBOC Computer Centre is doing little in the chipping stakes. A few weeks ago, Monitor asked what health minister John Hutton meant when he said the government was 'up for it'. In a frighteningly literal way, Mr Parmar neatly explains: 'I thought it meant that one had stood up, or that one had raised an arm, or that one had put one's name on a communal notice-board, to volunteer for some task/activity/etc'. Perhaps it does. The punch line continues to elude an ever-weary Monitor.