U.K. Treasury suffers e-mail gaffe

Civil servants take note--if you're trying to send your mates a potentially offensive 'joke' by e-mail, don't send it to the nation's top journalists.

The curse of the e-mail blunder has struck once again, leaving red faces at the U.K. Treasury.

According to reports on Wednesday, a junior clerical officer at the Treasury attempted to send his friends an e-mail with the subject line "Advantage of being Chinese".

The e-mail also contained the phrase "try pulling the corners of your eyes as if you were Chinese". If the reader squinted at the body copy, it would read the phrase "no sex causes bad eyes".

The official, whose job includes sending press notices by e-mail, had intended to send the mail to a group of friends. However, in an ill-advised move, he instead dispatched to the Treasury's list of key media contacts. This is understood to have included the editors of The Observer and The Sunday Telegraph.

Upon realizing his error, the official attempted to recall the missive. However, this did not save him from discovery.

The Treasury subsequently apologised for any offence caused, insisting it has "a detailed and strict policy on the acceptable use of e-mail systems."

Such mistakes are worryingly common, despite a number of high-profile gaffes in the past. Last February, Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's former chief of communications, accidentally sent journalists at Newsnight an e-mail in which he said he wished he could tell them to "fuck off and cover something important".

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