The enthusiastic but sometimes fraught relationship that politicians enjoy with technology has suffered another glitch, after confidential information meant for an MP was accidentally emailed to a Cumbrian hairdresser.
According to reports on Friday, Barrow barber Ronnie Campbell has received at least 20 emails over recent months that were intended for Ronnie Campbell, the member of parliament for Blyth Valley.
These are said to have included a draft of Tony Blair's speech to the Labour Party conference, information about domestic and foreign affairs, and private details about forthcoming meetings. The Mirror has reported that Ronnie of Barrow replied to the Blair speech email, telling the prime minister that he liked the draft and felt he should use it.
The mix-up, which was only resolved after the hairdresser contacted the police, is another example of how politicians and their staff are struggling to come to terms with technology. Tony Blair claims to be a strong supporter of computing and the Internet, but it took three years of pressure before an official email address was created for him.
The recent Hutton Inquiry into the circumstances of the death of weapons expert Dr David Kelly also showed that some senior government officials and politicians are rather naïve about email. On several occasions during the Inquiry's sessions, emails were produced containing informal or highly confidential comments that with hindsight their authors probably regretted committing to email.
It isn't clear exactly how the Ronnie Campbell gaffe occurred, or who is to blame. Downing Street told ZDNet News on Friday morning that it was a matter for the Labour Party to explain, but the organisation had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.
A Labour Party spokesman has reportedly denied that any mistake has occurred, claiming that the emails in question were intended to be received by party supporters, but Campbell MP has reportedly confirmed to the BBC that some of his emails had gone astray.