Thursday, 6 January 2011

Hacking, Paranoia And A New Use For Green Ink

God, I wish this phone hacking story would go away. It only encourages The Boss's paranoia. Now he's convinced that his calls are being tapped again.

He mentions his theory to a local journalist this morning, despite my frantic head-shaking - but, luckily, the journo doesn't even bother to write it down. Maybe he's already tried listening in to Andrew's calls and only narrowly escaped being bored to death.

It's not as if anyone in their right mind would ever want to listen to an MP's voicemail. Or not to a backbench MP's, anyway. I can hardly bear to do it myself, given the number of demented messages that get left overnight. Usually a combination of incoherent screeching, alien sightings and death threats.

Mind you, I'd be quite happy for The News Of The World to hack into my telephone conversations - if their reporters made themselves useful by speaking to constituents while they were at it. I'd love to see how they'd cope with Miss Chambers, Mr Meeeurghn or even Mr Beales.

Talking of Mr Beales, I have a very nasty shock at lunchtime, when someone calls from the lobby on the intercom.

"I need to speak to my MP," says the man. "It's an emergency."

When I ask for further details, he doesn't reply, so there's no choice but for me to go downstairs and investigate. Well, I suppose there would be a choice if the MP in question didn't have a mouthful of my sandwich and apparently no intention of moving until he's eaten the whole thing. The end of Recess can't come soon enough to stop me starving to death.

When I reach the lobby, there is Mr Beales, pacing round and round in circles and muttering to himself.

"Oh," I say. "I didn't realise it was you. Your voice didn't sound familiar."

"That's because we haven't met," says the man, extending a clammy hand. "Reg Beales. My brother told me to come and see you. Said you'd be able to help."

Oh, dear God. There are two of them? Is there no end to life's cruel jokes?

I stand there like a complete idiot, with my mouth hanging open in disbelief, while Reg continues:

"It's the penalty points system. It's bloody unfair, that's what it is, and it needs changing. Sharpish."

"I've already explained to your brother that there's nothing I can do about his speeding ticket - because he was speeding," I say. "And as for the charge of dangerous driving, he admits himself that he did hit the policeman - "

"I'm not talking about our Edmund," says Reg. "It's me. I've just got another three points for speeding, so now I'm up to twelve. So I'm going to lose my HGV licence and my business if nothing's done. And it's not my fault."

Honestly, it must run in the family. Probably some weird form of ADHD or something. A total inability to learn from experience, or to take responsibility for one's actions. But Reg seems to be expecting a reply, so I try to be patient. (That was another of my stupid New Year's resolutions.)

"So what do you think should be done about it, then?" I say.

"They need to change the rules," says Reg. "HGV drivers should be allowed to get twice as many points as ordinary drivers before they lose their licences, because they have to drive more miles. And it's their livelihoods on the line."

"Not to mention the lives of the general public," I say, under my breath. I can't think of anything more acceptable to add out loud, so I'm quite relieved when Greg walks through the door, and saves me the bother.

He looks at Reg, does a double-take, and then says,

"Molly, we're late for that meeting."

Sometimes, Greg isn't half as daft as he looks. His timely intervention enables me to make a quick escape, although I do have to promise to write to Mike Penning at the DfT to put forward Reg's suggestion about doubling the penalty points allowance for HGV drivers.

I'm just hoping the Minister won't think it's a good idea and decide to implement it. You never can tell with the Coalition, which is a bit unnerving to say the least.

"We need a code," says Greg, when I tell him all about it.

"Oh, for God's sake," I say. "Not you as well. No-one cares what The Boss says when he's on the phone. Half of it's unintelligible anyway."

"No, not to stop hacking, Molly, you loon. To indicate to the Minister that we know that what we've just written is ridiculous, and that the constituent in question is barking mad."

Now that's not such a bad idea. Maybe we should start printing our own letters in green ink. I wonder if it's more expensive than black?


  1. Well, if "the Boss" has changed the default PIN on his mobile (or on any other voicemail systems he uses) he should run no risks from what the NoW journalists were reportedly doing: they just worked out from victims' mobile number who their service supplier was, found out (easy and not illegal) the default PIN their mobiles were supplied with, and rang up the service poviders' answerphone numbers (also easy and not illegal to find) and logged into the victims' mailboxes using the default PINs - if the victim had changed their PIN the attack failed - if not they garnered the messages.

  2. Ooh, I'll ask him if he has, thanks. Though I foresee chaos if he hasn't and tries to - he'll NEVER remember what he's changed it to. PS How do you know? You're not Andy Coulson, are you?!