Dear the Treasury press office; wake up & join the 21st Century

Dear Treasury Press Office,

I’d be surprised if you’re reading this, because its on the internet. To help you, the internet is a not-so-new phenomenon where people communicate with each other, can launch campaigns and share information – it even has journalists working on it! I hope I’m not going too quickly for you, as I wouldn’t want the shock that you’re in the 21 Century to be too damaging – to help I’ve bolded the important bits.

Last Tuesday, on GM-TV (it’s a television programme, a bit like the wireless with pictures) discussing the Northern Rock issue I mooted the fact that the Chancellor only said ‘existing deposits were safe’ which could be read to mean that new depositors or those who’d withdrawn money and put it back weren’t protected. At 8:31am I called your switchboard and was told the press office was ‘closed’ and there was no out-of-hours number; so I waited and called back at 9:02, when I was told I’d be called back soon.

At 11 o’clock I called again, and was told it’ll be any minute. Then again at 12, and this time someone did return my call, but when I told them my question they said “sorry I don’t know the answer, I’ll find out”. By now I had five national newspapers waiting to get a quote from me on the answer. Newspapers are something I’m sure you do understand – after all, some have been running for 100s of years.

Of course I realise my mistake. I called saying “I’m Martin Lewis, from” – not clever was it, as each time I was met with “Who?” and “What’s that then?” And of course, being a small publication with only 3 million direct users (never mind the other media outlets the website and I feed), I can’t really expect there to be one person in the Treasury press office for whom it rings even the slightest bell; after all, you’re the treasury and we cover money – it’s not like we’ve anything in common – perhaps the Foreign Office may know…

During the course of the day I rang six times in total, yet only ever heard back once. At 5:30 I got quite irate; call me picky, but the discourtesy and sardonic response I was met with did start to wind me up. And again I was told ‘I’ll get someone to call you back now’. But when I called again at 6:10 the press office was suddenly closed. It’s now three days later, and I’ve still not received a call, let alone an answer.

Rather strangely, when I’ve called before doing stuff for one of my other ‘proper outlets’, and said I’m from GM-TV or Tonight with Trev or the Sunday times or Radio 2 etc, my calls have been returned promptly. If, bizarrely, you’re reading this, it would be great if you could let me know whether that’s the best route for next time. I know it’s a small thing, and it makes me rather sad, but I actually do care about getting clarification on such an important situation for people desperate to know what the score is – and don’t you have some remit to try and help people? Would it help if I changed the name – Guido Fawkes or something? Just what would it take?

Kind regards,

Martin Lewis

PS. You may be interested in a study by those whiz-kids (they can actually use the inter-webby thing) at the Cabinet Office called the Power of Info. It actually explores how Government can interact better with the web. Funnily enough, in the report, this site is cited as one of the key new institutions that the Govt should be trying to engage with. When they contacted me on the ‘telephone’ they acted how best the Government could interact which such sites.

They were shocked that my first answer was “Ensure Govt press office’s return our calls and actually know there are websites out there which have a reach similar in scale to traditional media”, those whiz-kids laughed and said “Surely they do?” Seems not much has changed.

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