A cabinet minister, senior local government staff, councillors and other MPs were among those to have received letters from bogus Downing Street officials on the basis of “security”, Political Scrapbook can reveal. The full list of “computer generated” pseudonyms, introduced in 2005 after a civil servant was targeted by a member of the public at their home address, is published below.
The practice was originally exposed in May after MP Gerald Kaufman attempted to contact an Number 10 official from whom he had received a letter. When he rang to speak to “Mrs E Adams”, however, he was told that “she did not speak on the telephone” before staff eventually conceded that she, erm, did not actually exist.
A freedom of information request has revealed the full list shown below. Each name was allocated to a team of staff, which Downing Street insist were “fully accountable” for its usage.
- Mrs K Grady
- Mr R Smith
- Mr M Davies
- Mr S Caine
- Mr F Jones
- Mrs E Adams
- Mrs S Silver
- Mr J Miles
- Mr G Edwards
Further investigation shows that bogus names were used even where correspondence clearly originated from highly reputable individuals and organisations. In addition to Gerald Kaufman, the system has also been used to respond to other MPs. In March 2011, secretary of state for Wales Cheryl Gillan received correspondence from Nick Clegg’s office signed by “Mrs S Silver”, a fake name assigned to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
“Mrs Silver” also wrote to the Chief Executive of Oldham Council in response to a letter about tuition fees, thanking him for “taking the time to write” to the DPM while “Mr S Caine” wrote to the most senior official on Windsor Council, passing on then PM Gordon Brown’s regrets that he was not able to answer all correspondence personally.
Scrapbook wonders how many other MPs and council chief executives have been fobbed off by imaginary officials.