Rewriting history?

Today I tried to dig out a few press releases from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills website dating back to Peter Mandelson’s tenure as business secretary.

I was a little surprised to find that any press releases dating from before the last election had been archived.

Department for Business Innovation and Skills press release section

Historical revisionism?

When I visited the archive, I found that I could not longer view the press releases I wanted to read. When I clicked through all I found was a blank page with the following text:

Browse Archive http://nds.coi.gov.uk/content/Detail.aspx?ReleaseID=412943&NewsAreaID=2 not found

Would it be harsh to accuse the government of hiding information about its predecessor’s work? Possibly. Though it’s worth remembering that Vince Cable once famously declared that Gordon Brown had gone from Josef Stalin to Mr Bean. From this bout of historical revisionism one could accuse his department of having tendencies towards the former.

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9 thoughts on “Rewriting history?

  1. Something similar happened after George Bush left office last year – he was removed from all the offical government websites. There’s an interesting article on that here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/jan/25/internet-heritage

  2. The Treasury website was purged within a few weeks of the election as well.

  3. rosieniven says:

    Thanks for the comments guys. For a government that prides itself in being open, it’s a shame it is making it difficult for people to read about the policies of its predecessor. It’s I don’t object to archiving this stuff on a different site but it should remain easily accessible to the public.

    It may not been the worst thing they’ve done, but it contradicts their moves to promote open government.

    • Adam says:

      I do wonder if this is more cock-up than conspiracy, though. The government (and I really mean the civil service, I suppose) hardly has a stellar record on IT projects…

      • rosieniven says:

        You may be right Adam – the various DWP IT debacles under the last government spring to mind. If that’s the case, let’s hope that this government put things right sooner rather than later.

      • Bill The Lizard says:

        On the other hand, large IT projects that run into problems aren’t designed from the outset to fail, are they. This is not a large project and involves no change in technology. Applying Occam’s Razor reveals deliberate weeding as the most likely explanation.

      • Adam says:

        I’d suggest that Occam’s Razor nearly always favours cock-up over conspiracy. Frankly, if I was “disappearing” archives, I’d make them disappear, not leave a link and error page to provoke blog posts and discussion…

  4. Luke says:

    As I’ve already pointed out to Rosie – the Tories have form on this. Boris’s much vaunted (crap and delayed) shiny new Mayor of London website did a rather excellent job of deleting everything pre-2008.

  5. CarynW says:

    Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. Meaning, foulups are always the most likely explanation. I went to the site you mentioned and found archives – it was probably just having a problem when you tried it.

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