After meeting four ministers in one day, the UK Information Commissioner heads to Brussels to discuss the EU's overhaul of data protection rules, before sharing an inspiring Kosher mealMonday
5.45am. The start of a week on the road. The Information Commissioner's Office is based outside Manchester, but much of my job takes me to London or Brussels. This week it is both and it will be Thursday night before I am back home again. Fortunately, that is not typical. I need to catch the 7am London Flyer from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston. In the quiet coach, I can get a lot done. In London, I'm sharing the platform with the local government minister at a 'Transparency in the Public Sector' seminar. Then, on to see Ed Vaizey, the communications minister, about 'cookies' and the new privacy and electronic communications rules. I dump my wheelie case at the cheap and cheerful hotel I favour for London stays and go to the House of Lords for a reception with the French ambassador. In the crush, I button hole the Attorney General and his Scottish counterpart. Four ministers in one day is a higher hit rate than usual.
A silly story in The Independent
requires a rebuttal. Last week's appearance before the Leveson Inquiry on press standards was not universally well received. I compose a brief letter for publication. Then, off to Westminster to address delegates at the annual Government ICT conference. Buses are best in London because one can bone up for the next meeting or email some actions from the last one. A brief meeting with Sir Bob Kerslake, the new head of the civil service: we've sent a joint letter to local government leaders to stress the importance of doing data protection properly. Then to St Pancras to catch the Eurostar. For train reading, I have the papers for tomorrow's Article 29 Working Party of European colleagues. In Brussels, a few wrong turns on the Metro and problems with the remote working dongle on the laptop put me in a grumpy mood; but steak and frites soon restore my sense of bonhomie.
The meeting begins with the election for vice chairmen. I secure the second of the two spots. Lots for me and my Czech colleague to do supporting our Dutch chairman as the European Union revises the whole data protection framework. Heads down and headphones on, we crunch through the very full agenda. The interpreters do a brilliant job, but we still lose something in translation. I must work to brush up my languages. Very interesting presentation by the United States Federal Trade Commission demonstrates that we need a more global approach to global phenomena.
The working party is meeting for a second day. I don't have to join in until lunchtime, so I can catch up with the day job online. Or so I think. A call to IT sorted my remote access problem yesterday, but the gremlins are back this morning. More frantic phone calls and eventually we're back in business. Meanwhile, tomorrow is the deadline for submissions to the Commons Justice Committee on the first seven years experience of the Freedom of Information Act. Our evidence is calm and factual. We can leave the campaigning to others. But now I have to prepare for an appearance before another select committee next week, this time on the subject of private detectives and blagging. My super efficient PA sorts much of the rest. After a meeting with my Irish counterpart, I take the Airport Express train to catch my flight home to Manchester. A bit of duty free shopping includes a miniature Snowy dog for my step-granddaughter who is visiting us at half-term. Taxi home to my long-suffering wife. Supper, and so to bed.
My one day in the office this week and lots of work to clear. A couple of routines with colleagues. It is also time for my monthly blog, updating staff on what I'm at. At lunchtime, I meet my wife for a swim at the Wilmslow Leisure Centre. A quick sandwich together before a meeting with trade union reps in the quarterly Joint Committee. On the bus home, I listen to the 6pm news on my digital radio. Friday night and it is my turn to cook. Basque Confit de Canard from Brussels duty free is quick and easy.
Blessed domesticity. We are still getting ourselves straight in the house we moved into a year ago. Sorting the study, moving books, and attending to various computers keeps us in the warm on a bitterly cold day. In the evening we join Altrincham Interfaith for an inspiring shared meal. I discover I'm really into Kosher food as I pile my plate high. The nuclear physicist sitting next to me expounds his theory that the best form of relaxation is to work hard at something different. In his case, this Hindu has been helping in the kitchen all day to prepare food to share with his Sikh, Jewish, Christian and Muslim neighbours.
After church, I cook breakfast. Croissants and granary bread are fresh from our village bakery. The chicken for tonight comes from the butcher. All we lack locally is a candlestick maker. After supper, I dip into John Butler's biography of Hewlett Johnson, the fellow-travelling Red Dean of Canterbury. He started out as a curate in Altrincham, but I remember him as a very old man when I was a 12 year-old chorister. He may have been an unrepentant admirer of Stalin, but he threw very good children's parties in the Deanery.Christopher Graham is the United Kingdom's Information Commissioner and a vice-chairman of the Article 29 Working Party of European Union data protection authorities