Thursday 11 December 2014

Dame Voldemort returns

“She’s back” was the whispered rumour circulating the Xmas dining table yesterday afternoon.

“Dame Voldemort’s back” was the other cry from yet another weary data protection officer, who had sought refuge in the company of like minded souls by attending a gathering in Central London, co-incidentally not that far from the real entrance to Diagon Alley. (Harry Potter aficionados will appreciate that Diagon Alley can be accessed by leaping through a portal in London’s Leadenhall Market).

No longer a Vice President of the European Commission, but still stalking the corridors of power in Brussels. Reincarnated as a humble MEP, the EuroQueen of Data Protection is back on the warpath, whipping up support for her precious Data Protection Diregulation.

She’s ensuring that progress continues to be made on the text, so that everyone can proclaim towards the end of next year “Ladies and Gentlemen, we have done it.”  This is the same phrase she used in January 2012, when presiding over the press conference that unveiled the text of the original draft Regulation.

Just as former US President Bush is unlikely to escape the “Mission Accomplished” tag, the “Ladies and Gentlemen, we have done it” catchphrase will follow her wherever she goes.

Why is she back? And again available for conferences, interviews and private data protection functions.

Why ever would she want to go away, really?

The opportunity of being forever associated with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reset data protection rules is too great to pass.

And, to be frank, Europe needs her.

She may have vacated her seat on the European Commission, but she’s still the strongest woman in Europe. Its taking three European Commissioners to assume the mantle of pushing data protection reform through to the bitter end, and hardly anyone has heard of her successors. Not even I could reel off all their names without checking the European Commission’s website. And I certainly wouldn’t be able to recogise any of them should they be in front of me in the queue for pies at Borough Market.

These mystery Commissioners had really better get their publicity act together, and quickly, if anyone is to take any note of them. Self-promotion does not appear to be a quality any of them have.

No, we need the theatrics of the bouffant hair, the glittering jewelry, the huddle of courtiers, the fleet of cars, and the buzz of excitement as the great woman herself appears to glide to the podium, to read words so carefully crafted by hands unseen. We miss that steely glint in her eye, that flash of a smile, that regal diction. Oh, the majesty of the show. What a performance. She knows how to impress, and what a void she (momentarily) left.

She can create a buzz. A sense of urgency. A deadline that can’t be missed.

So, expect more interventions from the great woman herself. She may leave the current crop of Commissioners in her shadow, but that’s not necessarily a problem. She’s seeking a higher reward. She’s going to do her utmost to ram fundamental data protection rights down our throats, whether we like it or not. She’ll have no time for the wavering Member States, and will focus her fury on the recalcitrant countries represented on the DAPIX working group that are bent on watering down her precious Diregulation even further.

Thanks to the force of her personality, the odds are increasing that something will be done by the end of 2015. It may not work, immediately or at all, but that’s not the point. Its her job to get stuff done, to banish non-believers to non-EU oblivion, to turn Fortress Europe into the state with the strictest data protection soundbites rules in the world, and then not to sit back and relax, but to focus her oh so formidable energies on changing something else.

She’s back.

“Hallelujah” cried a few.

Yesterday, a few others just cried into their pumpkin soup.