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It's spring in Seattle (OK, no it isn't), so it must be time for Microsoft's prestigious annual Government Leaders Conference, where movers, shakers and wannabees get to rub shoulders with Microsoft's High Command and sundry bigwigs. Glitter this year is provided by HRH Crown Prince Aleksander II of Yugoslavia, who may come in handy as a contact if he ever gets the throne back.

There can however be a price to pay for all this high-level schmoozing. Last year for example UK E-envoy Andrew Pinder was - apparently willingly - co-opted for a not entirely accurate announcement suggesting Microsoft had single-handedly invented and implemented the UK's Government Gateway project in 90 days flat. Subsequent discovery that the Gateway, which Pinder then said was "bringing real value to our most demanding and precious resource: our citizens," was somewhat hostile to non-MS browsers did little to convince people that Pinder was not maybe just a tad MS-friendly. Nor indeed did his participation in the slightly less-prestigious Microsoft UK version, the Digital Britain Summit, later that year.

But the participant list for Government Leaders Conference 2002 is out, and yes, there Andrew is again. As previously, there's a goodly contingent from the Cabinet Office, the four of them accounting for almost a fifth of the UK participants. They are Andrew himself, his private secretary Jo Clift, head of user experience Elizabeth Sands, and CEO e-delivery Alan Mather. We propose to return to the intriguing Mr Mather shortly, but as a taster, you can look at some of his holiday snaps here. His appearance in a Microsoft UK promo video here, happily burbling "I would always work with Microsoft" does kind of make one wonder what kind of E it is he's delivering. But as we say, we'll get back to Alan.

Other UK names on the list worth watching are Mark Gladwyn, head of the Criminal Justice Integration Unit, and Tony Crimmens, assistant chief constable of Northumbria and apparently some kind of custodian for HOLMES2, the Unisys-built Home Office Large Major Enquiry System. If you go here, you will note that the Plod is claiming to have just logged your IP, and is proposing to investigate you. Sorry.

You may also note that the Plod is running FreeBSD, which is impressive. But we digress. Also present will be reps from C2K, SchlumbergerSEMA and KPMG. Cabinet Office contractors, perchance?

It may just be our being foreign, but the US list seems much less fun. There is Howard Schmidt, ex-MS and now vice chair of Dubya's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board, a brace from the Computer Crime and IP section of the DoJ, and the IT director of the State of Utah, aka Novellville. Now, whose side are they all on?

Full list of junketeers, spanning the globe, can be found here, so you can all play this game, no matter where you live. The conference kicks off on Monday, be there or be square. And if you go here, you'll see it's being introduced by somebody who's not there any more anyway. Oops. ®

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