Every so often we get a call about a story that you can just tell is going to be massive. One such story is in most of the papers today - the NHS are asking Ambulance staff to rate how cool Hitler was.
This barmy saga started when the West Midlands Strategic Health Authority commissioned a £10,000 study to work out how to make the management of West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) more cool. A key part of the study was a questionnaire, sent out to all WMAS staff, that asked them to rate how cool a variety of famous and historical figures are or were, including the Fuhrer himself.
Obviously, this is a story about waste. It's absurd to ask people to rate the cool factor of one of the most evil men the world has ever seen, and even leaving Hitler aside it is irrelevant to the running of WMAS whether their managers are cool or not. People in the West Midlands just want them to be good at organising ambulances, not a reincarnation of the Fonz.
However, this is also a story about the power of the internet in identifying and driving out public sector waste. This whole story arose from the actions of one former WMAS employee - Steve Jetley - who was so outraged about the waste of £10,000 of the NHS' valuable resources that he mounted a one-man campaign to embarrass the authorities involved.
The story came to light thanks to the launch of www.howcoolishitler.net, and now it is in almost every national newspaper. Hundreds of votes have already been cast on the site to say that the whole project is in fact uncool, and the SHA and WMAS are now struggling to defend the indefensible.
Inevitably, given that this is an internet-driven story involving Hitler, there's now a Downfall spoof, too:
This is a great example of the way the internet is giving David a bigger slingshot to take down Goliath. Thanks to the low cost, speedy media available to everyone now, these stories and campaigns are going to become more and more common, and more and more effective.