The government was facing an embarrassing climbdown last night as it emerged a shocking lapse in security in which two computer discs with 25 million people's personal details on them were lost in the post, was merely a plotline for the new series of stalwart British sit-com Blackadder.
Ben Elton and Richard Curtis penned the pilot episode for the upcoming Blackadder 5 - The Corridors of Power some time ago, but misplaced the final draft in a pub near Whitehall.
The new series of the popular historical satire is the first for nearly twenty years, and sees the habitually put-upon and inept Kevin Darling - last seen as a snivelling desk jockey in the seminal World War 1 comedy Blackadder Goes Forth - promoted to Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Curtis confirmed they were inspired to write the episode by Alistair Darling's real-life appointment to the post, but denied any responsibility for the fiasco. "I'm sorry the public has been misled," he said. "But frankly I had no idea that our absurd and farcical scenario could ever be misconstrued as an actual ministerial blunder. I mean they can't be that stupid. Can they?"
A government statement admitted errors had been made. "We thought the script was a leaked memo from a junior Treasury Minister. I guess we just saw the name Darling and panicked. Admittedly, with the benefit of hindsight, it seemed unusual that the nefarious postal courier who misplaced the vital CDs was being played by Brian Blessed, but we thought transparency was best and urged the Chancellor to confess all."
The writers said that most of the original cast members would return in the eagerly-awaited new series. Rowan Atkinson, the eponymous hero, plays a cynical, scheming spin doctor for the country's gruff new Prime Minister (an understated and dour Stephen Fry), while Hugh Laurie is perfectly cast as the posh, bumbling Leader of the Opposition, whose shrill fondness for political correctness provides many of the belly laughs.
Curtis refused to confirm or deny that series favourite Baldrick would also be back, but he did let slip that Tony Robinson has been spending a lot of time shadowing Boris Johnson with a big notebook.