Archive for April, 2006

Rainbow Coalition

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

I was much taken with notion of the Home Office Bungle. It did make me wonder about the rest of the cast of clowns. George would perhaps be Geoff Hoon (Lord Privy Seal? Sounds like a posh lavatory attendant – probably about the right mark for Buff, then).

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Hmmm, works for me. Now what about Zippy? Tessa Jowell perhaps?

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Some, of course, are from a different children’s programme entirely:

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I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.
Thomas Jefferson

Well informed

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006

I realise that all countries have their share of nosey parkers and busybodies all too eager to keep an eye on and interfere in the lives of their neighbours, and that indeed there is a long and ignoble history of folk like this in the UK. But it has always been looked on by the vast majority of people with a mixture of disgust and contempt – a despicable habit, and the words used to describe it heavy with disappobation.

One of the most unpleasant aspects of the New Britain is the constant encouragement of this behaviour – the government, both at local and national level, is eager that we should all turn the unpaid informer, spy upon our fellow citizens and report to the authorities any suspicion of officially-forbidden behaviour. Not only that, but instead of feeling ashamed of our nosey-parkerish actions, we should instead feel a glow of pride in the accomplishment of our civic duty. After all the ultimate aim of any authoritarian state is to have the population police themselves – to atomize society, creating a non-community of mutually-suspicious individuals: don’t use that hose-pipe, you don’t know who may be watching. It’s nasty, it’s mean, it’s petty and it’s making Britain a more unpleasant place in which to live.

So what brought this on today? Following on from the Scottish smoking ban, we’ve just been sent a load of (temporary) signs to put up in all our premises. Not just ‘No Smoking’ signs, but ones which spell out that smoking (or allowing smoking) on the premises is an offence, and which have a telephone number to call to complain about anyone found smoking. So, instead of remonstrating with a smoker, people are asked to phone an informer line; instead of dealing with a situation on a personal level, it becomes a matter of state enforcement.

I could point out here that all our premises have been non-smoking areas for years anyway (decades in fact). They are museums, after all. But nothing must stand in the way of the need for the state to pry into every corner of our lives, to break down our personal relationships and reduce everything to a transaction betweeen the powerless individual and the all-powerful state…

Sorry about that. I’ll calm down now. What annoys more than anything about this sort of thing is the complete absence of any necessity for it. It’s not because they must; it’s certainly not because they ought; it’s simply because they can.

Remember to inform on your neighbours... it's your civic duty!

NB: I may have made a little change by adding the words ‘Informer Line’. And changing the phone number. By the way, in case anyone’s wondering, I don’t smoke.

The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it.
John Stuart Mill

Harry, hassle, hound him…

Monday, April 24th, 2006

Many other have already commented on this, but once more the Dear Leader speaks out on crime and civil liberties:

“I would impose restrictions on those suspected of being involved in organised crime. In fact, I would generally harry, hassle and hound them until they give up or leave the country.”

So how about making a start with those who are suspected (on quite strong grounds, I might add) of having engaged in the organised selling of Honours (a criminal offence). Yeah, go on Tony – do us all a favour. Harry, hassle and hound yourself till you give up or leave the country. And while you’re at it could you arrange for the police to seize all the assets of the Labour Party until they can prove that they came by them honestly. Or is this just another set of proposals that apply to everyone except you?

This guy is supposed to be a trained lawyer – do you think Cherie did all his exams for him? He certainly seems to have only the vaguest grasp of the fundamental principles of British Law. And he still doesn’t know what civil liberties are.

Meanwhile the deeply unpleasant Charles Clarke continues to find new ways to appal. I was especially intrigued that in all the discussion (and this included the journalists) everyone involved managed to avoid the word ‘innocent’ – as if the mere fact of having been put on trial were somehow evidence of some form of guilt (‘no smoke without fire’, etc.). Can someone explain to me why ’21st century crime’ (whatever that means) has to be fought with 16th century methods? And where did ‘Not proven’ spring from? I’m sure he just makes stuff up on the hoof.

I’m increasingly of the opinion that one of the prize possesions in the National Archives in the next century will be the collection of envelopes on the back of which New Labour policy was developed.

“Having escaped restraint, they were, like some people we know of, afraid of their freedom, did not know what to do with it and seemed glad to get back into the old familiar bondage.”
John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra

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