Well, the euphoria created by the election is beginning to fade at last.
We may have been lulled into a gentle haze by the unaccustomed treat of politicians actually talking sense for once. Of course, politicians like Malcolm Riffkind, John Reid and David Blunkett didn't agree with each other, but they spoke to us as though we were intelligent adults, and appeared to be saying what they actually thought instead of just toeing the party line or avoiding the issue altogether. It was a rare treat.
And we may have been fooled for a little while by Gentleman Dave Macaroon, who ran quite a dignified campaign, wore lovely suits and appears to have a rather charming relationship with his wife who endeared herself somewhat by getting photographed wearing gym shoes. Ah, bless.
But already the cracks are beginning to show. There are signs that the Loony Lefty Liberals may succeed in infecting Gentleman Dave with their particular brand of Global Warming insanity, there are rumblings of discontent in the ranks about the ridiculous 55%-to-get-out rule, and they are already squealing about the size of the budget deficit. For God's sake, the rest of us all knew that Gordon McBroon had probably spent every last penny just to be difficult. Just how naïve could the Tories be?
Some of the post-coalition media comment has been annoying. These bloody pundits will keep insisting that they know why we all voted as we did. We voted for change, they say. Our vote was all about the budget deficit, they say. We are determined to have a new kind of politics, they say.
They're bloody wrong, though. Most of us think there's been a damn sight too much change in the last 13 years and would vote to put the clock back if we thought it was remotely feasible. A lot of us couldn't give a toss about the budget deficit – let's face it, we don't get much in the way of public services, the refuse-disposal Nazis and parking-wardens can all form an orderly queue at the Job Centre as soon as they like, we never see a bloody policeman and they don't come when we call, our schools are crap, and we know very well that taxes will rise and rise whatever we think, because they always have. The only people who will really feel the pinch are young couples who can't get a mortgage, and the greedy sods who caused all this fuss in the first place – and we don't mean the bankers, but the ordinary people who thought it was their God-given right to have a five-bed house with three loos and a jacuzzi, a Beamer and a 4x4 in the drive, and three foreign holidays a year, and couldn't see why borrowing fifty times their annual income might not have been entirely sensible.
And “a new kind of politics”? Don't make me laugh. All that will mean is abolishing hereditary peers, most of whom went to the right kind of school and have outmoded ideas of fair play, stiff upper lip and that sort of rot, and filling their places with unsavoury big-mouths like Baroness Uddin.
No, now that the excitement and uncertainty has died away, it's still all bollocks and we can't afford to relax for a moment. The government may be making the right noises about ID cards, DNA databases and the like, but we can take it as read that the faceless suits who wield the real power will hang on till the bitter end. We still need to kick off about every abuse, expose every bully, raise a voice about every new absurdity. The only difference is that the MPs we'll be writing to are, on the whole, a bit younger. Let's hope they came out of our rotten school system able to read our letters (oh no, silly me, most of them went to public schools so that's all right).
Let's start with this story ...
Police secretly investigated the travel habits, family, friends and backgrounds of 47,000 innocent people last year after they bought plane tickets to fly into and out of Britain. The flyers were singled out by the ‘terrorist detector’ database, introduced by Labour, monitoring millions of British tourists and other travellers. Checks included scrutiny of the police national computer, financial records and analysis of ‘known associates’ before people were cleared for travel.
(“If we don't like your friends, you can't fly”. Nice. I know someone who picks his nose and thinks the Queen is a radish. Does that count?)
Yet it is understood the £1.2billion system has never led to the arrest of a terrorist – and police now use it to target ‘sex offenders and football hooligans’. Police have also used it to produce 14,000 intelligence reports on travellers for ‘future use’. They can be shared by security services worldwide.
‘Suspect’ requests likely to lead to innocent holidaymakers receiving ‘red flags’ as potential terrorists include ordering a vegetarian meal, asking for an over-wing seat and travelling with a foreign-born husband or wife. The system will also ‘red flag’ anyone buying a one-way ticket and making a last-minute reservation and those with a history of booking tickets and not showing up for flights. A history of travel to the Middle East, Pakistan, Afghanistan or Iran will also trigger an alarm.
The new figures, produced by the Association of Chief Police Officers, cover the ten months to this February. Police arrested 2,000 people – out of a total of 48,682 investigated – after they were flagged up by the computer system. It is tied into airlines’ ticketing networks and makes judgements about travel habits and friends and family to decide if passengers are a security risk. All information passengers give to travel agents, including home address, phone numbers, email address, passport details and the names of family members, is shared with an unknown number of Government agencies for ‘analysis’ and stored for up to ten years.
The Home Office claims the system has led to arrests of murderers and rapists and to 1,000 people being denied entry to Britain. But it refused to say if any terrorists had been caught by the system, despite it being a counter-terrorist measure. Even as the ‘profiling’ system went live, its reliability was being called into question. An internal Home Office document revealed that during testing one ‘potential suspect’ turned out to be an airline passenger with a spinal injury flying into Britain with his nurse.
And in case there are any silly sheep left who can still bleat “If you've nothing to hide ....”, let us point out that there are plenty of people who have nothing to hide but still have their freedom of movement curtailed by this kind of bullying so-called “security”. A reader who wrote from Bahrain said ”I have nothing to hide either, but that didn't stop me being put on a 'no fly' list in 2008 perhaps because of my travel pattern. This meant that I could not check in online or even using the Virgin kiosks at Heathrow airport. When I did check in, I had to wait, guarded by an airline representative while another made a telephone call lasting up to about 15 minutes. My livelihood depends on flying to far off and distant places, and being placed on the list put my livelihood at risk.”
All very absurd, and according to the newspaper report there are hopes that the new coalition government may do something about it. But best not hold your breath. Quasi-governmental organisations have the bit between their teeth and have got used to bullying the public whenever they please, government or no government.
In fact, there was a good example just today. Here we are, almost a fortnight since the election and a week or so into a new government, but it's business as usual for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. They've just unveiled their plans to visit the homes of children under five and inspect the fixtures and fittings to make sure they're safe for the little angels. It's quite voluntary, they insist.
We're sure they mean well. Well, we hope they do. But ... voluntary? Pull the other one.
They may be voluntary to start with, but how long will it be before these inspections become just like the airport investigations? After all, they're voluntary too. I mean, you don't have to fly, do you? If you object to officials ferreting around in your bank account and compiling lists of the people you have to dinner, you can always stay at home.
Problem solved. Hardly worth making a fuss about, really ...
The GOS says: I'd just like to add one thing, vaguely relevant in that it's also about airports.
Recently air travel has been disrupted somewhat by volcanic ash, industrial action etc. and the newspapers have carried headlines about the “misery” endured by air-travellers. Some get their photos in the papers, telling us of the deprivations they've suffered, the worry they've undergone, how no one told them anything, and someone should have helped them.
Well, Mr. and Mrs.Airtraveller with your children Stacey Airtraveller (9), Wayne Airtraveller (7) and little Eldorado Loonbucket Airtraveller (6), I have news for you. Being stuck in the departure lounge for three days is not misery. There are toilets, it's not too cold or hot, there is food and drink, you have access to cash thanks to the miracle of plastic, and your lives are not in danger. That's not misery.
Being herded into cattle trucks and shipped off for a mystery tour in Poland is misery. Being gang-raped by Christian militiamen because you're a Muslim girl is misery. Being stuck in a house week after week with your disabled child on a run-down estate with gangs of youths throwing stones and abuse at you is misery. Personally I'd even go so far as to say that being a teacher spending day after day trying to control ignorant, belligerent, foul-mouthed, lazy, violent, contemptuous little thugs is misery, but as many of my readers know, I am a bit biased.
But dossing about in an airport? Annoying, maybe. Frustrating, certainly. Boring, absolutely. Misery? Get over yourselves.
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
Copyright © 2010 The GOS