It's not just us grumpy old buggers who detest the "we know what's best for you so we're going to bully you until you do what we say" mentality of our present government and their power-mad acolytes in local government, the elf-'n-safety industry and single-issue pressure groups. People in other countries are starting to realise the dreadful mess we've allowed to develop because as a nation we're terrified of causing offence or laying ourselves open to any criticism whatsoever.
Here's an American writing on the Delaware Libertarian website …
I lived almost five years in the UK, and during that time, I got to watch what happens to a relatively free Western society when the Nanny State crosses the line over into a police state. And make no mistake, New Labour's Britain is undoubtedly a police state these days. When I lived there, I watched as prison and/or draconian fines became a standard punishment for even the most minor of "crimes."
Buy the wrong class of ticket for a train? Fine and prison.
Use a garden hose during a "water shortage" (caused by leaky pipes in a country where most of the year is rainy and overcast)? Fine and prison.
Demonstrate within one mile of Parliament? Fine and prison (this law was passed after ruling party MPs got tired of seeing angry anti-war demonstrators out of their windows on their way to work). Incidentally, this law means that most of Central London, including Trafalgar Square, is now off-limits for political speech and demonstrations. The outrage over that trick was great enough that the government has promised it will repeal the law at some point. Maybe.
Cameras popped up everywhere. Britain is the most-watched society on earth, with the government boasting that it can track you on foot, and even track your car's movements at every step of the way ... and keep the information for two years. Own more than one mobile phone? The government is encouraging citizens to report you as a potential terrorist.
Are you a dark-complexioned Brazilian traveling on London's underground? Well, police may shoot you eight times in the head for no reason and then lie about you "being suspicious," but the chief of police will be "sorry" about your death - while warning that such shootings could happen again.
Mandatory ID cards with biometric imprints have been created and implemented recently, first for new migrants to the country. Eventually, they will be mandatory for everyone. Don't have the card and cannot present it on demand to authorities? Fine and prison.
Don't have a TV licence to watch television? We're watching you and we're coming to get you - it's all in the database. The licence, used to pay for the BBC, is mandatory for all TV owners and the British government is spending millions on a campaign to promote its ability to track you down.
Don't have the proper car tax disk? You're being tracked, and we'll come to crush your car.
But the Labour Party government in London isn't content to stop here. It has a new idea - let's censor the Internet! The kind of ratings used for films could be applied to websites in a bid to better police the Internet and protect children from harmful and offensive material, Britain's minister for culture has said. Internet service providers could also be forced to offer services where the only sites accessible are those deemed suitable for children.
And helpfully, the Good Minister Of What We Should And Shouldn't See offers this helpful observation: "This is not a campaign against free speech, far from it; it is simply there is a wider public interest at stake when it involves harm to other people. We have got to get better at defining where the public interest lies and being clear about it."
"We" meaning government, "public interest" meaning government officials' interests, and "being clear" meaning a whole new hosts of fines, penalties and prison time for noncompliant nasties who dare to publish content Labour judges "not in the public interest."
So why am I blogging on this? Because Britain's totalitarian ruling party isn't merely interested in starting this latest revolution in its Brave New World - it wants to export it here to the United States!
Andy Burnham told The Daily Telegraph newspaper, published on Saturday, that the government was planning to negotiate with the administration of President-elect Barack Obama to draw up new international rules for English language websites.
"The more we seek international solutions to this stuff - the UK and the U.S. working together - the more that an international norm will set an industry norm", the Culture Secretary said in an interview.
Unfortunately for the Minister, the pesky First Amendment over here would quickly put the kibosh on such a scheme (although the US government did make an attempt to implement a weaker version of censorship with the Clinton-era Communications Decency Act, which was largely stricken by federal courts). This is one carefully-wrapped package from London that the new administration should return to its sender, post-haste.
We mentioned single-issue pressure groups at the top of this page, but some of these aren't just pressure-groups. Some are commercial companies that see the chance of making a fast buck with government backing. And it's not just the present government, either: the opposition are all set to get into the same act …
Shadow Children's Minister Tim Loughton is chairman of Classwatch, a firm that sells CCTV cameras and microphones to schools so that pupils as young as four can be spied on during the school day.
The Big Brother-style surveillance is being marketed as a way to identify pupils disrupting lessons when teachers' backs are turned. Classwatch says its devices can be set up to record everything that goes on in a classroom 24 hours a day and used to compile 'evidence' of wrongdoing.
The equipment is sold with Crown Prosecution Service-approved evidence bags to store material to be used in court cases.
The microphones and cameras can be used during lessons and when a classroom is unattended, such as during lunch breaks.
But data protection watchdog the Information Commissioner has warned the surveillance may be illegal and demanded to know why primary and secondary schools are using this kind of sophisticated equipment to watch children. Officials said they would be contacting schools to seek 'proper justification' for the equipment's use.
Classwatch is set to face further scrutiny over the role of Shadow Children's Minister Tim Loughton, the firm's £30,000-a-year chairman.
The equipment, which includes ceiling-mounted microphones and cameras and a hard drive recorder housed in a secure cabinet, is operating in around 85 primary and secondary schools and colleges. The systems cost around £3,000 to install in each classroom or can be leased for about £50 per classroom per month.
The firm says the devices act as 'impartial witnesses' which can provide evidence in disputes and curb bullying and unruly behaviour and protect teachers against false allegations of abuse - plus provide evidence acceptable in court.
Martin Johnson, deputy general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, added: 'We strongly object to schools or colleges having free rein to use CCTV and microphones, especially in sensitive areas such as classrooms, changing rooms and toilets. We expect CCTV be used appropriately and not to spy on staff or pupils.'
Last night, Tory frontbencher Mr Loughton insisted there was no conflict between his political role and part-time job. He said: 'I am not the Shadow Minister for Schools, I am the Shadow Minister for Children. I don't speak on school security.'
When the Daily Mail reported this story recently, its website received an enormous number of comments from readers.
"This is a disgrace, a gross invasion of privacy and designed to get children used to intrusive lifelong surveillance. Whatever any Labour functionary may say, they ALL support this rubbish, naturally 'for the sake of the children'. What next? "Homewatch" to keep an eye on all of us? After all, "if it saves ONE child's life ...". Don't rule this out, together with a vast army of "inspectors", bureaucrats and sundry spooks", said Councillor Jeremy Zeid from Harrow.
Sparks from Brighton pointed out "Earlier this year, Tim Loughton criticised the introduction of fingerprinting children in schools saying "it is another step towards a surveillance society." I wonder why he doesn't view filming those children in their schools in the same light?" while A.Howlett remembers that "a supply teacher was sacked after she wore a hidden camera to reveal the disgraceful behaviour of her pupils. But when the government do it it's OK!"
However, not everyone is horrified at the idea - it seems to have the support of many teachers, and for a very good reason …
"My life and career has been destroyed by an allegation of assault in a primary school ... I was witnessed by people who are prepared to lie and by a system that is founded on self-protection and self-preservation. I have been subjected to the worst humiliation imaginable and a 30-year career has been stolen", said Jane of Chorley.
David Goadby of Aberdaron said "With the numbers of teachers losing their careers or, maybe, future promotions, after being wrongly accused by children then this is a good idea. Used correctly, as an evidence tool, it could help decide what the real truth is about classroom accusations. No other parties such as social workers or psychologists should be given access to this material else we will be asking for trouble", and Gill from Sussex was equally in favour: "As a teacher I do not have a problem with CCTV in my classroom. I think it could be useful if a child accuses you of something you have not done (hit them, touched them, sworn etc) and to demonstrate to parents that their little angel is not always a little angel. My word as a teacher has been so undermined by successive Governments, that I welcome this proof".
Given that there are vociferous and influential people who are happy to make extraordinary accusations against teachers - one recently claimed that all male teachers in primary schools are involved in child abuse (don't worry, there's a major Grumpy Page in preparation!) - these last comments seem entirely justified.
But that doesn't mean that a prominent politician should be making money out of it.
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
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