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02 October 2007 Blog Home : October 2007 : Permalink

Bournemouth Twinned With Rangoon?

England Expects and the Devil both link to this tale of what Charlie Stross calles "security theatre" albeit in this case not the pantomime we all go through at airports but the fun and games PC Plod and co get up to when guarding against "terrorists". Picture the scene. Two friends sitting in a pub garden catching the September lunctime sun and enjoying a pint. One of them, silly man, decides he needs to read his mail - poor sod all he got was a 'leccy bill - but even so checking to see how much money the utility company wants is not normally a crime. His mate, giving him a moment of privacy to curse and swear at the bottom line on the bill, casts his eye across the street where there are half a dozen boys in blue gathered to prevent suicide bombers from approaching the ZANU labour conference. Looking at a group of coppers is also not normally an offence.


Bob Hamlen, 47, and Michael Burbidge, 31, were stunned when they were surrounded by uniformed officers as they sat on a bench outside the Westcliff Tavern in West Cliff Road, Bournemouth. [...]

"They said the reason I was being taken to the police station was because I had been seen passing a white envelope.

"But all I did was take my post out of my jacket pocket and open an electricity bill.

"On Michael's stop and search form they said they wanted to speak to him, under the Terrorism Act, because he had been looking at a police officer.

"That area of town is saturated with police officers and, from where we were sitting, it would have been impossible not to be watching one."

As numerous people have pointed out this latter offence sounds very like "Not the 9 o'clock news". No doubt other people were arrested for "loitering with intent to use a pedestrian crossing".

Now it may be a little tactless and hyperbolic to compare this to what was going on more or less contemperaneously half a world a way in Burma, but the sort of heavy handed policing described sounds a lot more like a police state than a democratic country such as England is supposed to be. Fortunately we are not there yet. We aren't even at Iranian levels of pseudo-democratic tyranny yet. But we do seem to have lost a few of those basic freedoms that the Remittance man has been discussing recently.

Fortunately, as can be seen from the comments at the Bournemouth Echo article, lots of people in England seem just a tad peeved at this sort of behaviour and don't feel afraid to say so. There is even a nice little group of comments pointing out that the ID card that the govt wants people to carry would be particularly unuseful in this sort of case, except that is for the plods to note down on some anonymous computer that ID XXX-YY-ZZZZ-1234 is stroppy and might now hold a grudge against the state. This of course is rather different to Iran, or Syria, where commenting on this sort of action tends to lead to you being visited by a bunch of plods who take you away and give you the third degree until you sign a confession.


While I am all in favour of stopping terrorist attacks, the truth of the matter is that the government has used the threat of terrorism to ram through all sorts of badly thought out measures that don't actually protect the public but do protect the government and its employees from being bothered by the public.

Personally I think we'd do as well to have more frequent terror attacks on our politicians. Wiping a few of the bloodsuckers out might just stop the more venal and grasping from deciding to continue as politicians, they could go back to pimping their sisters and the world would probably be a better place.