Saturday, November 19, 2005

Things I've allowed to slide

The Orwells, specifically. I'd like to resume Orwelling, and in a big way, by citing an organisation rather than an individual. This week's Orwell nomination goes to the Association of Chief Police Officers, or ACPO for short. The reason? Not just for Brazilian-blasting or acting as uniformed whips for the Labour Party, nor for suggesting that an ANPR number plate recognition camera could be placed every 400 yards on the motorway network, but for something more intangible that touches on all of these.

It's for getting involved not just in politics (no-one is ever really uninvolved in politics), but in legislation. ACPO kicked off by pushing the government's policy to MPs, officially entirely off its own bat. In fact, the Home Office's spokesman later said that Charles Clarke had spoken to the ACPO chairman but that this was "proper". Curiously, though, it doesn't worry me as much that the cops might be used by the government for party purposes than it does that ACPO is quite capable of doing so off its own bat.

After all, one of its members, Sir Ian "Killer of the Yard" Blair announced in what amounted to an address to the nation that he wanted a debate with us on what kind of policing we needed. Now, I always thought that this was a matter to be settled through parliament and the central government in one direction, and through local government and the elected police authorities in the other. But let that pass. I'd be delighted to debate policing with Killer, but Silvermans haven't delivered my bulletproof vest yet, and anyway, the first item in the kind of police force I want is "one that doesn't contain Sir Ian Blair".

In the same week, his ACPO chums came out with their demarche to the Sunday Times in which they threatened not just to put recognition cameras every 400 yards on motorways, but to store all the recognition data in a (guess what?) monster national database for two years, whether or not anyone in the photos had done anything wrong. This would be a pharaonic project in itself, and a radical change in society, but apparently ACPO - which is a private association of coppers, not a statutory body - feels it can take it on all on its own. Parliament? Debate? Vote? We don't need no stinkin' vote!

So. An Orwell nomination to ACPO. Christmas is coming, and we shall soon be voting on the inaugural TYR Orwell Award for Authoritarianism. Can we have some recommendations for next week, please?

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