The surveillance society

When even a Labour dominated Commons Committee concludes we are in danger of becoming a Surveillance Society, it shows the penny is at last dropping. 4.2 million spy cameras watch our many moves, especially when driving. Every government department you deal with demands all kinds of personal information, so it too has something it can lose or send around the country on a DVD. The government is ploughing on with its deeply distrusted and much disliked central Identity computer and associated cards. All this is done in the name of safety and greater security, yet there is precious little evidence it is disrupting terrorists or big time money criminals who have the organisation and the resources to get around the road blocks placed by HMG.

To most of us it seems they target the law abiding, tighten the rules to try to get some to make technical mistakes when following them, and send us a whopping bill for the trouble. It is possible now to commit offences by failing to remember all the information they demand or by making a mistake when filling in one of the many overlong forms. We are all expected to keep in mind a whole library of code names and numbers, to have ready recall of whether we had to offer our mother’s maiden name or the name of our favourite pet for a particular purpose, and have endless time available to offer all this information before carrying out simple transactions.
We would all like the government to back off a bit. It seems as if this government’s preferred bedtime reading is 1984, as they hone the thought police and design the forms around making our lives as difficult and unpleasant as possible. Far from offering us public service, so many departments interrogate us as if we were criminals, and set us tests that could make a criminal of the careless or the unsuspecting.

The ID card and computer is the big one, trying to link it altogether. If they would just stop that it would save us a pile of cash and would send a signal that at last the government’s Ministers as well as the backbench Labour MPs have got it.


  1. Brian Tomkinson
    June 8, 2008

    JR "We would all like the government to back off a bit."

    No, that is not sufficient. I would like to see an incoming Conservative government not only pledged to cancel any idea of introducing ID cards but also to reverse the multitude of bureaucratic interference in our daily lives which has been inflicted upon us during eleven years of "hard Labour".

  2. James Strachan
    June 8, 2008

    Janet Daley is normally as socially aware as Simon Heffer.

    But she did have a good piece in the Telegraph on Monday where she asserted that what we are seeing is the last stages of collapse of the ideology that "the State can make us good".

    I think that this is now reaching the point where ordinary citizens are totally fed up with harassment by Government – at all levels. To use an Afrikaans word, they are "gatvol".

    Conservatives must think through and explain how each of us can help to manage our own affairs without the nanny state.

  3. Cliff
    June 8, 2008

    As was recently commented to a Labour minister on Question Time; 1984 was supposed to be a warning, not a template.

    I suspect this Soviet style oppression is designed to get us ready for the new EUSSR which many politicians seem to want for some reason best known to themselves.

  4. Neil Craig
    June 8, 2008

    I think, like the atom bomb, the CCTV is something that cannot be uninvented. Civil liberties campaigners should therefore seek to see its civil liberties possibilities used.

    Specificly I think collection & most investigation of CCTV should be under a new & publicly accountable authority rather than the police. We have had a number of instances recently where CCTV tapes which might have contradicted what the police claim have, in their hands, gone inexplicably missing. The Menendez case comes to mind.

    Since CCTV does not involve the application of force but merely of information it is not automatically authoritarian – it is only that if purely in the hands of the authorities.

  5. David Williams
    June 8, 2008

    Dear Mr Redwood

    I have enjoyed many of the articles in your blog since you suggested I might wish to look at it, in response to a comment on Wat Tyler's blog. My comment then was to the effect that the Conservative Party is not making the most of showing how its polices will be different from those of the Labour Party.

    I do hope that your party will put views such as the one you have just expressed forward without delay to show voters what things will change.

    The right to private life – which should be, at least nominally, preserved under Artilce 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – means something considerable different to Britons than to Germans, I understand. There, a country which had a Nazi government from 1933 to 1945 and, for those in former East German, another totalitarian government until 1990, and where one's neighbours, of no great age may have made a living employed by the state as secret policemen, will not allow the government or private citizens to have CCTV cameras monitoring law abiding citizens' every movement in public places (not just on private property) day and night. We, in contrast, have had this imposed upon us. If your party were able to say that is going to change, speak up!

    Best Wishes
    David Williams

  6. Stuart Mark Turner
    June 8, 2008

    Mr Redwood,

    You make a good point about the sheer amount of surveillance cameras which monitor our actions, in so far as only 4/100 muggings are solved because of a camera. When many police chiefs acknowledge that better street lighting would have a far more beneficial effect.

    This of course raises questions about the validity of the majority of cameras and also other authoritian measures such as the 42 day detention which Labour is trying to force through Parliament.

  7. Derek
    June 9, 2008

    It used to be the view that ignorance is no defence in the eyes of the law. Well these days it jolly well ought to be.

    I would be interested to see research into how many laws the ostensibly law abiding person breaks on the average day, such as leaving your bin lid slightly open etc. I suspect it would conclude that we are in fact all criminals.

  8. mikestallard
    June 9, 2008

    What the government seems to be saying doesn't really stack up. Look at these two statements:
    1. The terrorist threat is so great that we have to be able to arrest and imprison people for six weeks without charging them. The threat is much greater than the IRA, therefore. It is a battle which we are in great danger of losing.
    2. We need the constant surveillance of cameras to repel criminals and to make the traffic flow safely and smoothly. Because of them, we need far fewer police on the streets. People are much safer today, as figures show, because there are far more policemen and women. The government will eventually crack the whole problem of crime with ID cards. The streets are now much safer than they were, because the more the government knows about "our" people, the safer and better everything becomes.

    On the one hand, we have a "clear and present danger" and on the other "peace, perfect peace!

  9. Adrian Peirson
    June 9, 2008

    John, I welcome the opportunity to Post on your Blog, In doing so accept that this is your Blog & that there may be political or legal sensitivities for you to consider & therefore some of my / our posts may not get published.

  10. Brian Tomkinson
    June 9, 2008

    On the subject of local authorities spying on their residents, I was appalled to read in yesterday's Sunday Times News Review that the Conservative-run Plymouth council is about to send a wheelie-bin information form to everyone's home (in Plymouth), with a threat of a fine for non-completion. Among the questions are: "Do you have children in your home who use disposable nappies? and "Are there any other reasons why a member of your household generates more rubbish than average?" Why are Conservative councils doing this? When will the leadership of the Conservative Party put a stop to this "big brother state"?

  11. Confused
    June 9, 2008

    I agree wholeheartedly with Mr Tomkinson.
    Not enough for Govt. merely to 'back off a bit'.
    Its abuse of power has become overwhelming. Don't insult our intelligence with the pretexts of crime, terrorism and the environment for every bureaucratic inconvenience.
    A fundamental shift is required to keep the state in its proper place. Keep the streets clean and safe, defend our borders, protect the vulnerable and otherwise leave us alone! So where is the righteous indignation from the Conservatives about the alarming erosion of civil liberties and increasing state intrusion?
    Sadly, many Tory local councils seem as bad as their Labour counterparts.
    The growth of the surveillance society indicates a sea change in the relationship between the state, and its hydra headed emanations, and the individual.
    This is my country and I have every right to live in it without interference. Why does the state now want to treat me as a potential criminal, an enemy?

  12. Brian Tomkinson
    June 10, 2008

    Further to my earlier postings, I fear you have much to do to convince some more of your Conservative councillor colleagues to stop spying into people's affairs, judging by this extract from today's Daily Mail:

    "Householders are having their rubbish secretly sifted and weighed to see how much food they are throwing away, it has emerged.

    Wheelie-bins are being taken from residents without their knowledge, and spot checked to see how many scraps of food are in them and how much they weigh.

    No permission is sought for the 'sampling' exercise and the householder is simply presented with a new bin.

    Council taxpayers in Sussex have reacted furiously to the latest example of 'bin bureaucracy' and said officials had no right to snoop on the contents of their refuse.

    Officials at Tory-run Mid-Sussex District Council attempted to reassure locals by telling them it is a 'fact-finding' exercise to gauge how much food is being dumped.

    But residents branded the survey – which cost £1,700 – an invasion of privacy and fear it is the first step towards charging residents who fail to meet Government recycling targets."

  13. Adrian Peirson
    June 11, 2008

    From Freedom to Fascism

    It appears to me that the EU / Govt is deliberately stirring up civil unrest presumably it has something waiting in the wings for us.

    All of this surveillance came about because of Terrorist atrocities carried out by Muslims, at least that is what we are led to believe

    What role do the Global Elite play in all of this.

    What is there to hide if the Bilderberger meetings are benign

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