Above this legend are two eyes. It’s like that Conservative Party advert of 1997. “NEW LABOUR NEW DANGER” ran the message back then. Tony Blair’s red eyes were demonic.
The message today needs to be whispered. Tony is all eyes and ears. Tony Blair’s eyes are no longer red but shine with the enlightenment of an evangelist.
“What it really means in Britain today as Tony Blair unveils his latest assault on civil liberties,” says the Indy.
The paper talks of a “super-computer” on which the records of each Briton will be stored. This is augmented by the DNA database housing the genetic makeup of each and very one of us. Medical records will be made available to hospital managers, high street pharmacists and civil servants. Information will be carried by the individual in the form of a card. Fifty-two items of information will appear on this card, including iris scans and fingerprints.
And all the while Tony will be watching. There is now one CCTV camera for every 14 people in the UK. And the Department of Transport and movement is looking at a system where every vehicles exact movements can be tracked.
Tony’s eyes look out from the page. Tony is watching.
Of course, this might not all be bad news. The adage goes that only the guilty need to fear the rule of law. The innocent will be protected.
And then there is the Indy’s use of “Big Brother”. The Times echoes this in “Big Brother database fears”.
Big Brother no longer turns minds to hellish visions the State in total control, as in the Orwellian vision of the future. Big Brother is a chance to pull down our trousers and scream “I’m mad me”. Geordies wandering around the Bigg Market on a Saturday night may well applaud the arrival of a Big Brother state and get ‘em out for the lads.
Of course, the message that only the guilty need be worried works up until the point the powers that be outlaw your hitherto legal activities. Was that you smoking a cigarette on the street corner? Forensics say the puddle of spittle found on the roadside belongs to you. Are you now or have your ever been a Jew? Black? French?
Shami Chakrabrati, the ubiquitous voice of civil liberties in the UK, is unafraid to speak out. “This is an accumulation of our Government’s contempt for our privacy,” says the director of Liberty. “This half-baked proposal would allow an information free-for-all within government – ripe for disastrous errors and ripe for corruption and fraud.”
Indeed, while the cops are watching us, who is watching them. Or will a pair of Tony’s all-seeing eyes appear in every room, in every house and office?
But isn’t an open pool of information that can shared across Government departments a step towards stamping out fraud? Won’t the police be better able to do their jobs by having access to information?
“Step by step, the Government is logging details of every man, woman and child in ‘Big Brother’ computers,” says Oliver Head, the Shadow Constitutional Affairs Secretary in the Times.
But no decision on the super database has been made. And, as the Times reports, the proposal will be put to a panel of citizens before Downing Street makes a final decision.
Although which citizens and how they will be selected has yet to be ruled upon…