There’s something about getting a political gig that, er, alters the moral flexibility of the recipient. The position of Home Secretary to Her Majesty’s Government seems to have an especially swift half-life for becoming a totalitarian dickhead.
Frankly, the (never) Right (also never) Honourable Jackie Smith hit the ground running. Massives of extra expensive and near-useless security theatre CCTVs, planned biometric ID cards, raising the level of general fear of everyone who isn’t quite like us – whether they be olive-skinned with beards or birkas, East European workers, and those of us who enjoy consensual sex and pictures thereof…
…and she gets PWNED by local people applying exactly her principles and mechanisms to find out she’s pulling expenses fraud to get her new house built.
As Caroline Cadwallr of the Guardian put it so well:
Hardly anyone actually shoots themselves in the foot or literally gets egg on their face, so it was a real pleasure last week, in so many ways, to witness Jacqui Smith being hoist with her own petard.
A petard was, in the original French, an explosion of intestinal gas which, in turn, gave its name to a small bomb, such as the one that erupted across the papers last week, when the neighbours of her sister’s house in Peckham, south London, came forward and told the press that she was only there a couple of days a week.
Because, in the small matter of whether she was right to pocket £116,000 of additional expenses by claiming that the back bedroom she rents off sister is her “main home”, as opposed to the house she owns in her constituency in Redditch where her husband and children happen to live, this turns out to be critical testimony.
Standards Commissioner John Lyon twice turned down requests to investigate the matter. It was only when some neighbours, Dominic and Jessica Taplin, wrote to him and repeated the claims they made to a newspaper, that she is there rather less than the four nights a week that she claims, that he agreed to open an inquiry.
It’s this that’s the real beauty of the story. Residents on the online East Dulwich forum (East Dulwich being what you call Peckham if you happen to live there) declared themselves outraged at the behaviour of the neighbours, with words like “snitch”, “curtain-twitchers”, “grassers” and “narks” being bandied about (apparently “Dominic and Jessica Taplin represent all that’s worst about the new smug arriviste elements of East Dulwich”). This is the world that Jacqui Smith has created. The only shame is that they didn’t capture her on CCTV.
If you want to rat out your neighbours, allow the home secretary to enumerate the ways. Do you know someone who claims more from the state than they’re entitled to? Who is “picking the pockets of law-abiding taxpayers”? Not politicians over-egging their allowances, obviously, but “benefit thieves”. If so, call 0800 854 440 now. “We’re closing in with hidden cameras. We’re closing in with every means at our disposal.”
Do they own more than one mobile phone? Then call 0800 789 321. “Terrorists need communication. They often collect and use many pay-as-you-go mobile phones, as well as swapping Sim cards and handsets.”
No mobile phones? What about if they’re “hanging around”? Or, as the Home Office-funded radio advertisement puts it: “How can you tell if they’re a normal everyday person or a terrorist? The answer is that you don’t have to. If you call the confidential Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321, the specialist officers you speak to will analyse the information. They’ll decide if and how to follow it up. You don’t have to be sure. If you suspect it, report it.”
It’s such a lovely turn of phrase, that. If you suspect it, report it. Don’t wait for evidence. Or question your own prejudices. If someone’s not a “normal everyday person” exactly like you, then they could well be a member of al-Qaida. What flawless logic that is. We’re already described as “a surveillance state” by Privacy International, one in five of all CCTV cameras ever made are currently in Britain, and Smith is drawing up plans to intercept every phone call we make and every email we send. The Taplins weren’t snitches – they were perfect citizens in her New Model Army.
And what was Ms. Smith up to while these shenannegans were occurring? Losing her temper publicly at noted drug expert (and my-Beloved-the-ex-neurochemist-shaman’s ex-boss) Professor David Nutt to order him to beg the forgiveness of the families of those who died from adverse effects of MDMA, which he had correctly pointed out is actually safer statistically than horse riding.
Of course it’s all about Nutt having the indecency to use an upper-class sport for comparison… nothing gets deeper in the craw of the ruling class than to point out their hobbies are actually less safe and often dumber than those of the hoi-polloi!
Well, slight exaggeration there. But don’t doubt that her deeply narrow mind will accept no disobediance, especialy over teh evuls of hot sex and drugs that can actually help people heal from thr traumas of both normal life and the deeper scars of abuse and post-traumatic damage. Just the sort of damage our modern life and modern wars produce.
People like that, when not able to recover through their own means, those Vachss calls The Children of the Secret especially, often fall into violent crime, usually as much as victims as perps. Relaxing the therapeutic use of MDMA and restrictions on BDSM play would both add to the possibility of some of these people finding their own recovery. You’d think the attendant lowering of violent crime likely to result would be of importance to the Home Sec. Shame she’s too busy making dodgy expenses claims to care, innit?