Monday, July 07, 2008

Things Fall Apart, the Centre Cannot Hold ...

It looks as if the plans are being put in place for when it all goes pearshaped :

7. At the same time we need to recognise that community tensions can escalate into violent disorder and that short-term and possibly unpredicted factors, in this country or abroad, have the potential to trigger conflict in normally cohesive communities. These factors may include a racially or religiously motivated assault, an act of terrorism, or military conflict.

8. Arrangements for monitoring and responding to rises in community tension already occupy an important place in ongoing local community cohesion activity. The Government believes that it is vital for every local authority and its partners to consider developing a local cohesion contingency plan which sets out the roles, responsibilities and processes to be activated should local community tensions be assessed as likely to result in serious violence or disturbance and in the event of actual disorder occurring.
The good news is that local authorities in general, and NuLab in particular, are legendarily incompetent.

This ghastly bureaucratic questionnaire reminds us of those mentioned in the satire The Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek.

The similarities between the incompetent police state bureaucracy just before the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire during the First World War, and that which has been instituted by the failing Labour regime and with its "Community Cohesion" snooping and "intervention", are remarkable...

In the satirical novel, the bureaucratic Sergeant Flanderka mistakes The Good Soldier Švejk for an enemy Russian rather than a Czech soldier, and, in order to make himself appear more important to his superiors, even exaggerates this mistake by convincing himself that Švejk must actually be an elite high ranking Russian officer spy.

We expect that exactly the same will happen with this "tension monitoring" nonsense. Either people will just "go through the motions" and tick all the "everything is ok here" boxes, or else some apparatchik, ambitious for promotion, or fearful of having their funding cut back, will exaggerate and invent "community tension" where none actually exists, to cast themselves in a good light.

Will such Local Authority "little Hitlers" be tempted to make disproportionate use of their Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act powers for Communications Traffic Data and Directed Surveillance, using "tension monitoring" as an excuse ?.

Yup. (via the Englishman)

UPDATE - it's interesting to see the successful application of media pressure. Local authorities are among the biggest advertisers in local papers, so it wouldn't take more than a phone call or two to get the message across.

Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council - Tameside holds regular meetings with local newspaper editors to gather information and stop sensationalist reporting which might otherwise start or add to rising tensions, e.g. in response to a Kick Racism out of Football campaign, an extremist political group wanted to picket a local football stadium. A local newspaper was going to print the story on its front page – an action that was likely to bring unwanted publicity to the picket and fuel rising community tensions. The intervention of the Community Cohesion Partnership prevented the story from being run and in the event no-one turned out for the picket.

Berwick-upon-Tweed Borough Council - The Berwick Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership (CDRP) is working with the local press/media to vet stories involving migrant workers from eastern Europe and Portugal employed in the food processing and agricultural sectors to prevent stigmatisation.
Can't say plainer than that, can you ? And how about this ?

Monitoring political extremism
60. Local tension monitoring may take specific account of activities by members of any political group which increase community tension.
61. It is important that the gathering and use of such information complies with any legislation which might be relevant (for example the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and the Data Protection Act 1998).
Now I seem to recall that RIPA was sold to the Great British Public as a means of preventing terrorism and organised crime, not for monitoring "activities by members of any political group". Silly me.