Now Big Brother’s watching them watching you

NO DOUBT former North Herts resident Eric Blair is turning in his grave at the latest shenanigans of officialdom. It was he, in his guise as novelist George Orwell, who warned in the work Nineteen Eighty-Four of the authoritarian police state which could

NO DOUBT former North Herts resident Eric Blair is turning in his grave at the latest shenanigans of officialdom.

It was he, in his guise as novelist George Orwell, who warned in the work Nineteen Eighty-Four of the authoritarian police state which could prevail in our land of freedom.

The prophetic vision of the result of totalitarianism painted a horrific picture of the future and gave us such new words and expressions as newspeak, Big Brother, Room 101, doublethink and thought police.

It is said that the man who scraped a living by running the village shop in Wallington near Baldock for a while came up with the name of the novel by swopping round the last two numbers of the year he finished writing it.


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True or not, there was some relief when 1984 eventually arrived and people realised that it was not as bad as Orwell had forecast.

But I put that down to the slowness of the Establishment and bureaucracy. All they needed was time.

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Since 1984, things have moved on a pace in merry old England. Those cheeky CCTV cameras introduced to safeguard us against crime - although they don't seem to put off many people from attacking others on a drunken night out, or robbing corner shops under the clear gaze of the all-seeing eyes - have mushroomed throughout the land.

It is reckoned that we are the most watched nation in Europe with anyone of us being recorded on cameras 200 times or more a day. My wife went to make a deposit in a bottle bank the other day and was aware of a camera pivoting around to focus on her.

What did the operator controlling it think she was up to?

Also worrying is the realisation that, under laws brought in to combat terrorism, councils can stick their noses into phone and email records and use surveillance to detect or stop a criminal offence.

We are not talking bank robberies or murder here, but things such as dog fouling and littering. There was the much publicised case of a family in Dorset followed for several weeks to see if they really did live in a school catchment area.

Thank goodness that councils in England were urged this week to review the way they use surveillance powers.

The chairman of the Local Government Association, no less, has written to local authorities warning that over-zealous use could alienate the public. Too true. But will that stop them? I think not. It is my experience that councils will stubbornly try to justify anything they do because it is their jobsworths who came up with the idea.

Something else which smacks of Big Brother has just emerged. A government minister has revealed that families face fines of £50 for failing to recycle their rubbish under a new pay-as-you-throw bin charge scheme.

People could also be forced to buy tagged or bar coded bin liners just to get councils to take away their rubbish.

And there is even a proposal to force families to buy lockable bins to stop neighbours from dumping their rubbish in them. I'm sure the Roman Empire floundered on less than this.

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