The Coalition has made good progress since coming to power last May restoring some of this country’s longstanding freedoms and liberties. Killing off ID cards and physically shredding the computers that made them is the finest example of the good work being done.
I want the progress made nationally extended to the local level too – specifically, I want to see Plymouth City Council get rid of its horrid spy car (Orwellian translation: ‘road safety and enforcement vehicle’). Seeing this car – a Vauxhall Corsa with a roof-mounted camera – pass you in the street is a scene that makes one think of Zimbabwe or the former East Germany.
Not content with this country being the most heavily surveilled in the world, we are now expected to tolerate a mobile camera able to film us in one of those odd moments when we not already being watched by CCTV.
Not only are we a free country, with a long and proud history of fighting to preserve its freedoms and liberties, the good people of Plymouth endured a long and bitter siege during the English Civil War in the 1640s, defending the power of Parliament over that of the monarch. This is not a city that should kowtow to the sort of intrusive, bullying nonsense symbolised by this car.
This is not just a principled argument however. I have been doing some digging using the Freedom of Information Act, and there is a financial case too for getting rid of the spy car.
The council tells me that the cost of the car from August 2010, when the council started leasing it, through to the end of the last financial year, was £24,000. During the current financial year, the cost is expected to top £32,500, including over £3,000 on petrol. Given that nationally we’re spending £120m every day just paying the interest on the debt we already owe, there really is no money left – time to scrap the spy car.