The BBC reports that,
Passengers are ready to accept airport-style security screening at certain railway stations, Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander has said.
A trial of X-ray body scanners and other machines will report shortly, Mr Alexander told MPs.
Presumably these include ‘backscatter’ and ‘passive millimetre’ imaging systems.
But he said initial findings suggested passengers “understood the need” for extra security.
The trials, at underground and railway stations in and around London, followed the 7 July bombings last year.
Randomly chosen passengers were asked go through a scanner or were searched either by hand, electronic trace equipment or sniffer dogs.
Mr Alexander said the trials had taken place this year at Paddington Heathrow Express, Canary Wharf, Greenford, Euston and Brighton stations.
With regard to Canary Wharf,
John Garwood, a spokesman for the Canary Wharf Group, which manages the 100-acre site where 80,000 people work and 100,000 visit each week, said the [Thruscan] system was being installed to reassure companies, their staff and the public that the site was as safe as it could be. “This is not a response to a specific threat,” he said.
“Installed to reassure companies, their staff and the public? That looks like security theatre,” my inner cynic said.
Back to Mr Alexander,
“I am satisfied that the emerging findings will assist us to identify a proportionate way forward in applying technological solutions to improve security both on railways and underground networks,” he told the Commons transport select committee.
He said “extensive social research” carried out as part of the trials had shown “the public see the need for increased security and generally find the processes used in the trials to be acceptable”.
So some people aren’t ready to accept such systems. It would be interesting to see the proportion who do, and don’t. Especially given the recent poll that suggested people are concerned about our surveillance society.
The USA’s Transport and Security Administration (TSA) has attempted to address privacy concerns by “working with vendors in order to provide optimum security and maximum privacy”. Some sample images are available from the TSA’s website.
The report would be finished “before Christmas” and his department would then publish the findings.
“We will reach judgements when we have those reports in front of us as to any operational consequences that should follow,” Mr Alexander told MPs.
Mr Alexander said the threat of a terrorist attack in the UK remained “severe”.
I await with interest the report, and the cost-benefit analysis that shows it is worth installing these scanners on our Tube and railway network.
[hat-tip: Magna Carta Plus]
The BBC reports that,
Tony Blair’s outgoing chief strategy adviser fears the internet could be fuelling a “crisis” in the relationship between politicians and voters.
Matthew Taylor – who stressed he was speaking as a “citizen” not a government spokesman – said the web could be “fantastic” for democracy.
But it was too often used to encourage the “shrill discourse of demands” that dominated modern politics.
He was speaking on the day Mr Blair carried out an online interview.
Mr Taylor said Mr Blair’s online grilling from voters – and other initiatives such as environment secretary David Miliband’s blog and Downing Street’s new online petition service – showed the government was making good progress in using the internet to become more open and accountable.
No, those ‘initatives’ don’t show anything of the sort. We have yet to see how the Government will respond to the petitions to ‘Scrap the planned vehicle tracking and road pricing policy‘ (over 20,000 signatures), ‘repeal the Hunting Act 2004‘ (over 14,000), or scrap the proposed introduction of ID cards (over 6,000).
Now add the hobbling of the toothless Freedom of Information Act.
How much progress is this Government making toward openness and accountability?
But he said more needed to be done by the web community in general to encourage people to use the internet to “solve problems” rather than simply abuse politicians or make “incommensurate” demands on them.
Speaking at an e-democracy conference in central London, he said modern politics was all about “quality of life” and that voters had a “very complex set of needs”.
Well, there are over 60m of us, occupying around 20m households.
The end of deference, the rapid pace of social change and growing diversity were all good things, he argued, but they also meant governments found it increasingly difficult to govern.
“We have a citizenry which can be caricatured as being increasingly unwilling to be governed but not yet capable of self-government,” Mr Taylor told the audience.
Like “teenagers”, people were demanding, but “conflicted” about what they actually wanted, he argued.
That seems a bit patronising, doesn’t it?
They wanted “sustainability”, for example, but not higher fuel prices, affordable homes for their children but not new housing developments in their town or village.
Of course. But it is the local/national (delete if unapplicable) government’s job to honestly present all the options and a decision is made based on that. That is what we pay you politicians to do. People are, by the way, generally quite happy to pay a little bit extra in tax for certain things – the NHS, for example.
But rather than work out these dilemmas in partnership with their elected leaders, they were encouraged to regard all politicians as corrupt or “mendacious” by the media, which he described as “a conspiracy to maintain the population in a perpetual state of self-righteous rage”.
Whether media was left wing or right wing, the message was always that “leaders are out there to shaft you”.
Well, some politicians are corrupt or mendacious. Sometimes at the same time.
Hmm, let me recall some scandals… back when New Labour made it to Government in 1997, after a promise to be “whiter than white“, there was the discovery of Geoffrey Robinson’s loan to Peter Mandelson, when Mandelson’s DTI was investigating Robinson’s businesses (Mandelson’s first resignation)…
He went on: “At a time at which we need a richer relationship between politicians and citizens than we have ever had, to confront the shared challenges we face, arguably we have a more impoverished relationship between politicians and citizens than we have ever had.
…”cash for access“…
“It seems to me this is something which is worth calling a crisis.”
The internet, he told the conference, was part of that “crisis”.
“The internet has immense potential but we face a real problem if the main way in which that potential expresses itself is through allowing citizens to participate in a shrill discourse of demands.
“If you look at the way in which citizens are using technology and the way that is growing up, there are worrying signs that that is the case.
“What is the big breakthrough, in terms of politics, on the web in the last few years? It’s basically blogs which are, generally speaking, hostile and, generally speaking, basically see their job as every day exposing how venal, stupid, mendacious politicians are.”
Yes it’s a great breakthrough, isn’t it?
“The internet is being used as a tool of mobilisation, which is fantastic, but it only adds to the growing, incommensurate nature of the demands being made on government.”
He challenged the online community to provide more opportunities for “people to try to understand the real trade-offs that politicians face and the real dilemmas that citizens face”.
“I want people to have more power, but I want them to have more power in the context of a more mature discourse about the responsibilities of government and the responsibilities of citizens,” Mr Taylor told delegates.
Part of the problem, he added, was the “net-head” culture itself, which was rooted in libertarianism and “anti-establishment” attitudes.
Oh, those evil libertarians.
Shurely, Mr Taylor, part of the problem is the culture of politicians, which is rooted in corruption and mendacity.
He told delegates: “You have to be part of changing that culture. It’s important for people who understand technology, to move from that frame of mind, which is about attacking the establishment into one which is about problem-solving and social enterprise.”
Technology should be used to encourage elected representatives to communicate better with voters, he told delegates.
Government also needed to “develop new forms of consultation and engagement that are deliberative in their form and trust citizens to get to the heart of the difficult trade-offs involved.”
And there should be more effort to make communities “work together to solve problems,” said Mr Taylor.
Mr Taylor is Tony Blair’s chief adviser on political strategy and the former head of the centre left think tank the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR).
He is leaving Downing Street next week, after three years, to become the chief executive of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts (RSA).
Mr Taylor appears to be someone who has ignored the ‘interim assessment’ of the Party Funding Review and the conclusions of the Power Inquiry (see previous article and a poll of 1,025 non-voters, 79Kb PDF).
- there is widespread disenchantment with politicians;
- trust in politicians at a national level and trust in political parties are both low, and have been subject to a long-term decline;
- the main political parties are widely perceived to be too similar and lacking in principle.
And it aint because of blogs.
Perhaps if politicians stopped having affairs with their staff, taking bribes, lying, giving their friends jobs, stopped wasting our money, living the high life on taxpayer money, and instead got on with the jobs we pay them to do, there wouldn’t be any nasty bloggers to hurt poor Mr Taylor’s feelings.
The better bloggers cite their sources, unlike traditional media and politicians. And, again unlike traditional media (and perhaps politicians), bloggers aren’t perceived to be under the control of a huge corporation that wants influence and advertising revenue. The media and politicians are losing control of the information we want to consume.
Any of us can setup and run a blog for free (rather than £4,500 a year, Mr Miliband), and our politicians don’t like it.
The public finally have a voice.
Three cheers for blogs!