All at sea with the feel-safe factor

Whether or not Michael Howard ever gets the power to place bugs on unwitting people, we now know that unauthorised bugging of suspicious people already takes place.

I can actually give you an example.

For the past few weeks a bugging device has been placed experimentally in Michael Howard's office at the Home Office. Nobody knew it was there except, of course, my mole who put it there in the first place.

Judge for yourself whether it was a worthwhile experiment from these extracts from conversations on the tape, chosen carefully at random by me.


Mole: Testing, testing, testing. One two three.... Prison works! Put everyone behind bars! Hang the cost! And hang everyone else as well! Right, let's see if that's working ...

Playback: Prison works! Put everyone behind bars! Hang the cost ! ....

Mole: Perfect.


1st Aide: What's this meeting going to be all about?

2nd Aide: Search me. He can't be announcing more prisons, can he? There's nowhere left to put them.

1st Aide: Oh, come on - Howard can always think of somewhere else to put more prisoners. On floating hulks, in old holiday camps ....

2nd Aide: Underground at road-building protests ....

1st Aide: What is this mania he has to put everyone behind bars? Hold on - here he comes ....

Howard: Right, gentlemen, without further ado let's get down to business. And we only have one piece of business in front of us. Winning the election!

1st Aide: With the best will in the world, sir, it is no part of a civil servant's brief to help win an election.

Howard: To win the election we have to make people feel they're safe with us. I call it the feel-safe factor! And to do this we have to put various feel-safe factors into operation, such as cracking down on illegal immigrants and keeping Myra Hindley in jail for ever.

2nd Aide: Isn't there a danger that this may turn people in her favour, sir? Do people really think that if she is let out now, she is going to roam the countryside killing people? I mean, not even OJ Simpson has reoffended ....

Howard: Are you disagreeing with me ?

2nd Aide: No, sir. Merely pointing out ....

Howard: And another thing. If we can pin-point a public enemy for people to hate, that will also bring people on our side. I want you to find out who, in the last year, has committed the most offences in British courts. And name him publicly.

1st Aide: But ....

Howard: Do it, you recalcitrant bastards!

Sound of slamming door.

1st Aide: Well, I don't know about you, but I thought he was in an unusually good mood today.


Only the two aides are present. 1st Aide: Well, the Myra Hindley announcement hasn't materially altered the opinion polls.

2nd Aide: John ....

1st Aide: Yes ?

2nd Aide: Has it ever occurred to you that Myra Hindley and Michael Howard have the same initials?

1st Aide: No. But why should that ...?

2nd Aide: Well, the Home Secretary seems to have a bit of an obsession with her. I just wondered if in some strange way he identified with her, in a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde sort of way. The dark side of the moon ... the evil side of his own character ... In their own ways, Hindley and Howard have tried to put away as many people as possible ....

1st Aide: Are you going round the bend ?

2nd Aide: Maybe. Sometimes I think I've been here too long ....


Howard: Well, any progress on the naming of the worst offender of the year ?

1st Aide: Yes, sir. We ran a search on the name singly most criticised by the courts and ... well, bad luck, sir. It's you, sir.

Howard: ME ?

2nd Aide: Yes, sir. Apparently you have been more ruled out of order and in contempt of the law than anyone else this past year.

1st Aide: Shall we put out a press release to that effect?

Howard: No, no ... Just make the announcement that I am buying lots of floating prisons.

1st Aide: Yes, sir. Incidentally, why are we doing this ?

Howard: Because I want to win the next election and I don't want prisoners voting against us.

2nd Aide: But, sir, prisoners don't have the vote anyway.

Howard: I'm taking no chances! I'm putting all the likely Labour voters in off-shore prisons so that they lose their residential right to vote in Britain as well! Now, move!

Slamming of door.

1st Aide: Well. What do you say to that ?

2nd Aide: Roll on the election, I say.

More tape extracts soon, unless an injunction descends on my mole.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has over 40 years ...

Recruitment Genius: Weekend Factory Operatives

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer is curr...

Recruitment Genius: FP&A Analyst

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A market leading acquirer and m...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fully qualified electricians re...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific