All at sea with the feel-safe factor
Tuesday 11 February 1997
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.
TAPE EXTRACT ONE
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 ! ....
TAPE EXTRACT TWO
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.
TAPE EXTRACT THREE
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 ....
TAPE EXTRACT FOUR
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.
Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax
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