Andy McSmith's Diary: CCTV violates human rights? Well, so does being mugged


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Indy Politics

I cannot understand why civil rights organisations object to CCTV in public places. Nothing in Magna Carta nor the European Convention on Human Rights says you have the right to be invisible walking down the street. When my teenage son was robbed and beaten up, we thought the four culprits would be caught when we learnt that they had been seen hanging around underneath a CCTV camera just before the attack – except, unfortunately, Big Brother was not watching: the useless thing was switched off.

Yet when my colleague Chris Green reported the disturbing news that councils are switching off CCTV cameras to save money, this was – apparently – music to the ears of the pressure group Big Brother Watch, whose director, Emily Carr, thinks councils should be “regularly reviewing” whether CCTV is “necessary”.

On cue, Enfield council, in London, reports a stark illustration of the unique benefits of CCTV. Early one morning, council staff were monitoring their screen and spotted a man swinging his arms as he walked along a busy road during the rush hour, stark naked.

Council staff called the police, who took the man home and called an ambulance. If the civil rights lobby had their way, that man might still be wandering the streets of Enfield like a lost Lady Godiva.

Fox squared

A headline from the Wiltshire Times: “Fox predicts hunting change defeat – any move to repeal the ban on fox hunting would fail, Liam Fox predicted.”

Heath row

Some years after Edward Heath lost the leadership of the Conservative Party to Margaret Thatcher, he took over the lease of Arundells, a beautiful house near Salisbury Cathedral. The property dated from the reign of Queen Anne, and Heath turned it into a lasting monument to himself. The house is replete with his memorabilia.

On the grand piano he arranged a huge collection of framed photographs of the sort that heads of state give to one another. Thatcher visited the house only once, on the occasion of Heath’s funeral – and then, one suspects, only to make quite sure that the old curmudgeon was actually dead and not just sulking.

Sir Edward bequeathed this unique building to the nation, but Arundells’ trustees have had their work cut out drawing in enough tourists to pay for its upkeep.

Three years ago, there was talk of selling the house and donating the proceeds to charity, yet it is still open, almost exactly as it was in Heath’s lifetime, though with added exhibition space, and attracting 10,000 visitors a year.

But the latest plan to make the building pay its way has been sunk by the local council. The trustees have been denied permission to hold events in the garden because the Dean of Salisbury Cathedral and others objected. “It’s a setback – but that’s all it is,” Gerald Gibson, of the Friends of Arundells, tells me.

Off without a Hitch

Having been denied a Peter Hitchens column in the Mail on Sunday for three consecutive weekends, how it cheers me to see he is back, and miserable as Morrissey. His verdict on the election? “The Heir to Blair has at last fully inherited his hero’s estate – and we have to live there.”

And his prediction for the referendum on EU membership? “The trap will snap shut and the issue will be closed… forever.” Now that the Conservatives are back in power for the duration, at least readers of the Mail titles can be exposed again to someone who despises David Cameron.