Richard Ingrams' Week: This hypocritical campaign to preserve our freedoms

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The Independent Online

As the Prime Minister arrived at Parliament on Monday to hear the Queen read out his latest anti-terrorism regulations, a small scene was enacted to illustrate the kind of thing such measures already involve.

A nurse, Peter Murray, who saw Blair whizzing past in his bullet-proof chauffeur-driven car shouted out "boo, boo".

There are probably thousands of people, including myself, who if given the opportunity to shout "boo" at Mr Blair would do the same. Some might even go so far as to throw the odd egg or rotten tomato.

The aim would be to register in a small way our feelings of displeasure, or even disgust, towards this vain, deceitful man who has brought shame on this country and who is directly responsible for the continuing deaths of British servicemen and women in Iraq. But Mr Murray soon learned what happens nowadays to someone who dares to shout "boo" at the Prime Minister.

Two burly policemen approached, searched him and took down his address and telephone number. They were acting, they said, in accordance with Section 44 of the Terrorism Act of 2000.

Such measures, Blair tells us, are necessary to defend our freedoms against the evil terrorists. But then one of the freedoms we thought we had, unlike the poor Iraqis under Saddam Hussein, was the freedom to shout "boo" at our political leaders.

Not any longer. Under the Blair regulations, anyone who does so will be marked down as a potential terrorist threat on the police computer. All in the campaign to preserve our precious freedom.

Another day, another bad diagnosis

Last year Professor David Southall, a prominent paediatrician, walked away from the High Court having avoided being struck off by the General Medical Council for professional misconduct.

The professor, described by his lawyers as "an eminent and highly respected doctor", had garnered a certain amount of disrespect when it was revealed that he had given evidence that a young father, Stephen Clark, had killed his two baby children. The professor's evidence was that he had once seen Mr Clark being interviewed on TV and decided there and then that he was a child murderer.

Professor Southall, a believer, like Professor Sir Roy Meadow, in a bizarre medical theory called Munchausen's syndrome by proxy, now finds himself charged, inter alia, with yet another faulty diagnosis, this time involving a mother whom he accused of hanging her young son and then falsely claiming that he had committed suicide.

This time the medical authorities may find it harder to exonerate the professor. Following the example of Lady Bracknell they may conclude that to make one crazy diagnosis may be accounted a misfortune, to make two - or possibly even more - looks like carelessness.

Even so there will be renewed tut-tutting in medical circles about a distinguished professor being condemned by the GMC and how it will make other experts reluctant in future to give evidence in such cases in case they too are accused of lunatic incompetence and struck off the register.

* I am finding it harder than ever to distinguish Prince Charles from David Cameron. Both are rich and privileged, but both are keen to show that they are unstuffy and classless. Both men have the slightly condescending air of toffs visiting a youth club with an air of concern and commitment towards those less fortunate than themselves. Cameron even seeks to demonstrate his classlessness by not wearing a tie.

The greatest similarity comes with their apparent concern for the environment. Cameron is photographed cycling round London, and now Charles has given instructions that his staff are to use bicycles whenever possible. Meanwhile he himself, we may be sure, will continue to be driven around in gas-guzzling limousines. And the same will be true of Cameron. Both men, if pressed, will say that this is done "for security reasons" - that all-purpose excuse for so many of the inconveniences we encounter in today's Britain.

Perhaps Prince Charles does have some sincere wish to preserve the planet. Cameron, I suspect, is merely responding to what he has been told by market researchers claiming to have discovered the uppermost concerns of voters.

The environment will score a great many points, as will the NHS. This, in turn, explains Cameron's emphasis on health. He is simply reacting to a survey. This is the modern approach in most fields, politics included. Find out what people want and then give it to them. The trouble is, the world doesn't work like that.

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