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LETTER: Building a police state in Britain

From Mr John Alderson

Sir: Christopher Bellamy reports (17 November) a speech by Michael Portillo, Secretary of State for Defence, to top military and civil servants in which he painted a grave picture of future "inner-city crime", which may call for the Armed Forces of the Crown to be diverted to police duties. This, coming in the same week as the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, informed us via the Queen's Speech that our secret political police (MI5) would also now be diverted to police duties, should concern us.

Are the seeds of our own version of the East German Stasi being sown ostensibly to protect us from what the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence seem to see as the evil in our midst? To put two building blocks of the police state into position in one week must be a record, outside war.

It was only through the House of Lords that the Home Secretary's plans for control of our police authorities failed; he has abolished our constitutional right of silence under police cell interrogation, and we are being softened up for the compulsory carrying of identity cards. Conflict between the Home Secretary's interventionist policies in penal sentencing and the judiciary is now serious. Surely we are not witnessing incipient fascism?

Fascism breeds on the incubus of extreme nationalism and authoritarianism, and initially seeks control of the police. It is usual, through rhetoric, to create fears in the minds of people and then to con them into surrendering freedom for security.

George Orwell wrote in The Road to Wigan Pier: "It is usual to speak of the fascists' objective as the 'beehive state' which does great injustice to the bees. A world of rabbits ruled by stoats would be nearer the mark".

Yours faithfully,

John Alderson

Ottery St Mary,


The writer was Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall (1973-1982).