Slouching towards a police state, one fingerprint at a time

I’ve been getting a bit behind with my blog-reading (and blogging) for the last few days, mostly because Chris has been visiting. This evening I spent an hour or two catching up on my regular feeds, and then wandered over to Buried among a piece on the return of the Transport blog and a rant about Kettering town planning, I encountered a story that provoked a classic double-take. It seems that an increasing number of British pubs and clubs are being required to fingerprint their patrons. Incredulously, I read the background material from the Guardian and the Register, then Guy Herbert’s analysis:

The fingerprinting is epiphenomenon. What’s deeply disturbing here is the construction of new regimes of official control out of powers granted nominally in the spirit of “liberalisation”. The Licensing Act 2003 passed licensing the sale of alcohol and permits for music and dancing – yes, you need a permit to let your customers dance in England and Wales – from magistrates to local authorities. And it provided for local authorities to set conditions on licenses as they saw fit.
Though local authorities are notionally elected bodies, and magistrates appointees, this looked like democratic reform. But all the powers of local authorities are actually exercised by permanent officials – who also tell elected councillors what their duties are. And there are an awful lot of them.
Magistrates used to hear licensing applications quickly. They had other things to do. And they exercised their power judicially: deciding, but not seeking to control. Ms Bradburn and her staff have time to work with the police and the Home Office on innovative schemes. I’ve noted before how simple-sounding powers can be pooled by otherwise separate agencies to common purpose, gaining leverage over the citizen. I call it The Power Wedge.
They are entirely dedicated to making us safer. How terrifying.

I’ve always hung on to my British passport, secure in the knowledge that if things turned pear-shaped in the USA I could always scamper back across the Atlantic to an oasis of relative calm and sanity. Time for Plan B, I think….