Freedom of the individual seems to be A Good Thing, a campaigning issue around which a broad consensus can gather and agree. So the group calling itself Big Brother Watch (BBW), which claims to be “freeing the individual”, seems on the face of it to make a positive contribution to the debate over the potential intrusiveness of Government into our lives.
But then one sees the other side of the strapline, “shrinking the state”, and the thought enters that this sounds very much like our old friends at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA). And that is no mere coincidence: BBW has its offices at the same address, 55 Tufton Street SW1, as the TPA. And it is headed by the same person: step forward Matthew “Gromit” Elliott.
Where have we seen this building before?
So it is no surprise that the targets of BBW are all part of that Government that the TPA seeks to demonise. Indeed, BBW concedes that it is “a campaign from the founders of the TPA”. And the two share not only Elliott, but Dominique Lazanski – and Maria Fort, who was one of those sent from London to Ashton-under-Lyne to campaign for the TPA recently, works for BBW.
And this is why BBW campaigns for individual freedom only where Government is involved: there is no mention of private security firms overstepping their powers, no urging that supermarkets cease their frankly paranoid approach to anyone caught writing down prices, and no move against owners of shopping centres who proscribe photography or impose dress codes.
Indeed, BBW talk of being “a force to help a future Government roll back a decade of state interference in our lives”, as if “state interference” is the only kind of restraint on personal freedom. And those commending BBW are an interesting bunch, which includes Telegraph hack Ed “Case” West, the man from NO2ID, and someone from that beacon of accurate and impartial reportage The Register.
And who funds BBW? That, sadly yet predictably, is not told. But that this organisation moves in lockstep with the TPA in using its resources to demonise Government, along with public service and public works, is clear.
[The photograph of 55 Tufton Street will be featuring again in a blog post of its own – very soon]