WRITTEN ON July 4th, 2008 BY William Heath AND STORED IN Uncategorized

When things get difficult, the climate goes weird or we’re all in a desperate scramble for scarce resources what will matter immensely is how we treat each other. And I think Downing Street has an especial responsibility for setting the tone. It should be a real treat to go there.

That’s why I feel a bit weird about this evening.

I was delighted to get invited to a reception at #11, in excellent company, with fab refreshments and pastoral scenes of the PM having a hour’s peaceful chat in the garden with someone I didnt recognise. It was quite short notice, but that’s cool – kinda spontaneous. (I wasnt B-listed – everyone got about 30 hours notice).

I picked up the invitation that morning, and what was weird was this. It was on two thick cards – almost bullet-proof, with a gold rim that nearly set off the metal detectors. The first one said

For security reasons please bring this invitation, and photo id (e.g. driving licence or passport). Please note that for security reasons the use of mobile phones and cameras are prohibited in No 11 Downing Street

The second card of an identical format was an “admit William Heath” card to be presented at the door. It said

No. 11 Downing Street is a protected site under Section 128 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. Trespass at this site is a criminal offence. You must remain within the public area at all times. Failure to do so may make you liable to prosecution.

An accompanying letter said

If you do not bring additional identification you will not be able to gain entry to the event.

Then there was stuff about searches, metal detectors, x-rays and the prohibition of cameras and mobile phones.

Is it just me, or does that feel a bit weird? Don’t get me wrong – I was delighted to be invited, and it was a lovely evening, and I would not want anything untoward to happen in No 11 Downing Street any more than I would wish it on anywhere else.

The ID thing was awkward, as I hadn’t been home in five days and don’t carry photo ID. Bill Thompson pretty much bet me I therefore could not get in. But I did, because the kind staff organising the event made special efforts on my behalf. So the system has edges which can be subverted.

I just find it odd. If you invite people to something, you presumably know who they are. I wonder how many episodes there have been in the last decade of impersonation of named guests plus theft of their invitations. Coupled with all the fortifications around Downing Street and da House it gives the impression of a govermment that believes it is loathed by the people who give it legitimacy, and scared of them. This is far from ideal.

I don’t think this sort of gun-waving scariness is the right way to treat generally law-abiding taxpayers, especially when trying to create a feelgood factor.

I think Downing Street should be setting an example of how we treat each other. But I don’t think I’ll be copying these phrases on to invitations I issue in future.

So:

THANK YOU to those who conceived and organised the event, and sorry to be a non-confirmist pain
Wibbi we practised a security that was more respectful of people, less intrusive and frankly less bossy.
Wibbi the visits of largely law-abiding taxpayers to public places that are symbolic of our servant, government, were seen to be cherished

One Response to “Protected site under section 128 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005: my ass”

 
Richard Sarson wrote on July 9th, 2008 3:26 pm :

Recently I too went to a reception at No.11. I proffered my ID Card, dated 1948-1952, at the Thatcher gate, and the copper looked at it scornfully, and asked me if I had any “proper ID”. I felt slightly miffed, as I consider myself to be the only person in the country to be still carrying round a proper official National Identity Card.

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