“This was a golden age for snitchers. One offence in particular relied heavily on tip-offs from the public: listening to foreign radio broadcasts, particularly those of the BBC. Peter Holdenberg, a 64-year-old disabled bookseller, who lived in Essen, was accused by his neighbour Helen Stuffel of this offence, which carried a prison sentence of up to 18 months. She had listened at the wall of Peter’s next-door apartment. She said she could clearly hear him listening to BBC programmes during the evening. Another neighbour, Irmgard Pierce, corroborated her allegations. Holdenberg was brought in for questioning by the Gestapo on December 10th, 1942” Frank McDonough writing about the Gestapo’s reliance on informers.”
And so we enter a new golden age for snitchers as Kit Malthouse, the Policing Minister, urges neighbour to turn on neighbour if his precious Rule of Six is broken. While noting, in passing, that no one these days would rely on the BBC for impartial information, the sheer terror of the population turning on each other is back again. Peter Holdenberg hung himself on the evening of his arrest.
You might think Malthouse was a Minister who had simply gone rogue but not a bit of it. Along comes the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, declaring that stopping for a chat in the street with a family you know counts as “mingling” and essentially breaks the law. Lord Scriven the Lib Dem Peer attempted to put this nasty little utterance into context when he told the Lords “For the first time since the 1300s mingling is an offence under English law”.
Talking of our cradle of democracy what have our MPs got to say about the Tory Party moving towards totalitarianism? With a few honourable exceptions such as my constituency MP, Tom Tugendhat, nothing, nada, zippo. A charitable explanation is that they are all too busy huffing and puffing about the Internal Withdrawal Bill. A more likely outcome is the Tory backbenchers have adopted the usual nodding donkey position, and the Labour Party is of course wedded to the State controlling our lives anyway.
Any of our other leaders waking up to a reign of terror arriving on our doorsteps? Why, yes, the Archbishop of Canterbury, having put his churches to sleep for much of the last six months, has expressed his deep concern about what the Rule of Six is having on family life, Christmas and so on. His solution is to devolve decision making on Covid19 restrictions to local level. God help us (sic), he clearly doesn’t realise that local councillors and their acolytes are a traditional hot bed of little Hitlers. Step forward North Warwickshire Borough Council who issued a photograph on social media of three teenage girls sitting together, with the caption “Don’t meet up with friends. Hanging about in parks could KILL. Save someone’s Nan!” In the week to September 4th, which is the last figure available, the average daily death rate from Covid 19 in the UK was 12. Maybe they all happened in North Warwickshire. Better start recruiting those Covid Marshals that Boris thinks is such a good idea, pronto.
I suggest that what is going here is that Boris and his cabinet colleagues have become drunk on power. When you are in a state of intoxication your actions seem entirely reasonable to your addled self. Why not turn us all into informants on behalf of the State? Why not recruit civilians to marshal everyone into line? In the old days we put them in brown or black shirts. Now, to conform to health and safety, we’ll give them high vis jackets instead. What will the hangover consist of? Will voters realise they must turn away from the politics of rule by fear and hatred? We can but hope.
The City Grump has spent some 40 years in the City of London. He started as a stockbroker’s analyst but after some years he decided he was too grumpy to continue with the sell side of things so he moved to the buy side and became a fund manager for the next 20 years, selling his own business in the 1990s. Post the millennium, he found himself in turn chairing a stockbroker, a financial PR company, and an Exchange. He still keeps his hand in, chairing a brace of VCTs and investing personally in startups. The City Grump’s publications are available here.