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Byline: Eryl Jones

DECADES ago, when animated liberal Mr Benn would enter that unassuming changing room in the costume shop, literate children around the land would stare open-mouthed as he found his world transformed and himself in the middle of an adventure.

Steve Dub in Carmarthen One week he would do battle with cowboys in full Apache headdress, the next he would perform keyhole operations on health tourists with the addition of just a white coat and stethoscope. The only limit to his reach was the range of fancy dress on offer on what we used to call the high street before business rates and parking charges laid waste to it all.

It was some achievement then that happiness fans in the Westminster head office arranged a similar experience for the rest of us, without even a full-length mirror and modesty curtain to help. As silent as a ninja, as light of touch as the tooth fairy, those usually self-centred suits on the government benches have managed to give everyone an unexpected glimpse of life in a police state.

The comrades, perhaps radicalised by the criticism of recent weeks, have started the Prisoner-style ball rolling on their attempt to monitor every little word that comes out of your mouth, mind or fingertips. In the interests of terror safety, which overtook actual terror in ability to impinge on civil liberties some way back, everyone's e-mails, telephone conversations, text messages and breakfast menus will be subject to a level of snooping previously confined to eastern Europe should the grim-faced generals get their way.

If it weren't galling enough that there will be even more of your personal information left lying around in train carriages and on the back seats of black cabs, and that you won't be able to enjoy a spot of game chat on Angry Birds without looking over your shoulder, it will be the same ruling class overseeing Operation USSR that spent billions on a fleet of refuelling planes which reportedly don't work on our jets. If they mess this up too then that warehouse where government hides its grand scheme shame is going to be bursting at the seams.

What is beyond doubt is that, as shown by regime after regime, a state more snap-happy than Japan's national tourist champions will only be content when the sky is full of surveillance drones and lampposts capture your conversations. And equally certain is that the covert cheerleaders revelling in the playground mantra of nothing to hide equals nothing to fear, in the absence of a phobia to hang on the camera-shy, are the same ones who are so reticent to throw the cold light of day on their own expenses scandals and expensive failures.

The only question that remains is how many more emperor's new clothes we have to try on before this particular adventure is over.
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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Apr 9, 2012
Words:477
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