Lansley Plays 1: Dr N.H. Service, Ms Surveillance, and Sir Lansley Burnham-Balls

A three-act satire on the role which the British National Health Service plays in the information-surveillance complex of the United Kingdom.

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2. Act I

Dr N.H. Service, Ms Surveillance, and Sir Lansley Burnham-Balls

 

 

The set is a spacious office in an old Georgian building with high ceiling, windows, curtains, wooden floorboards, exposed beams, and a door in one corner. There is a large desk in the corner opposite the door, with chairs in front and behind. The curtains are wide apart, allowing ample daylight to flood in through tall windows. The drone, vibration, and shadow of a police helicopter pass slowly across the window.  A small, dark ball-camera in a camouflage-painted case is mounted high on one wall. Two paintings hang on another wall - a nineteenth century impression of Parliament overlooking the Thames, and a portrait of Andy Burnham dressed in the uniform of the string-puppet Captain Black - the nemesis of Captain Scarlet.     

 

 

ACT I

 

A slightly maniacal-looking female psychiatrist, attractive and scary, wearing a black powersuit over a tan-brown shirt, modest heels, and black stockings, enters the office. Her appearance is anachronistic, like the administrator of a political-correction institution from the 1940s. She wears a small iron-cross trinket high against her neck. She has piercing blue eyes and short dark hair with a fringe combed to one side. A faint hairy patch, like a paintbrush moustache, sits above her upper lip. She poses in the centre of the room with arms folded in a mannered stance, chin tucked down, and peering eyes darting left-then-right as she looks around the unfamiliar setting. A decorative and officious young woman enters behind her, wearing a light-coloured pencil skirt and a tight blouse. Her hair is pinned up, she wears spectacles, and carries a notepad, pen, and a looseleaf folder.

 

MS. Welcome to the Department of Healthy Minds, Dr Service. My name is Ms Surveillance - Sir Lansley’s personal assistant. Take a seat, Sir Lansley will be here shortly.

 

Dr Service is slightly in awe of the setting. She looks around warily, like an ambitious neophyte visiting a temple for the first time, as she sits primly in the chair in front of the desk. She folds her arms defensively and uses one hand to flick her fringe in a neurotic mannerism.

 

Tea or coffee?

 

Dr Service speaks with a slight accent and occasional lapse into a Teutonic dialect.

 

DR. Kaffee - mit cream, bitte.

 

Ms Surveillance departs, leaving Dr Service to glance at the walls. She stands and studies the impressionist painting of Parliament overlooking the Thames as if intrigued by its cultural significance - like an anthropologist discovering a cave painting. A stern portrait of a previous incumbent, Andy Burnham, dressed as Captain Black in a peaked cap, looks down on her approvingly. Her gaze fixes on the small ball-camera mounted beneath the ceiling. The camouflage-painted casing of the camera closes and opens as if winking at her.

Dr Service sits down again before Ms Surveillance returns. Ms Surveillance reenters the office with coffee in an elegant white porcelain cup on a saucer, which she hands to the visitor. Dr Service takes a black glove from her jacket pocket and puts it on her hand before accepting the saucer.

 

Diagonistic apraxia - alien hand syndrome - I’m a psychiatrist.

 

Ms Surveillance is slightly perplexed and frowns. Dr Service lays the saucer on the desk, but does not drink from the cup.

 

Has ze minister been delayed?

 

Dr Service takes a short drinking straw from the inside pocket of her jacket, dips it in the coffee and drains the cup.

Ms Surveillance maintains a level tone as she speaks, while observing this strange behaviour.

 

MS. He should be here any moment and is keen to discuss your proposal. The government wants to make better use of the doctors we employ than simply treating patients.

 

DR. Hath you read my proposal?

MS.  Yes.

DR.  Vhat do you think?

 

Ms Surveillance shifts her stance defensively.

 

MS. What I think hardly matters. I’m just a personal assistant.

DR.  But it must hath crossed your desk en route to ze minister.

MS.  I passed it on for further consideration.

DR.  Did you endorse it?

 

Ms Surveillance laughs condescendingly.

 

MS. You obviously don’t understand how things work around here.

DR. Maybe not ...

 

Dr Service allows her ambitious gaze to wander.

 

  ... but I vould like more information about you - und zis Department of Healthy Minds.

 

Dr Service taps the straw on the lip of the cup to discard a few remaining droplets of coffee, licks the end dry, then slots the straw back inside her jacket pocket like an essential accessory to modern living.

 

MS.  I don’t endorse anything. I sift out the more extreme rants and diatribes, write polite letters to lunatics, and place their details on a database to be dealt with by a future solution. Compulsory sterilization perhaps, to purify the national identity database of its undesirable genes.

 

Dr Service turns her head sharply.

 

DR.  Am I on zis database of ze genetically undesirable?

MS. If you were, it is unlikely you would be here now. Sir Lansley is very selective about who he meets - both as a cabinet secretary and as a representative of constituents.

DR. Zat ist comforting to know.

MS.  But don’t take it as proof of sanity. Governments throughout history have employed their fair share of madmen - and women.

DR. But surely, ze brave new government you serve now ist different to ze previous vun? Your backbenchers make beautiful speeches about rights - und freedoms - destroyed by ze statist Labour Party - vhich now mocks your front bench for not understanding ze practicalities of government in ze digital age. Hast anything really changed?

MS. Perhaps.

DR.  You don’t sound absolutely certain.

MS. How certain would you like me to be?

 

Dr Service smiles cynically.

 

DR. Completely uncertain - unless you secretly believe in ze old religion of liberal democracy und due process of law.

 

Ms Surveillance is slightly affronted by this candor.

 

MS. I might. Is it any of your business what my personal beliefs are?

DR.   It could become my business - as an architect of ze solution you refer to. 

MS.  I’m not your patient, Dr Service. I’m still entitled to think freely.

DR.  For now - but if I’m verking as a highly paid consultant in zis department, ze right to private thought vill hath to be reviewed in line mit ze recent advances in medical surveillance technology.

 

Dr Service glances around the impressive interior and runs her gloved finger over the polished teak surface of the desk.

 

MS. That’s still a big if. And the more I hear you speak, the bigger it gets. DR. I thought you vere merely a - personal assistant?

 

Ms Surveillance lowers her tone.

 

MS. Which means I assist in the decision making.

 

Dr Service smirks, then quickly changes tack.

 

DR. How can Sir Lansley serve as a minister of ze Crown und represent his constituents at ze same time? In opposition, he should hath verk-ed a 50 hour veek as a legislator und a constituency MP. Now zat he’s in government, he must, presumably, verk a 50 hour veek as a cabinet secretary formulating policy, appearing on Newsnight und Question Time, und overseeing ze multi-billion pound budget. Does he verk ein hundert hours a veek now zat he holds such exalted high office, or hath some of his constituents lost zeir representation?

MS.  The Executive is embedded within the Legislature. A quirk of the British Parliamentary system which prevents a repeat of the Civil Wars. It’s more convenient this way when it comes to getting legislation through the House of Commons without too much awkward scrutiny.

DR.  Surely, as government techniques in harassment-surveillance become increasingly pervasive, und trample over ze old common law rights of ze individual, constituents vill need zeir Parliamentary representatives more zan efer as a bulvark against ze efer-growing arbitrary powers of ze Executive? Far better to be represented by a radical backbencher zan a busy und ambitious minister.

MS.  Sir Lansley hasn’t totally given up on constituency work - and radical backbenchers have very little influence over a strong government.

DR.  But zere must be a conflict of interest between Sir Lansley’s two constitutional roles?

MS.   Not really. As a cabinet secretary, Sir Lansley’s first duty is to the government and his ministerial career. The views of individual con-stituents are statistically insignificant - unless they are backed by a tabloid newspaper or a lobby group which can get them on TV.

DR.  Not exactly representation of ze people - as zose vaspish founding fathers intended.

MS.  The waspish founding fathers were Americans with quill-pens. Our founding fathers were Normans with daggers drawn. Our politics have remained essentially feudal, even though the rest of society has moved on a bit. If you watch PMQs, you’ll notice that the despatch boxes are still kept two sword-lengths apart.

DR.  I vatch on C-Span, for ze body language und ze Freudian slips.

MS.  Margaret Thatcher believed that the views of an elected ruler repre-sented those of the people for five years by virtue of her mandate. She became, in effect, the embodiment of the nation, like Queen Elizabeth I at Tilbury, rallying the troops against the invasion threat from the pro-European Spanish Armada.

DR.  A veak und feeble voman mit ze heart und stomach of a king - und of a king of England too. But your modern rulers are not elected - zey are selected by political parties. MS. A moot point. We know whom we’re voting for, even though the names of party leaders are not actually on the ballet paper.

 

Dr  Service considers this and smiles.

 

DR.   I like your system. It profides strong government und electric trains vhich nearly run on time. But I can enhance ze elected dictatorship by offering something more. Something vhich very few ministers vill vant to refuse, und efen fewer vill hath ze courage to. Certainly not ze right-honourable Sir Lansley Balls-Burnham. MS. That’s Burnham-Balls, Frau Doktor, or Dubble-Bu,

 

Emphasis on ‘Dubble’ - as in the Texan pronunciation of Dubya. 

 

as the press have dubbed him. What is it you think the politicians will find so irresistible?

DR. Not irresistible, but indispensable in ze brave new velt of ze camera und ze database. You said you read ze proposal.

MS. So I did. But you seem to be attaching greater weight to its significance than I appreciated. I also mentioned that my job is to weed out the cranks and the extremists.

DR. I’m offering something vhich all British politicians aspire to possess. Ze godlike power to control other people’s lives using technology in vays undreamed of by any previous regime in history.  

 

Ms Surveillance pauses before answering.

 

MS. Sir Lansley is a cabinet secretary. He already exercises a considerable amount of power in office, with statutory instruments to change the law at will, and discretionary powers to do all sorts of scary things the voters don’t know anything about - except a few well-informed journalists, whom no one ever reads.

DR. But not arbitrary power, unfettered by ze archaic judicial system und due process of law.

MS. Tony Blair tried to abolish Parliament, in the style of Henry VIII, with the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill 2006. Maybe you should talk to the Home Office or the Ministry of Justice. They control the Metropolitan Police - essential to any coup d’etat. We’re just the Department of Healthy Minds - a poor relation in comparison to the great Ministries of State.

DR. Perhaps for now, but ze times zey are a changing ze balance of great powers in government, und ze medical surveillance technology ist ze latest political veapon in ze arms race - like ze new dreadnoughts or ze panzers. Do you efer read military history, Ms Surveillance?

MS. I’m a Sloanie - what do you think?

DR. Vell, if you vere to put down your copy of Cosmopolitan - or Teen Vogue - for a moment und pick up ze great verks of your famous Haupt-mann Basil Liddell Hart, you vould learn zat full frontal attacks against ze entrenched positions rarely efer verk. MS. Maybe so, but with defence cuts and the expansion of paramilitary police units, I’d say the Met now has more machine guns, helicopters, and body armour than the British Army.

DR. But efen mit der Panzer Speerpunkt im Blitzkrieg, you still need to out-flank ze enemy und bring zem down mit enfilading fire.

MS. The enemy being who - in this case?

DR. Ze enemy vizin. Ze Fifth Column. Ze human rights lawyers who argue in court und test ze evidence rationally - like zose Enlightenment thinkers und writers of ze eighteenth century who curbed ze arbitrary power of ze Renaissance princes.

MS. I thought it was the mercantile class, the bourgeoisie, which curbed the power of the princes to tax them.

DR. Ze money of ze merchants paid for ze mercenary lawyers.

MS. But surely, whatever you think of lawyers, they are essential to a functioning liberal democracy?

 

Dr Service sighs.

 

DR. Zey are essential to property conveyance in Capitalist societies, but not much else. Ze eccentric journalist, Andrew Marr, has suggested zat liberal democracy vill not survive long into ze technocratic age. I’m inclined to agree mit him - vhich ist vhy I am here as a consultant, riding ze vafe of largesse vhich ze government ist propagating in its rush to pour billions into ze pillboxes of ze information-surveillance complex und occupy ze country using slit cameras und connecting vires of databases.

 

The ball-camera winks at them.

 

MS. If the independent Judiciary is to go, what will replace it?

DR.  It von’t disappear entirely, just lose its autonomy. Who needs an expensive, vaste of time, independent court system vhen Sir Lansley’s civil-servants und ministry police can do ze job. A senior police officer, acting as judge und jury, tried Jean Charles de Menezes und sentenced him to summary execution by firing squad at Stockvell Tube Station.

MS.  Police officers are far too driven and fixated to make good lawyers, but with de Menezes, they thought they were acting in the public interest by saving lives.

DR. Zey thought wrong, because zey did not scrutinise ze evidence pro-perly; but zey set a useful precedent by reintroducing ze death penalty despite its abolition by Parliament in ze 1960s. Juries can be gradually phased out, und judges can be appointed und advised by ministers on correct verdicts und sentencing at ze end of show trials broadcast by ze BBC. Ze ministry und ze police between zem can squeeze out ze Judiciary und exercise greater peace-time power over ze lives of zeir subjects zan any since Napoleonic times.

MS. That’s quite a boast. Socialist politicians will naturally grab all the power they can get - for the collective good of the state. But liberals may feel that they would rather not be too omnipotent in office because of the legacy it will leave to their successors.

DR. No minister has zat much virtue, especially zose who profess to hath liberal credentials. Power corrupts, so does ze prospect of greater power. To govern a modern state effectively requires a degree of pragmatism - a tyranny of convenience vhich George Orvell knew ze British do so vell.

MS. What if the state is a nation of laws without that tradition of Whitehall tyranny?

DR. Ze UK has no written constitution to defend - it could slip into dic-tatorship tomorrow if ze house prices are rising. Recall how easy it vas for Tony Blair to declare var on a vim und invade another country like a medieval varlord so zat he could stride a velt stage mit a big cheesy grin on his face? Jack Straw put ze case quite succinctly to ze Chilcot inquiry - ministers exercising power should not let ze law get in ze vay of zeir ambition - und ze gut voters of Blackburn agreed mit him.

 

Ms Surveillance smiles duplicitously.

 

MS. You needn’t worry too much about my liberal credentials. I believe in a big government whose influence permeates every nook and cranny in society - in the public interest - with hidden cameras and a police baton if necessary - or I would not be working in this office.

DR. I hope ze minister feels ze same - but efen if he does not - he’d be vise to take me seriously. I could alvays enlist ze help of ze tabloids. Most politicians are still in ze pockets of ze media barons. Ze era of statesmanship in British politics ended mit ze rise to power of ze New Labour Party. You could save ze cost of ze Cabinet und be governed directly by a chimps’ tea-party of tabloid editors.

 

There is a sound of footsteps behind the door heralding an arrival. The heads of the two women turn towards the door. A middle-aged man, wearing a grey suit, enters and proffers a hand.

 

LAN. Sir Lansley Burnham-Balls, Secretary of State for Healthy Minds.

 

Dr Service rises and shakes the hand.

 

DR. Dr N.H. Service.

LAN. Sorry I’m late, Dr Service. I had an unscheduled meeting with the Prime Minister. I trust that Ms Surveillance kept a useful eye on you?

Dr Service casts an admiring glance at Ms Surveillance.

DR. She ist a most efficient apparatchik.

LAN. Good. Please sit down.

 

Dr Service sits again. Sir Lansley takes the seat behind the desk.

Ms Surveillance places a loose-leaf folder on the minister’s desk and stands to one side, taking shorthand notes.

 

What can I do for you?

DR. More a case of vhat I can do for you, Sir Lansley. I come in ze manner of Mephistopheles to Faust.

 

Sir Lansley laughs urbanely.

 

LAN. I still have some political ambition, despite my whitening hair, but I’m not sure I want to sell my soul for it.

 

Sir Lansley opens the folder to remind himself of the details.

 

DR. You vill, vhen you hear vhat I hath to offer. 

LAN. You want the Department of Healthy Minds to fund your research?

DR.  Ja.

LAN. Well, we’re always happy to buy-in policy-based evidence from social scientists. We usually have to shop around for a while until we find someone willing to say what we want to hear.

 

Sir Lansley chuckles teasingly and glances at Ms Surveillance, who nods in agreement. Dr Service is affronted.

 

DR.  I am a medical doktor. I took separate sciences at GCSE - by correspondence from Munich.

LAN. My apologies. We welcome Hessian doctors - just like George III - to hunt down those mad, bad civil-liberties bloggers like Tom Paine. They’re good doctors, Hessians - obey orders without question. Their prescriptions can shatter the body like musket balls. They ride like Valkyries into NHS surgeries in the remote counties of England and Wales. Some even abseil from police helicopters, to certify unsuspecting deviants and subversives.

 

A police helicopter passes by the window.

 

DR. I’m from Bavaria - not Hesse - mein Fuehrer.

LAN. Oh? So which of our policies will your research seek to justify?

DR. Risk-management, safety, und security.

 

Sir Lansley sighs.

 

LAN. Security is a bit awkward right now. It’s going out of fashion since voters began suspecting that Tony Blair lied to Parliament about WMD. Even some of the statist, collectivist socialists are starting to quote derivatives of Benjamin Franklin:

 

Sir Lansley clears his throat, then adopts a grave Colonial accent and a mocking smile.

 

“They who would give up essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security.” 

 

Ms Surveillance interjects:

 

MS. And risk-management is just a euphemism for the police practice of criminalisation without trial by initiating permanent ongoing invest-igations - which violate the Human Rights Act and the traditional sense of natural justice. The British government has been getting away with it for a decade now, but eventually the European Court is going to rule on a test case.

LAN. European Court rulings need not trouble the British government for years to come though. The French ignored the Court ruling on British beef, the British ignored the ruling on DNA retention. In a few short years, who will remember the fate of the Roma? Observance of European Court rulings has become, de facto, discretionary.

MS.  Safety is still good. We can’t have anyone at large with the potential to embarrass ministers and police chiefs in the continuous news cycle. We have to strike a balance between observing basic human-rights and protecting Sir Lansley’s ministerial career in the new media age. Blame culture is making that increasingly difficult.

LAN. Some juries still won’t convict dissidents who have committed no crime. It’s a flaw in the jury system we’d like to correct by making an arrest as good as a conviction.

MS. We could create a safer career for Sir Lansley by locking up anyone suspected of a crime indefinitely, but that would just make commun-ities more dangerous for innocent voters caught in the police dragnet.

LAN. And it would be very expensive. The prisons are already bursting at the seams. Far cheaper to have the police bug your car when it is being serviced and let village idiots driving SUVs form vigilante gangs and follow you around.

 

Dr Service opens her mouth in consideration before speaking in a measured tone:

 

DR. I can introduce a more efficient Teutonic brutality to your information-surveillance complex - like ze old Deutsche Demokratische Republik. If you sign a varrant mit somevun’s name on it - my green-shirts vill nail zem for you - as ze great former Home Secretary, David Blunkett, wunce envisaged.

 

Sir Lansley glances quizzically at Dr Service.

 

LAN. Green-shirts?

DR. Ve vear a uniform of green fluorescent vaistcoats to imbue a sense of community spirit in our movement. Part of ze emerging Big-Society your Fuehrer ist promoting.

 

Sir Lansley is sceptical.

 

LAN. You’re the psychiatrist, Dr Service - but is it possible that some of your people are sad, middle-aged oddballs; yearning for the gang membership they never had because they just weren’t cool enough?

DR. Not at all - ve are looking forvards, not backvards. Ve get together in der Bierkeller garden each veek und sing:

 

“Tomorrow belongs to me!” 

 

A few seconds of the rousing populist chorus from Cabaret reverberates around the office. 

A surprised Sir Lansley and Ms Surveillance look up and about for the source.

Dr Service takes a remote control unit from her pocket, holds it up, and clicks to silence the music.

 

Zat ist our demo tape. A small demonstration of ze vay ve can target private addresses mit infrasound. Ze fluorescent colour green ist a very seductive uniform - so much more attractive zan zose traditional drab brown-shirts.

LAN. But that is quite a fetching brown shirt you are wearing, if you don’t mind me saying so, in a politically-correct, nonsexist sort of way. 

DR. You vill like ze nonethical sveatshop designer label lingerie efen more.

 

Dr Service unfastens two top buttons of her blouse to reveal a glimpse of black lace bra.

 

Es ist from mein Ernst Rohm collection.

 

Sir Lansley’s smile is restrained but appreciative. Ms Surveillance interjects advisedly.

 

MS.  Sir Lansley cannot endorse designer labels - ethical or otherwise. He’s a middle-aged man, he’d look ridiculous.

DR.  Like Ralph Lauren? 

MS.  More like William Hague in his baseball cap. And besides, Ernst Rohm wasn’t into lingerie - he was a fudgepacker.

DR.  So are all ze great rightving designers - except, perhaps, Chris Grayling. LAN.  Does he have a label on the side?

MS.  Yes, but Conservative attitudes to fashion are still very conservative.

 

A puzzled Sir Lansley frowns and returns to the earlier point of the thread.

 

LAN. Green is the colour of the eco-friendly, tree-hugging Greens. Are you affiliated to them in some way?

DR.  Dumbkopfs! Zey hath no coherent energy policy to keep ze search-lights on. I vould like to start by nailing zem first!

LAN.  How, exactly, would you go about nailing them?

DR. To ze commercial pine trees! LAN. The Greens are harmless enough; some of them are quite decorative in those tight t-shirts, in an objectively-correct sort of way; but how do we rid ourselves of the turbulent priests who blog on the Internet?

DR. Same vay zat ze CIA targets insurgents in Afghanistan und Iraq, but mit ze advantage zat you hath Sovietized medicine.

LAN. NHS treatment is not that bad. Don’t you mean socialised medicine?

DR. Of course. Sir Lansley frowns.

LAN. We’ve had a National Health Service since 1945 - free at the point of delivery and all that. The envy of Michael Moore and blue-collar Americans who can’t afford medical insurance.

DR. Zis ist different. British government doktors verking for der British government as Polizei in zeir very own BBC TV crime-thriller show - in vhich efery single veek zey solve a murder on zeir uber-quiet fillage green und hath corridor, elevator, und desktop sex mit zeir colleagues und ze glamorous American guest stars.

LAN. Hasn’t that been done a million times before - with all those other public-sector surveillance agencies? It doesn’t sound very much like an original pitch to me.

DR. Ja, but not mit ze doctors und nurses. Politicised, socialised medicine ist highly original programming; vhere ze government owns your medical records, und hence your life; profiles your personality; und shares your information around all ze other agencies, communities, und commercial organisations by clicking ze mouse und gossiping in ze village surgeries. Ve can secretly gather data on ze interests, movements, und relationships of any subject who crosses ze threshold of an NHS surgery. Zeir lives become public property. Financial details, political affiliations, sexual history, Sunday dinner. Mit socialised med-icine, confidentiality ceases to exist for ze greater good of ze minister und ze Reich, along mit ze right to privacy in ze home. 

MS. Won’t some doctors object to such collectivised treatment of indivi-duals - like records of cattle to be shipped in railway cars?

DR. Not in ze scripts ve write for ze show.

MS. What about the ones who can differentiate between TV crime shows and reality?

DR. Ve can also write zeir contracts und pay zem extra to cooperate. I’m sure no vun in your Home Office ministry of state security vill object if ve supply zem mit a steady flow of personal information from ze surgeries, extracted from patients, to fill zeir databases. Vun medical case history may be a tragedy, but ein million ist merely a statistic.

LAN. How, exactly, do you intend to perform these data extractions?

DR. Lies, subterfuge, deception, inappropriate drug prescriptions to reward ze multi-national drug companies und dope up ze patients so zey cannot perform mentally complex tasks und become dependent on ze state und ze health verkers.

LAN. Er, that could be a problem for the new government. We’re not socialists. Some of my colleagues in Cabinet are ideologically opposed to encouraging dependency on the state. The Chancellor, for one.

 

The eyes of Dr Service widen in delight and her mouth opens in a very broad smile.

 

DR. Ze Joker from Batman!

LAN. I admit that there is a certain similarity in manner and appearance.

DR.  Ze drugs from ze powerful drug companies pacify ze dissident und keep zem from criticising ze government und your policies. A useful tool vhen dealing mit ze querulous Third Estate in ze third millennium.

 

The erudite Ms Surveillance quips:

 

MS.  Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.

 

Sir Lansley and Dr Service stare at her for a translation. Let them eat cake.

 

Sir Lansley frowns disapprovingly.

 

LAN. Cake is a new street-drug - recently classified as class A - according to Channel 4 documentaries.

DR. Ve lie to ze patients about ze drugs - und ze side effects, und ze long term health risks - und make zem vait half an hour at ze high-street Boots dispensing chemist counter for zeir prescription to be filled - for CCTV und ze Stasi to vatch zem.

LAN. Doesn’t sound like an easy policy to sell in a liberal democracy where the majority use the NHS at some point in their lives, and are brought up to trust in the integrity of its staff.

DR. Not democracy anymore - but technocracy - rule by data systems und cameras controlled from ministerial offices by a mobilised army of civil servants - hence maintaining full employment through Brownian economics.

LAN. How will this - technocracy - be funded?

DR. Borroving of course. England has a triple-A rating. In all of ze modern history, through two velt vars und vun velt cup, it has nefer defaulted on a sovereign debt. Ze government can borrow as much as it vants.

 

Sir Lansley is sceptical.

 

LAN. Borrow till the country drops? Sounds a bit like defunct opposition economic policy.

MS. When will this army of public-sector workers and government twitchers-with-cameras actually begin contributing something tangible to the real economy?

DR. Through public-private-partnership, ve can become ze velt-leaders in ze new medical-surveillance-systems-technology und practice. BAE Systems can export ze ethical-foreign-policy information-surveillance complex to Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, Burma, North Korea, und ze United States.

MS. But not Iraq or Afghanistan?

DR. Ze CIA has exclusive rights to surveillance in zose markets.

LAN. But British government borrowing will have to be repaid at some time in the future - with substantial amounts of interest which could have been spent on schools and hospitals.

DR. By zen, ve can all be retired on final salary pensions guaranteed by ze state - like ze old New Labour quango staff.

LAN. What if the voters don’t like the idea?

DR. Ve von’t tell zem zat ve’re using ze NHS as a shop vindow for ze Home Office ministry of state security. Ve start by running screening programmes - for depression, say - vhich eferyvun gets at some stage in zeir verking lives - und ven zat campaign runs out of steam ve can screen zem for erectile dysfunction und get zem to tell us all about zeir sex lives und zeir mid-life crises. A second happy-time for ze Home Office volfpacks to exploit.

MS. Will it not discourage vulnerable patients from seeking treatment when they find out the only reason it is being offered is to get infor-mation about them to share around other government agencies?

DR. Zey can still safely go to zeir doktor mit ein pain in ze leg, so long as it does not turn out to be psychosomatic.

 

Ms Surveillance reflects on this.

 

MS. But you’d have to be mad to discuss a mental health problem with a British government doctor in the digital age.

 

Sir Lansley sits forward and clasps his hands on the desk decisively.

 

LAN. But we want mad people to come forward so that we can compile a register of them for the Home Office. Maybe it’s not such a bad idea after all.

MS.  Plenty of middle-aged people who grew up in the liberal democracy of the last century still see the NHS as benign. They do not realise that a quiet revolution in technology and the whole philosophy of government has taken place. Imagine an ordinary British subject who becomes borderline psychotic. He still has the common sense to look right then left before crossing the road, but won’t yet understand the legal jeopardy which he faces by speaking to a British government doctor. Not if he was educated on the basic premise of liberal democracy and due process of law before the rise of the New Labour Party. If the NHS is to be used as a prosecuting authority to criminalise dissidents on the pretext of mental health, then they should be entitled to a legal caution and the advice of an advocate in surgeries.

 

Dr Service is aghast.

 

DR. Zat vould torpedo ze solution from ze start. LAN. And it would cost far too much. We are entering a period of retrench-ment in public spending. Do you have any idea how much solicitors charge per hour just to do nothing? MS. But voters suspect that we’re not just cutting the legal aid budget to save money, but to prevent policies being challenged in court.

 

Sir Lansley laughs.

 

LAN. Damn right we are! We’d be idiotic not to.

MS. The Times columnist, Matthew Parris, recently warned against providing information to the government unless you are required to by law. Surely, in the digital age, there is an imperative for patients not to communicate psychological information about themselves to British government doctors?

DR. In vhich case, ve should not be vasting faluable time, but exploiting zis vindow of opportunity vhile it lasts.

MS. But once people begin to learn, and they will learn eventually, that the NHS is merely trawling for personal data, and offers no effective treatment for mental health conditions; they’ll start to view the surgeries of government doctors in the way nineteenth century paupers viewed the workhouse. Something to be avoided, if humanly possible.

LAN. That sounds good to me too - discourage the statist dependency culture and boost the private healthcare industry. My insurance company shares will rocket. We can cut demand for mental health services by about 80% and save public money. This is a win-win situation for everyone.

DR. Except ze patients.

MS. But Sir Lansley, the private-sector voters with real jobs may not like it, and you need them to vote for you at the next election.

LAN. East Anglian shiremen will always vote for me. They’re farmers!

MS. And commuters!

 

Dr Service chuckles like Henry Kissinger.

 

DR.   Who’s going to tell zem zey’re just like ze fat cattle being fed a lie in ze mechanically-recovered feed of daily briefings vhich ze government puts out? 

LAN. Er, that was the last Conservative government and a previous gener-ation of social-scientists. We don’t do that anymore - it turns cow-brains into sponge.

MS. What if law-abiding constituents write to ask Sir Lansley why they have suddenly been criminalised after consulting a doctor?

DR. Obfuscation, denial, good old-fashioned lies. It’s vhat ze public hath come to expect now from ze British politicians in ze 21st Century, so zey von’t be disappointed - unless zey’ve just voken up after 13 years in a coma.

 

Sir Lansley frowns.

 

LAN. But I won’t always be Secretary of State for Healthy Minds. What if this socialised medicine affects my family or friends somewhere down the line and I’m not in office to intervene?

DR. Does your family hath private medical insurance?

LAN. Yes. DR. Vhat about your friends?

LAN. They’re bankers, stockbrockers, and golfers - most of them probably do.

DR. Zen you hath nothing to vorry about. None of your friends are Communists or Trade Unionists ...

 

Ms Surveillance interjects again with strong emphasis on the word ‘First’:

 

MS. First - they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I said nothing ...

 

Sir Lansley and Dr Service stare at her blankly. Ms Surveillance shrugs meekly.

 

... Martin Niemoller.

DR. Not just ze Trots in ze Unions - writers, artists, satirists. Fuel und climate protesters, efen some opposition MPs can all be classed as dissidents - deviant or subversive - using socialised medical records, und criminalised vizout trial at ze click of a mouse. Mit access to ze government’s databases, ve can invent a criminal medical history for anyvun und press send.  

MS. We already target some of these dissidents using Forward Intelligence Teams and the anti-terror police.

LAN. The war on terror has conveniently allowed us to crack down on all sorts of dissidents - housewives, pensioners, tourists with cameras; anyone who picks up a placard or attends a public meeting protesting against a government plan to build a runway or a power station.

MS. It began after the fuel protests of 2000 when the government woke up to the danger of people organising themselves using mobile phones. The police began putting tracking bugs in the cars of dissidents and following their movements using cameras and helicopters to discourage such activities.

 

Dr Service smiles triumphantly and raises a hand with index finger pointing at the ceiling.

 

DR. Vhich ist vhere I can help. Patients hath no idea of ze legal jeopardy zey now face if zey visit a National Health Service surgery in ze digital age.

 

The camouflage-painted camera-casing winks.

 

Ze number plate of zeir vehicle can be tagged on ze Automatic Number Plate Recognition system und service station staff think zey are petrol thieves. Ve put ballast in zeir petrol tank so zat zey cannot fill up a full tank und hath to visit ze service stations more frequently. Ve put zem on ze mail order blacklist so zat zey alvays receive damaged or returned goods. Ve hath more zan 30 government agencies, outside of ze police und security services, vhich can follow people around. East Germany only had ze Stasi.

LAN. In East Germany, no one trusted anyone else - in or out of government - and they didn’t have email. In Britain, voters still think politicians tell the truth, despite the legacy of Tony Blair, so we can rely on a multi-agency solution to the surveillance question.

DR. Ze moment zey cross ze threshold und give zeir name to ze doktor’s computer, zey become a hostage to fortune. Zeir details can be transmitted to vun of my teams at any time, und ve can go to verk.

LAN. What sort of work? DR. Ve start mit ze premise zat anyvun whose lifestyle or political views are not to your liking - i.e. fall vizin specified parameters - can be criminalised using mental health legislation. For example, a body of verk by an unknown artist exploring psychological und sexual themes vhich ze government vishes to suppress can be taken as prima facie evidence of a criminal nature. No need for a court case in ze digital age, ze minister simply has to sign a varrant like ze SS Reichsfuhrer und ve’ll do ze rest. Ze parameters und ze sanctions imposed are entirely arbitrary, und can be decided on a case-by-case basis by my team of doktors after a minister has signed ze necessary varrant.

MS. A bit like the inquisition branding someone a heretic for their beliefs and turning them over to the secular authorities.

DR.   Exactly - ze Spanish Inquisition.

MS. Or the old Soviet system of detaining dissidents in mental hospitals and keeping them doped-up with drugs to prevent them from writing criticisms of the regime.

DR. Ja, but as a Britisher minister, your power ist currently limited to ze primary legislation vhich you can put through ze Parliament. You can use discretionary powers und statutory instruments, but you must remain vizin ze law as interpreted by ze judges. I can circumvent ze Judiciary for you. No more juries cocking-a-snook at ze government.

 

Sir Lansley considers this thoughtfully.

 

LAN. How will this function in practice?

DR. Ve start by trawling through ze lives of ze patients seeking help und try to match zem mit thousands of unsolved crimes - vhich ist easy to do now in ze digital age. It is easier to start mit ze suspect standing in ze doktor’s surgery und look back for a crime, zan starting mit a crime und looking for a suspect. Ze first question a GP must ask a new mental health patient ist for a list of all ze towns und counties vhere zey previously lived.

LAN. And what if they’ve lived entirely blameless lives with no hidden criminal history?

DR. Ze late great Sigmund Freud wrote zat crime vas at ze heart of all neuroses. Ze Tell-Tale Heart of Edgar Allan Poe.

MS. Actually - it was sex which Freud believed responsible for neuroses. 

DR. Either vay, ve think now zat Freud vas politically incorrect, but ve can still use him to invent misdemeanours vhich justify our activities und boost our funding und staffing requirements.

MS. Like witchhunting in the seventeenth century?

 

Dr Service sits back in her chair.

 

DR. Did you know - ze Spanish Inquisition only efer executed six people for vitchcraft, vhich it considered a harmless superstition? Ze Puritan Protestant English executed over 200 vitches und ze uptight Presbyterian Scots executed 600, but ze Catholic Irish only executed four people in ze same period.

LAN. It’s much harder to get a conviction for witchcraft these days - the Witchcraft Act was repealed in the 1950s. New Labour were planning to introduce a new strict-liability offence of possessing a pointed-hat and a broomstick; but Harpy Harman, Jacqui Smith, and Fiona MacTaggart objected strongly to this loss of personal freedom for their coven, and the right to play the Macbeth witches dressed any way they like; so they dug their heels into Gordon Brown. DR. Some say zey also turned him into a toad, but no vun noticed ze difference.

MS. What do you do with these crimes you invent? 

DR. Ve enter zem into ze database und pass zem around all ze other government agencies, like ze Chinese vhispers. Ze police call it soft-intelligence to sound cuddly. Zere are no judges, juries, or pesky lawyers to test ze evidence so ve can invent vhat ve like in ze new virtual courtroom.

LAN. But if there is no real court case, what will any of this creative data-swapping achieve, other than providing a good cribsheet read for bored civil servants sitting at their computer screens?

DR. If ze minister vould like an old-fashioned court case - ze great strength of ze vigilante system ist zat my people on ze ground can alvays share a common purpose und conspire to pervert ze course of justice.

 

Ms Surveillance steps forward in alarm.

 

MS. Er, I don’t think Sir Lansley needs to know about that aspect of your work, Dr Service. Our judicial system is not yet virtual, nor is it entirely under ministerial control, and some judges still frown at the practice of perjury in their courtroom - even if it is encouraged by the government to undermine the credibility of the independent Judiciary.

DR. Ve hath our own sanctions vhich do not need a court ruling. Ve got ze idea from ze FBI in ze McCarthy era.

 

Dr Service takes a folded printed sheet from her jacket pocket.

 

Zis ist ein testimony from Lee J. Cobb, an American actor in ze 1950s:

 

Dr Service reads with a passable gravelly American accent:

 

“When the facilities of the government of the United States are drawn on an individual it can be terrifying. The blacklist is just the opening gambit - being deprived of work. Your passport is confiscated. That’s minor. But not being able to move without being tailed is something else. After a certain point it grows to implied as well as articulated threats, and people succumb. My wife did, and she was institutionalized.”

 

Ve can now target homes mit acoustic devices vhich simulate heli-copter vibration und cause nausea und sleep deprivation; und intru-sive video surveillance into houses can be linked to cars driven by vigilante gangs in ze street to harass und intimidate ze dissident und let zem know zat zey are being videod in zeir homes.

LAN. Can you do all that?

DR. If you sign ze varrant.

LAN. I mean, is it technologically possible?

 

Dr Service holds up the remote and clicks to play a few seconds of the Cabaret chorus.

 

DR. Piece of cake. Anyvun not paranoid before zey enter ze NHS doktor’s surgery vill become paranoid soon after zey leave und go home.

 

Ms Surveillance has serious misgivings about this aspect of the proposal.

 

MS. Those sound like heavy and punitive sanctions to impose in the United Kingdom without judicial scrutiny of a case. Even if a British court were to pass such sentences, they could be in breach of the Human Rights Act 1998, which guarantees privacy and prohibits tor-ture.

LAN. The Human Rights Act is nothing to worry about. It was steered through Parliament by my old friend and arch-foe of civil-liberties Jack ‘Boots’ Straw. It’s a completely worthless piece of legislation - riddled with exemptions for governments to exploit. The only right which the Human Rights Act guarantees, ironically enough, is the right of states to execute their citizens in wartime.

 

Dr Service extends her gloved hand in a reflex salute.

 

DR. Heil ze Jack Boots!

 

She recovers the hand.

 

Now all you und your ministerial colleagues hath to do ist exercise your arbitrary power against any British subject mit less power und influence zan yourself - like modern day Heinrich Himmlers und Hermann Goerings.

MS. But surely there would be a legal challenge straight away to such blatant human-rights abuses in the UK? The law should protect the individual from harassment, threats, and intimidation by the Executive, GCHQ, and government-sponsored vigilante gangs. We are, technically, still a liberal democracy, and that is how the law in a liberal democracy is supposed to work. 

DR. Technically, yes, zat ist how it used to verk before ze digital age und ze abolition of privacy. In reality, ze law now only protects ze vealthy und influential who can seek injunctions against ze vell-funded government agencies - ask any High Court judge. Naturally, ve von’t start by going after people mit clefer lawyers who can buy access to ze courts.

MS.   In a liberal democracy, every citizen, rich or poor, not subject to a court ruling should be allowed to go about their lawful business without harassment and threats by the state. That, surely, is axiomatic?

DR. But you British are not citizens. You hath no written constitution. You are subjects of ze Executive power. Fulnerable people vizout money - ze Untermenschen - in bedsits, living off state handouts, are legitimate targets for harassment-surveillance by ze public-sector jobsvorths. No representation vizout taxation.

MS. Most ordinary voters on average wages can’t afford to buy access to the courts either - it’s a very expensive business.

DR. Justice - like private mental health treatment - ist expensive to buy. Ze comedian, Bill Oddie, put it rather vell on BBC Radio 4 vhen he said if you can’t afford to pay for it, you ain’t gonna get it. Ze parallels are quite striking - vhich ve in government can exploit.

 

Ms Surveillance appeals to her boss.

 

MS. Sir Lansley, this could effect the majority of ordinary voters.

DR. Nein! Ze majority von’t notice a few thousand breeches of ze poxy Human Rights Act each year. Zey did not notice in ze Third Reich until ze bombs began to fall on Berlin. Zey vill only notice a more efficient und happy society. A fitter society in ze digital age - more able to compete in ze global economy - uber alles in der Welt. Heil ze Britisher Volk und ze Britisher Reich! Heil ze Big-Society! Ze legions of ordinary voters in fluorescent green-shirts vill salute you, Sir Lansley - Der neue Fuehrer.

 

Dr Service shoots out her gloved-hand involuntarily, then quickly grabs it and draws it in again with an embarrassed smile.

Sir Lansley looks shocked, then smiles urbanely as if flattered.

 

LAN. Let’s not get carried away with the L-word, Dave wouldn’t like it.

MS. But ordinary people can still write to more radical MPs than Sir Lansley and enlist their support.

 

Dr Service chuckles.

 

DR. Ve tear open zose House of Commons envelopes in ze post to let ze target know zat ve are reading zem. Zere ist a very effective conven-tion vhich prefents MPs from representing people who are not zeir constituents. It helps quarantine constituencies against outside scrutiny und reduce ze MPs’ verkload. Sir Lansley’s constituency ist surrounded by Liberals who vill be no help vhatsoefer. Most MPs are scared zat ze surveillance powers of ze police und ze tabloids vill be turned against zem und zeir vifes vill be institutionalised like Frau Cobb. Ze new-McCarthyism in ze United Kingdom. Ze liberals vill know vhat ist taking place - but vill not vant to know.

MS. A courageous radical MP or peer could raise the issue of harassment-surveillance as a human-rights abuse in Parliament. DR. Zis ist England - ze native land of ze hypocrite - Oscar Vilde und Tony Blair. No vun in ze British Parliament takes human-rights ser-iously. Zey’re too busy seeking patronage und feathering zeir nest at ze John Lewis store.

 

Sir Lansley ponders over the question and clears his throat.

 

LAN. We could always set up a quango of well-paid yes-men in lieu of the courts - call it a tribunal - to smokescreen the lack of judicial scrutiny into your activities.

MS. One already exists - The Investigatory Powers Tribunal - set up by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 to dismiss any claims of harassment-surveillance as frivolous and vexatious.

LAN. Another bootprint left by Jack Straw on the political landscape, like trials without jury and secret inquests. These tribunals are a great way of avoiding a court challenge - pity we can’t have one for every occas-ion.

DR. But ve can - for der Krankenkopfer. MS. What about the mental health charities arguing for patient advocacy?

 

The Machiavellian Sir Lansley chuckles.

 

LAN. We needn’t worry about any politically-motivated charity in Britain, least of all the mental health ones. Those suits they wear are bought and paid for by us to keep them quiet and on side.

MS. The human-rights group Liberty could complain loudly.

LAN. The director of Liberty appears on Newsnight once a month to sound-off about something or other, but no one ever remembers what she says.

MS. People could go to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

DR. Ze C.A.B. collects more personal data on targets for ze government zan efen ze GPs. Zen, zey hand ze target a list of solicitors vhich zey know zey cannot afford, smile wryly, und vish zem luck as zey show zem ze door.  

MS. What if a down-and-out victim of Dr Service goes without food in his bedsit for a few weeks and scrapes together just enough savings to talk to a solicitor?

DR. Ve von’t allow zat to happen.

MS. How can you stop it from happening?

DR. Ve hath systems in place to prefent it - devised by a former Labour minister - Lord Goldsmith - ze man who legalised ze var-crimes against humanity invasion of Iraq for Lebensraum und der Caucasus Oil-fields.

MS. Alleged war-crimes.

DR. GCHQ vill monitor all electronic communications of targetted indiv-iduals und inform us of any vhich may pose a legal threat to our activities. Ze Royal Mail can screen letters. Ve can zen advise ze firm of solicitors before ze appointment zat ze person ist ein Kranken-kopf und persuade ze firm to allow vun of our people, a covert human intelligence source, to impersonate ze solicitor using zeir offices.

MS. Do you think all firms of solicitors will accept that explanation at face value? Some of them take the law quite seriously.

DR. None hast refused to cooperate so far. Ve are fortunate to live in a vell-ordered society vhere ze government’s agencies are to be obeyed. No solicitor vants to get on ze wrong side of us und find zeir bedroom bugged und zeir dreams recorded. 

MS. What about client privilege?

DR. If zey’ve got nothing to hide, zey’ve got nothing to fear. You don’t fully appreciate ze stigma of mental illness in ze current moral panic fuelled by risk aversion. It ist far vorse zan being a common-or-garden criminal entitled to legal counsel.

MS. But what about the Law Society? How will they react when people complain that the government is not only using threats and harassment, but that GCHQ is being used to block people’s access to legal counsel?

DR. Ve’ll tell ze Law Society vhat ve told ze firm - ze client ist ein Krankenkopf who does not need advocacy. Ze Law Society staff vill do as zey’re told by ze minister or zeir careers vill suffer, just like eferyvun else in zis sceptered isle - sewn-up by ze last government. If der Krankenkopf tries to contact another solicitor, ve’ll simply let it be known zat he complained about ze previous vun. Schachmatt! Zey hath no political or legal credibility wunce zey cross ze NHS threshold und give zeir name to ze government doktor’s computer.

 

Ms Surveillance comments with mild sarcasm:

 

MS. It’s good to know the protection of the courts only extends to weal-thy people now - just as the original Magna Carta intended. But this loss of political and legal credibility which arises by a visit to a doctor’s surgery is yet another punitive sanction which will be imposed without caution or any judicial scrutiny of the process.

DR. Zey hath no right to advocacy - zey are Untermenschen - a feared und despised minority, zere for exploitation und political gain by ze ruling Party - Labour or Conservative. 

MS. Even people without credibility can find ways to make a lot of noise about your government-sponsored threats and intimidation.

DR. If zey complain zat zey are being followed by vigilantes und security staff, or of surveillance in zeir homes, ve can label zem as dangerous paranoid-schizophrenics und nail zem using ze mental health laws.

MS. But the precedent is a disturbing one. Vigilantes roughing up dissidents today - hit squads making political opponents disappear tomorrow. The police and security lobby will begin marking for surveillance those politicians who oppose their demands for wider power - and those in Parliament who lack moral fibre, some may think the majority, will be swayed by the implied threat. These are not the activities which the government of a liberal democracy, even a technocratic one, should be engaging in. How far will it go and where will it end?

 

Sir Lansley scrutinises Dr Service.

 

LAN. Well, Dr Service? How far will you go with your counterinsurgency psywar against British subjects on British soil? DR. Just harassment und surveillance. Ve keep zem avake at night mit infrasound. Ve start car engines vhen zey vake up in ze morning und slam car doors vhenefer zey move inside zeir homes. Ve buzz zeir roof mit a light aircraft vhen zey go to ze toilet. Ve efen buzz zeir doorbell und run avay. Vhenefer zey leave home, ve follow zem in vehicles und on foot mit mobile phone cameras.

LAN. I know that feeling. It happens to me whenever I open a fete.

DR. Security staff follow zem around ze supermarket. Ve collect hair samples from zeir barber und zeir verkplace, und fingerprints from zeir coffee cups. Ve bug zeir homes und damage or steal zeir private property.

MS. We can’t have policing agencies routinely breaking the law they are supposed to uphold.

DR. Vhy not? Ze victim can do nothing - except report ze crime to ze people complicit in ze crime - who vill do nothing.

MS. It undermines confidence in the police.

DR. Der Untermenschen do not need confidence in ze police any more zan zey need legal counsel. Zey are Untermenschen und should live as such in ze Big-Society until ve can ship zem out to Poland in ze rail-vay cars!

MS. But what if just one British judge doesn’t share your view of the - lesser people. Perhaps his father or grandfather fought against fascism or fled a regime as a refugee - and he is courageous enough to object publicly to a government minister like Sir Lansley authorising Richard Nixon style criminal activity by the police and vigilante gangs?

DR. Ve just deny it.

MS. And commit perjury?

DR. Ze judges vill not dare to interfere. Zis ist England! Ve can conduct a campaign of character defamation against zem mit claims of fictitious crimes in ze public interest.

 

Ms Surveillance is aghast.

 

MS. Against who? The judges?

DR. Nein, ze Untermenschen. Ve can send threats to zem through ze letterbox, in spoofed emails, und pop-ups fed through Ze Guardian online website.

LAN. What if they don’t read The Guardian?

DR. Zen ve use Ze Independent.

LAN. What if they’re Old Tories like me who read The Telegraph?

DR. Ze Telegraph does not permit zis practice. Zey think it ist part of a socialist plot to create a police state.

LAN. That’s reassuring to know - for when I retire and Labour return to power.

DR. But ve can still impose Soviet-style internal exile on writers - block public access to zeir online entartete Kunst und degenerate literature, tamper mit emails, und divert outgoing telephone calls to an answer-ing service for screening. Vomen mit pushchairs und sharp-tipped Bulgarian umbrellas can run into zem deliberately in ze street. All zis ist very difficult for somevun vizout a clefer lawyer to protest against or prove vizout sounding paranoid.

MS. Until you are waylaid with ricin poisoning.

LAN. Has anyone ever compared you to Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest?

MS. Or Dr Josef Mengele?

 

Dr Service snarls:  

 

DR. Nein!

 

Her black-gloved hand shoots forward in an involuntary salute. Her left hand grabs the right and pulls it back to her body as she recovers and smiles.

 

I mean - no. Ze British writers George Orvell und Anthony Burgess gave me ze idea in zeir Bucher Neunzehnhundert Vierundachtzig und A Clockwerk Orange. Orvell predicted zat Britain vould become a surveillance society ruled by unaccountable ministries mit all seeing eyes - und it vould appear zat he vas correct. Burgess explored ze theme of conformity und political quiescence through behavioural control im-posed by Behavioural Insight Teams.

MS. Treating people like laboratory rats. I seem to recall, from my first in Modern History at Oxford, that the Nazis held a meeting like this at Wannsee in 1942 to thrash out a final solution to the Jewish question.

LAN. Let’s not exaggerate with Nazi comparisons.

 

The gloved hand of Dr Service rises a few inches before she grabs it.

 

We just want to carry out some fairly benign, low-level human-rights abuse to protect my career and extend my ministerial power.

MS. Lee J. and Mrs Cobb did not regard this sort of thing as very benign.

LAN. He should have been more careful in his youth, and the sort of plays he appeared in. Politics can be a dangerous game, especially in the Western democracies. The most sensible people are completely apathetic. But we’re not talking about the construction of gas chambers - with rising fossil fuel prices that would cost far too much.

DR. In ze short term - but think of ze long term public-sector pensions und careers it vould create for ze council verkers und Ze Guardian jobseekers in public administration.

LAN. It would also hand power to the militant railway unions. 

MS. In 1821, your countryman, Heinriche Heine, wrote Dort, wo man Bucher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.

LAN. Historically perhaps, but we have emission targets now. Fires just add soot to the carbon footprint.

DR. Efen Sigmund Freud admitted zat progress ist being made. Ze Nazis vere content to burn his books, vhereas, in ze Middle Ages, zey vould hath burned him.

MS. That was in 1933. The situation quickly changed for the worse when the Nazi government took control of the Judiciary in the way that you are proposing. In fin de siecle Vienna, people were looking forward to a new age of enlightenment with all the old medieval wars and superstition a thing of the past. And look what happened. I see the same complacency in London today, as the framework of civil-liberties taken for granted in the late 20th century is being comprehensively dismantled at the start of the 21st by the unchecked information-surveillance complex of the state.

 

Sir Lansley considers the argument.

 

LAN. Dr Service, you are proposing that we conduct state-sponsored psychological warfare against voters who cannot be criminalised through the courts because they haven’t committed a statutory offence?

DR. Precisely. MI5 und ze CIA hath a vealth of experience fighting insurgents in Iraq und Afghanistan. Ve can use zeir tactics und technology against ze British people. MS. You’re not suggesting we fly predator drones over their houses?

LAN. Actually, we already do that over some sink estates at night - armed with cameras, not missiles - although there has been talk of taking out drug-dealers in their cars, Israeli-style, if the need arises.

DR. Ve can target homes mit infrasound through ze night, for instance, to cause nausea und sleep deprivation; vhich vill soon vear down ze dissent of ze most ardent dissident. Es ist difficult to write polemics after a veek vizout sleep.

LAN. I’m not sure how British voters will react to CIA anti-insurgency tactics being used against British civilians on British soil.

DR. Margaret Thatcher started ze trend by using MI5 as her personal police force to target journalists und ze BBC. Ze Blair-Brown regime reacted to ze fuel protests by developing new systems of harassment-surveillance using ze latest technology. Ve are simply taking ze next logical step in policing der Fatherland.

MS. The next logical step to where?

DR. Ve can pilot ze scheme against soft targets. Fulnerable people who are thought to be mentally ill, vizout ze influence or resources to prove vhat ist taking place. Drive zose schizzies mad. Vunce ze precedent ist set, ve can zen expand it to eferyvun who threatens ze public interest by criticising ze government, schools, hospitals, or ze security lobby.

MS. There is something distasteful about NHS doctors working for the Home Office and using their knowledge and skills to harm people - a bit like those Gestapo doctors who conducted experiments on pat-ients during the war.

DR. Vhy must you alvays mention ze var? You British are propagandised by a collective self-delusion. Too many stiff-upper-lip black-und-vhite var films. Don’t you know ze Dam Busters raid vas a var crime und a failure? In Velt Var Vun, ze British shot 300 of zeir own men fighting for democracy, vhereas ze Germans shot only 30 of zeirs fighting for ze Kaiser. Scratch avay ze surface veneer of a tolerant society und zere ist a heathen horde beneath just vaiting for orders to sack Rome vhilst shouting Ingaland! You hath already begun ze criminalisation of suspected terrorists vizout trial using control orders. Ve can now do ze same mit suspected paranoid-schizophrenics using harassment-surveillance varrants.

MS. I thought paranoid-schizophrenics were less likely to commit violent crime than so-called normal people. DR. Zat ist only true statistically. MS. So how is it not true?

DR. Normal people commit murder for good Biblical reasons - greed, lust, jealousy, revenge etc. Schizophrenics are more likely to murder complete strangers zey meet on ze street at random for reasons vhich make no sense at all. Doktors are superstitious, like ze African vitch-doktors, und most afraid of vhat zey do not understand. Zerefore, ve cannot risk having ze schizoids valking about vizout close surveillance - in case zey commit a terrible crime und embarrass ze minister, who vill blame ze vitchdoktor und terminate his contract to practise medicine for ze government.

 

Sir Lansley smiles and nods approvingly.

 

MS. Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

DR. Plus efery tabloid reader knows zat all ze serial killers locked up in ze Broadmoor are schizoids. Zerefore all schizoids could be serial killers. A simple syllogism vhich ze public can readily understand vizout studying ze werks of Russell und Vittgenstein. Ve can varn ze public of ze dangers zey face on ze streets und in zeir communities by fund-ing public information films similar to Der Ewige Jude.

MS. The Eternal Jew?

DR. Ja, but mit ze actors looking pallid und bleary-eyed - rather zan like rats - so zat ze people can spot ze Untermenschen in ze streets - no need for ze yellow badges in ze digital age.

 

Ms Surveillance is disturbed by this analysis.

 

MS. Now that the label - schizophrenic - has taken on a whole new scien-tifically-unfounded, political and medical meaning; to be exploited by risk-averse doctors, and ambitious politicians like Sir Lansley seeking protection from tabloid criticism - shouldn’t people be cautioned about this before speaking to a government-appointed health official?

DR. Are you mad?

MS. If I were, I don’t think it would be a good thing to admit in the pres-ent company.

DR. If people find out, ve’ll lose zis vindow of opportunity to database ze personal lives of millions. Ze Labour government made a start by employing vun hundert-thousand school assistants to make copious notes on ze retards mit learning difficulties in ze classroom, who are most likely to grow up und commit crime - but ve don’t tell ze parents zat’s vhat ze Department for Education ist really up to. Ve don’t just gather data on ze dumbkopfs either. Essays written by ze brainy kids und undergraduates on history, politics, art history or literature can profide us mit a permanent record of zeir youthful thoughts to profile. So vhy inform ze grown-ups of ze legal jeopardy zey face in ze NHS surgeries?

LAN. Surely the proportion of patients who can be diagnosed as schizo-phrenic is quite small and insignificant? If we’re going to fund the construction of an expensive new data trawler, we want to catch a decent-sized net of fish?

DR.   My crack team of expert psychiatric nurses can identify anyvun who utters any form of political or social heresy in ze surgeries.

MS. Back to the Spanish Inquisition.

DR. Ve call it screening, but vhat ve really do ist profiling. Ve hath com-piled an extensive list of templates vhich describe criminal und anti-social personalities, und ve can always find vun to fit any patient who vanders into ze cross-hairs of our sights.

MS. I suppose you can tell they are dissidents by the shape of their skulls?

DR. Zat’s vun vay of doing it. Zeir degenerate art und literature ist another. Gordon Brown’s Politburo vas unable to get six veeks detention vizout charge through ze Parliament, but I can offer indefinite detention und drug torture in ze treatment camps vizout trial using com-pulsory treatment orders.

MS. There is a group of psychiatrists in this country who seem determined to muscle in on the prerogatives of the Judiciary. Belief in the oracle-like wisdom of psychiatry has become a new fundamentalist religion for those in power.

 

Sir Lansley smirks like a juvenile.

 

LAN. It’s related to what some social-scientists call physics-envy - and most readily admit to having.

MS. Jack Straw believed that mental health courts should be set up requiring only a minimal burden of proof; and that more people should be declared unfit for trial by doctors, not judges - in effect, setting aside habeas corpus.

LAN. Jack is a socialist - he believes in benevolent dictatorship, or not so benevolent if you cross his party. Then the donkey-jacket comes out with a pistol in the pocket.

MS. Sir Lansley, there is a huge risk with this policy that it could scare your constituents into voting for a more liberal opposition candidate with a commitment to privacy and due process of law.

 

Sir Lansley laughs.

 

LAN. What liberal opposition? They’re worse than us. Worse for being hypocrites. Everyone knows we’re all the same. Politics is all about the exercise of power and control of the state - what man or woman in Westminster hasn’t read and appreciated Machiavelli’s The Prince? MS. But there could still be political repercussions in departing from a patrician form of government, respectful of the law, to one which sponsors torture and wages a campaign of human-rights abuse against its own citizens - even the down-and-outs. Despite what Dr Service preaches, these practices are quite alien to the political landscape in this country, and have only recently been imported from Iraq and Afghanistan by the New Labour regime.

DR. I think not. Ze Conservative, Michael Howard, ist just as Draconian as Jack Straw. Jeremy Paxman of ze much-raided BBC calls him Der Fuehrer. Throughout history, ze masses hath generally favoured strong, authoritarian government vhich makes ze house prices rise und ze trains run on time. MS. Until it leads them to disaster - then they happily shoot their leaders and string them up by the ankles.

 

Sir Lansley sighs and shifts uncomfortably at the thought.

 

LAN. If it does all go wrong - if an uppity judge in a courtroom who does-n’t know what’s good for him suddenly decides that we are not exempt from prohibitions on torture and other human-rights abuses after all - then we’ll just have to erase his judgment from history using the Parliamentary troops, or find scapegoats among the police and the doctors for their excessive zeal. Do you understand this aspect of British politics, Dr Brunhilde?

DR. I obey your orders vizout question - like ze Zeppelin crew in Hell’s Angels.

 

Dr Service stands, gives a military salute, and sits down.

 

LAN. If Machiavelli had studied the workings of Whitehall, he would have noted that the politician is never to blame for the things done in his name.

DR. Adolf Hitler nefer actually threw a stone on Kristallnacht.

LAN. And stop comparing me to Hitler. Jeremy Paxman may get to hear about it.

DR. Jawohl, mein Fuehrer!

LAN. In the meantime, I have a slight problem which a devilishly clever psychiatrist who understands the pressures of government may be able to help me with.

 

Dr Service glances at him with a sinister and triumphant smile.

 

DR. Vould you like to lie on ze couch? LAN. No, it’s not that sort of problem, I’m very well adjusted - so my wife tells me. Someone in the department is leaking documents to radical groups and opposition MPs.

 

Ms Surveillance shifts her stance slightly, but tellingly.

 

The anti-terror police would arrest the culprit and throw him in jail, but they don’t yet know who’s doing it. I thought maybe you could screen my staff first and interrogate them with the tricks you learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, before you get going on the general public.

 

Dr Service is doubtful.

 

DR. Screen zem for vhat?

LAN. Depression.

DR. Vhat if zey are not depressed?

LAN. Alright then, erectile dysfunction.

DR. Vhat if ze traitor ist a voman?

LAN. How about penis-envy? Margaret Thatcher said every prime minister needs a willy. That’s a commonly held belief amongst women in government, isn’t it Ms Surveillance?

 

Ms Surveillance raises her eyebrows in surprise to query the dubious proposition - but cooperatively answers in the affirmative.

 

MS. Yes, Minister, although New Labour women take the opposite view.

LAN. Gender apartheid. One reason why they are no longer in government. You can’t express bigoted views publicly about 49% of the electorate without a dip in your poll-rating.

DR. Ze object of mental health screening ist to add ze names of unsuspecting suspects to ze government’s database. Ze entire life history of all your staff ist already on ze database and zey are smart enough to know zat screening ist just a euphemism for profiling. Ze traitor ist likely to regard interrogation by a government psychiatrist as suspicious, und so screening ist unlikely to produce ze desired result.

LAN. But can’t you surreptitiously swing a watch on a chain and hypnotise them when they’re lying on the couch with their defences down, telling you all about their happy childhood?

 

Dr Service shakes her head and sighs.

 

DR. If only it vere zat easy.

LAN. It looks easy on television. The funny chap just snaps his fingers and they all run around like chickens.

DR. Zat ist because zey are drama students seeking media attention. Most of your staff are vell-adjusted Oxbridge high-achiefers - like Ms Surveillance here. I doubt fery much vhether she could be hypnotised against her vill.

MS. So do I!

 

Ms Surveillance glowers at Dr Service, clenches a fist at her side, and raises it ever so slightly.

Dr Service takes the hint, smiles wryly, and turns to Sir Lansley again.

 

DR. Vhy don’t you put a compulsory lie detector clause in zeir contracts - or pump zem full of sodium pentathol?

LAN. Because we’d have a drugged-up work force drawing up legislation.

 

Dr Service laughs mockingly.

 

DR. Ze public von’t notice any difference in ze crazy fun-factory laws you make.

MS. The public-sector unions won’t allow compulsory lie detection whilst hypothesis tests cast doubt on the results.

LAN. We need a non-invasive, non-intrusive, non-addictive, union-friendly way of reading minds. A sort of keyhole psychiatry.

 

Dr Service grins, stands, and eyeballs Ms Surveillance butchly.

 

DR.  Hypnosis eh? It’s alvays been a bit gentle for me. I prefer vaterboarding for ze benefit of a strictly noncomplicit audience of MI5 agents, mit scribbling notepads und ze veels of zeir tape recorders vhirling in ze background. But I’m villing to give it a try - if it’s in ze public interest.

 

Lights down.

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