Humble pie time at BBW Towers, perhaps. Nick Clegg gave a speech about civil liberties recently, upon which I poured scorn. When, I asked, were specific policies ever going to arrive?
The answer, it seems, is today. In a story on the front page of today's Telegraph, Nick Clegg's Protection of Freedoms Bill gets a very good write-up. The most eye-catching - for readers of our blogging about CCTV, our research or our book - is the pledge to allow any member of the public to refer a local authority for judicial review if they can argue that CCTV cameras have been set up, or are being used, inappropriately.
The power has all been one-way since the faceless controllers of these intrusive devices started snooping on our streets. Now, finally, a politician with the power to do something about it has taken up the issue and given the public the tools with which to fight back. And of course, for all the securocrats out there, there's plenty of reassurance available in the Clegg model. The court system offers a fair shake to defend the monitoring system under challenge; those genuinely needed, operating proportionately and not being abused will either not be challenged, or will surely survive a challenge if they are...
Most importantly, the simple existence and promotion of such an avenue of redress will have a chilling effect on the behaviour of bureaucrats. Until now, as I've argued elsewhere, the fear of a petty official with thumpingly disproprortionate powers peering at one's every move has had a distorting effect on British life in recent times. Hitherto, such bureaucratic bullies have operated in a risk-free environment, without any realistic prospect of repercussions. Let's hope that this Bill means that the next time some team of town hall Tarzans wants to expand a CCTV scheme without consultation or intrude into someone's privacy, they fear what might happen to them.
Clegg has an op-ed in the Telegraph, too - well worth a read.
By Alex Deane