May 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Among other things I am currently doing an internship with a Member of Parliament. Today his staff called in a counter-terrorism specialist to discuss security for his constituency office. In the course of offering advice on this the counter-terrorism guy shared some of his views on CCTV, which I found interesting because 18 months ago I did some research on CCTV in the UK.

One thing the counter-terrorism guy noted was that there are far too many CCTV cameras in this country. He didn’t mean this in the same way as Liberty or Big Brother Watch, however; his point was that most of the cameras are redundant. He told about a job he had worked on where a warehouse had installed 44 cameras – of which 6 were serving a useful purpose. Often people buy the wrong camera for the job at hand, or fail to set it up properly. If you’re thinking of buying CCTV cameras, he said, you could do worse than look at a useful government resource available online which helps you think through what the best CCTV solution for you might be.

Another thing he noted was that any private camera that operates in a public place (e.g. a street) needs to be registered, and often people fail to do this. Video footage from an unregistered camera is inadmissible in court as evidence. Defence lawyers faced with CCTV footage routinely check to see if the camera is registered, and often the Crown Prosecution Service is unwilling to take on cases where the only evidence is CCTV footage. The ICO is an important source of information on this.


Ken Livingstone Phonebank

May 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

Last night I volunteered in the phonebank for the Ken Livingstone for Mayor campaign, down in Labour Party Headquarters in Victoria. It was my first time working in a phonebank, and I stumbled a bit through the first few calls I made to voters in Orpington, even though none of the people I was talking to launched into particularly difficult policy debates when I asked “Do you have any issues or concerns about London at the moment?” I was impressed by the stamina and patience of the man sitting next to me, who found himself embroiled in conversations about immigration again and again.

Towards the end of the list of phone numbers I had been allocated was one with a different area code to the rest. A woman picked up; I looked at the list. “Hi, am I speaking to Ms Emmylou Harris?” (I’ve changed the name).


“Oh. Does she live there?”


I frowned, and looked at the area code again. “Do you live in Orpington?”

“No.” Pause. “I think I know what has happened here,” she said. “Ms Emmylou Harris lives in Orpington. With my husband.”

“Ah,” I said.

She burst out laughing. “This wasn’t quite the phone call you were expecting,” she observed.

I struggled to find something to say. “At least you’re laughing about it,” I managed,finally.

She stopped laughing. “Well…if you do speak to my husband, tell him he’s still an arsehole.”

I couldn’t help laughing at that myself. “I’ll see if I can fit it into the script,” I suggested as I ended the call.

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