Unlike journalists of the mainstream media, I am going to read through the government’s new paper on the Prevent Strategy before I comment on it. From first glance I am not impressed, but I will read it properly and write it up tomorrow morning.
Meantime I can break the news that a major terrorsit attack was foiled today at the British Library. I went to use the reading room of the British Library to look at some Alexander Burnes manuscripts, on which I have been in email discussion with the curators. I took my passport with me for identification. But they would not let me in as I did not have proof of address. They needed to see both a passport and proof of address “For security reasons”.
I did have, as it happens, several documents containing my address on in my pockets; including a doctor’s prescription, a hotel bill and a library card. Surely in addition to my passport that would do? No, I was told, “for security reasons” only a specified list of documents was acceptable, which the police have advised the Library contain securely verified addresses. A NHS registration is apparently not verified; a credit card statement is (which is bollocks – some of my credit card statements all go to an ancient address, from which someone kindly forwards them, and at which false address I could now register at the British Library as this false address will be acceptable on a specified document)
But it doesn’t stop there. I was asked why I wished to access the British Library; I replied that I was researching a biography of Sir Alexander Burnes. I was told that I must provide evidence of that. What? You think I am pretending to be researching a biography of Alexander Burnes? That I have some obscure motive in seeking to read some of the most obscure and neglected documents in the British Library? I offered to produce the emails from the Library’s curators about the documents I am looking for. These were not acceptable as emails were not “original documents”.
I was then assured that all of this was in the interests of security, and part of the anti-terrorism advice received by the British Library from the Police. It was obviously expected by the young man telling me this that I would therefore accept that all this nonsense was both sensible and necessary.
I gave up. The British Library can no doubt be delighted that they have foiled a major Al Qaida plot to insert a sleeper cell of false Alexander Burnes researchers.
Why on earth do we put up with this total bollocks, whereby ludicrous “security” regulations, administered by half-educated low paid staff steeped in the insolence of office, are used to block individuals from going about their lawful business? Karl Marx famously wrote Das Kapital in the reading room of the British Library. He would never get in now. “Can you prove that you are researching the relationship between Capital and Labour then, sir?”.