The media is rabid that border surveillance may have been insufficiently paranoid for a period last summer. David Cameron’s defence of Teresa May rests on a curious paradox: he says that she instituted a pilot scheme on more targeted checks which was a tremendous success: detection rates of various categories of malefactor jumped up by figures ranging from ten to one hundred per cent.
On the other hand, Brodie Clark had extended this fantastically successful scheme without authorisation, and that was grossly negligent and indeed terribly dangerous.
Meantime New Labour ask ridiculous questions, determined as ever to show that they can be more rabidly right wing than the Tories. Just how many foreign terrorists, rapists and illegal immigrants had entered the UK last summer? Ha, she can’t say!
Meanwhile the streets are positively littered with the dead bodies of the victims of these dastardly foreigners, presumably.
The truth is that at no stage were passport checks stopped. Passports and visas wewre checked and questions asked, as always. What was stopped was routinely opening up the digital photo to compare it with the physical photo, to make sure that the physical photo had not been swapped. Instead this was only done where there was other reason to be suspicious.
Forget the hype. To replace a physical passport photo in such a way as not to damage the passport, undetectably, is very difficult indeed with modern passports and takes a real expert and a lot of effort. The things are designed so you can’t do that. Very, very few people are going to the massive effort of an undetectable photo swap on a digital passport, which also contains the encoded original photo which is probably going to be looked at. The digital photo is a massive effective deterrent to such behaviour.
They also stopped routinely checking everyone against suspect lists, again only checking those they had reason to suspect. That is exactly how they should behave anyhow. The ridiculous assumption that everyone is a terrorist, requires levels of surveillance that are unacceptable and make life unbearable, as regular air travellers well know.
The scapegoating of officials is typical bad behaviour by politicians. What worries me more is the way this is being used, yet again, to ramp up xenophobia. “Paranoid excessive passport controls were relaxed – and nothing happened” would be a better headline. You won’t see it.