Over at Orphans of Liberty, JuliaM has an article up about "safer neighbourhoods"—as defined, naturally, by speed cameras.
It reminded me of an occasion when, a few years ago (four, I think), I accompanied a friend of mine to The Lord Mayor's Show. It is full of your typical English pageantry with the main feature being the three mile long procession, featuring floats from the various Guilds and organisations around the City of London.
Despite the rain, all the participants and audience were in a brilliant mood, whooping, cheering and laughing.
Until the Safer Neighbourhoods float came along. The float had the no-doubt prescribed number of adults (kitted out with CRB checks, I would imagine) but it was mainly full of children—many of whom were wearing hats in the shape of speed cameras. The whole float was adorned with images of speed cameras, and was replete with signs and messages intended to leave the audience in no doubt that speed cameras were "safer neighbourhoods".
For a moment, one could hear and sense the crowds' hesitation: speed cameras are not popular, but there were children on the float and, after all, weren't we all having a good time—too good a time, surely, to spoil it by being serious? So, hesitantly, the crowds came to their decision...
And they booed.
The disapproval started with a break in the cheering, and then a silence; then a "boo" could be heard from one or two places and then everyone was booing—showing how much they hated and loathed these contraptions. The boos were not as loud as the cheers had been, but they gathered strength and pace—but the float did not, could not. The children, one could see, were becoming increasingly bewildered, the adults guarding them tried to maintain the triumphant bonhomie whilst glaring at the crowd.
And as the float went past the stands at a walking pace, the British people—against their more compassionate judgement—gave a vocal demonstration of how they hate these money-grubbing pieces of street furniture, and the people who continue to push them.
I wonder whether the "safer neighbourhoods" float has ever tried that again? Or have they watered down or changed the image?
I didn't boo.
But I did feel angry at the adults—all those do-gooders and special interest groups and lobbyists and vested interests—who had quite deliberately decided to push the children into the front-line, to persuade these young people (who surely were too young to understand what they were being made to do) face the ire and contempt of the citizens...
It was shameful.