I have just put down the book, The Dying Light, by Henry Porter.
It's a political thriller and I'm a political nerd, so we got along well.
I spotted the book one wet Sunday afternoon, weeks before my holiday, in the window of a little book shop in Moreton-in-Marsh. The bookshop, however, was closed and a quick check on Amazon confirmed that it wasn’t on general release for another week.
And so I was thrilled when a visiting friend arrived at my holiday destination with a signed copy of the book as a gift.
Henry Porter had written a dedication on the inside cover: 'A book for all politicians'.
I laughed. The book is after all a novel and the reason I wanted to take it on holiday with me was in order to relax. And I did, to a degree.
The story line is conspiratorial and intriguing. The plot is built upon the way our society is regulated and monitored by computer data bases and CCTV.
All the way through one does think 'yes, but that could never happen in England': but of course, it could.
All the building blocks are in place. The NHS spine, DNA held and recorded without permission, car movements recorded and journeys held on record for five years, ID cards, CCTV, the list of recording and monitoring the movements of free British citizens goes on and on.
If there's one complaint you hear more than any other it is the fact that our society becomes more 'Orwellian' day by day.
Why do we have more CCTV cameras on our little island than the rest of Europe put together?
If it’s to beat and defeat terrorism then that's fine by me, but what stops information being used in one way, for our safety and greater good, being exploited via other agencies for an entirely different reason?
The book explores this possibility, works that scenario up and tells a very good fictional story, which would also make a great film.
The author’s after word was informative.
The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 enables the Prime Minister, a Minister or the government Chief Whip to dismantle democracy and the rule of law overnight.
This law was passed the year before I became an MP and I was unfamiliar with the extent to which the law entirely removes an individual’s right to freedom, and I doubt any man or woman on the street has a clue.
For that I blame the media. As a journalist the author, who still writes for the Observer and Guardian online, wove into the story line the role a Murdoch-type figure can play during a general election. However, he could have made much more capital of the extent to which the fourth estate sets and manipulates the political agenda. And yet he chose to question the more stoic British characteristic of getting on with life in the face of adversity.
Maybe this character has evolved and is sustained as the result of a diet of occasionally irresponsible, sometimes inaccurate, frequently biased reporting.
Henry, it’s a great book - a work of fiction which, in the absence of a media willing to inform the facts, should be read by everyone, not just politicians.
The Dying Light