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Clarke's x-ray specs - police swoops, detectors for schools

Another ministerial preemptive strike...

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Education secretary Charles Clarke today joined in the law and order bidding wars by confirming that he was considering using x-ray weapons detectors in schools, and encouraging schools to invite the police to mount surprise raids on their premises. The Register wishes to thank Clarke for his prompt confirmation of our suggestion just last Thursday that he might be considering unleashing x-ray machines on our children - his proposal to subject them to area stop and searches can be seen as an added bonus.

Clarke was electioneering, er, speaking on Breakfast with Frost, but we've had quite enough of listening to politicians on law and order today, so you can read the BBC report here and watch the rerun if you like. Worth noting is that Clarke seems happy to admit that Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir John Stevens suggested the idea, and that Clarke shows no sign of grasping the possible snags associated with this brilliant plan.

These are first, that x-rays are not necessarily harmless (see our earlier piece); second, that the government really will need to support widespread deployment plans with the data David Blunkett was claiming it didn't have just last week; third, that attempting to sell child irradiation to parents under the a 'zero tolerance' banner will surely get him into trouble, and fourth, did we mention that the machines show the people being scanned naked? Irradiate children, look at them with no clothes on and organise police swoops on them while they're in school - brilliant election thinking, Charles.

Actually, it probably makes sense for the Met to use the same approach, given that it's seeking the same things and using the same kit, as it used in the recent anti-gun swoops on pubs and clubs. A large force assembles in the vicinity of the pub (or school), then cordons it off, deploys the x-ray machine and gives the contents of the pub (or school) the option of a body search or a scan in the nice machine. No retraining necessary, no money wasted.

Memory lane Charles Clarke, The Register and law and order go back a thunderous long way. When Charles was president of the National Union of Students, your writer was gigging for National Student at the NUS premises in Kings Cross. We heard a cross stamping noise in the doorway. It was Charles on a mission of mercy. "F*ck f*ck f*ck", he said to nobody in particular. "That f*cking f*cker Andy Strouthous has got himself arrested. Now I've got to go and f*cking bail the f*cking Trot f*ucker out, and I f*cking hate him." Andy Strouthous, we recall, was at that time president of of North East London Poly. We have always treasured Charles' moderate and humane reaction to his predicament. ®

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