Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RANTS!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 12/09/04

Opportunities To Be Knocked

Time to criticise my local Council again, chums. I mean, I don't want you to think that they can buy me off just by putting in a central heating system for me, you know?

Anyway, the other day I had a form from them. It was headed something like "Equal Opportunites Monitoring" and asked me to tick the appropriate boxes to say what gender, race and colour I was (and, in fact, still am).

I do resent this. I mean, it's not for any sinister reasons. I'm not remotely racist (at least, not consciously so, apart from a thing against people from Liverpool which I could explain in the context of my own formative life experiences, but won't bore you with now), not ever since I saw an episode of The Goodies sending up Apartheid in which discrimination by colour was replaced by discrimination by height. I was about 12 or 13 then and, although I didn't consciously get the message (that discriminating against people on the grounds of their physical appearance is irretrievably stupid), looking back I can see that it did influence me. For the better.

Where was I? Oh yes. Something inside me screams when I get one of these questionnaires. Even if the intentions may be bona fide, I find myself marvelling once again at the seemingly endless effrontery of public officialdom. Why do they think that they have the right to know? Or even ask?

The form said that it would help the Council deliver its services to me, the taxpayer. I, the taxpayer, find it difficult to believe this. For a start, how could the Council better empty my bin by knowing whether I was male or female? Would it speed up the process by which I get my tatty front and back doors replaced (hint, hint) if I gave them reason to believe that I was Chinese? What, in short, do they really want to know for?

Certainly, I don't suspect any sinister motives, but all the same, I believe we should yield as little of our private life and information to the Apparat as possible (which is why I am totally against the current plans for a national ID card - see here for details of the campaign against it).

So, once again, just like I did last year (only the poor dears don't seem to have taken the hint yet), I have sent the form back uncompleted, but on the reverse side have written:

Do not send me one of these again!!"

If you get something similar, I warmly suggest you do the same.