lunedì, luglio 26, 2004

Protect and Survive......again?

I see that the British Government, through the Home Office, are about to launch a major new anti-terrorist initiative. They are, next Monday, publishing a booklet for distribution to every household in the UK during August, with advice and practical tips for survival including such useful hints as keeping a stockpile of tinned foods, bottled water and batteries (!) The British Home Office tells us that the campaign is in response to research showing that the British public wanted more practical advice and help and has nothing at all to do with any specific or heightened threat of attack. They are reinforcing the publication with a series of adverts on both TV and radio to encourage people to read the booklet and act on the main advice, which is to "go home, stay indoors and listen to the radio for further advice".

Of course, there are already sources of advice for concerned UK citizens from organisations such as MI5, or the Foreign Office, so why is the Home Office taking such a step in publicising the advice to every household. The cost of this excercise is conservatively put at around £20million, so there has to be a good reason to justify this kind of expense, surely.

Well, perhaps the government is following in the footsteps of the UK Civil Defence Programme, which produced a booklet entitled "Protect and Survive" in 1976 - copies of which are now highly collectable, by the way. This was one of several publications produced by H.M. Stationery Office from the 1950's, giving advice to concerned citizens about what to do in the event of a nuclear war. Of course, it didn't dwell for very long on the fact that the best that they might be able to give all of those concerned citizens in the way of warning would be four minutes - and that wouldn't include the actual time to think - go into the studio to record the warning and then interrupt the TV or radio programme to actually broadcast it. Then, it would have come down to an estimated 20 seconds warning. Plenty of time to sort out the shelter and get the family 'safely' tucked away, obviously perfectly safe from a nuclear bomb explosion now.

On reflection, maybe not. But, I'm sure it has nothing whatsoever to do with how the government is failing in the by-elections in the UK - and, obviously, it can have nothing to do with any future elections either, can it. Of course not. Most likely (!!!) the British Government is just following the Australian Government with its own booklet, "Preparing for the Unexpected", which was launched back in 2003. Stranger things have happened - somewhere - before.

Perhaps the best reaction to this kind of publication was made by the author and cartoonist, Raymond Briggs, whose book, "When the Wind Blows" was made into a film in 1987. It is eerily apt in this present publicity drive by HM Government as well, I think.