|Who's been a bad lad, then? I think we'd better confiscate|
his Travel Pass...."
In the meantime Fiona Millar, Chair of Governors at William Ellis School and wife of spin-guru Alastair Campbell, was less than pleased by my proposal to film her unruly pupils. She said (Ham & High, 28/4/2011): "It is completely inappropriate for any member of the public to film pupils under the age of 16 without their or their parents' consent We believe most of our parents would be very concerned by this type of behaviour."
What about the behaviour of her pupils? And what about the fact that many local residents, among them the elderly and vulnerable, are, to borrow her words, "very concerned" and, in some cases, downright terrified by it? And what are school governors, teachers, parents - and now the police - going to do about it?
Well, there's not a lot that can be done. I have received a pleasant letter from Sgt Jeff Williams of the Metropolitan Police who is on the Highgate Safer Neighbourhoods Panel. In my view, Jeff and his colleagues have a near-impossible job, given the extent to which the fashion for political correctness, committee work and community liason impedes or prevents any truly effective attempts to restore law and order. He pointed out that while I am free to film in a public place, it might upset the children and provoke a "negative reaction". He also said that there were a number of initiatives in place to combat anti-social behaviour. For example, pupils on buses who terrorise their fellow passengers run the risk of having their Free Travel Passes confiscated. As to the litter, the wasteland of beer bottles and pizza cartons, I heard from Richard Gentry of the Hampstead Heath Constabulary, another outfit burdened, in my view, with a near-impossible job. Richard acknowledged the problem, reminding me that prominent, bright-yellow bins have been introduced in an attempt to minimise littering.
So that's it. In a heroic and endearingly British attempt at compromise and fair play, we punish hooligans by confiscating their bus passes. We pander to the brain-dead morons who litter our parks and open spaces by supplying them with strident eyesores in the form of bright-yellow dustbins. We set up committees, we draft policies, we continually strive to appease and protect the very people who are making our lives a living hell. And now a seasoned and normally ultra-tolerant old Leftie like me, who should be able to enjoy a nice middle-aged stroll on a peaceful Hampstead Heath, is reduced to dusting off the Super 8 and making grainy cinéma vérité in a bid to curb the antics of gangs of naughty children. These children - in a just world - should be disciplined by their teachers and parents, not allowed to become yet another drain on an already overburdened and underesourced police force. Jill Hislop, head teacher of William Ellis, and Fiona Millar, the Chair of Governors have both criticised me and my partner Vicki Carpenter for making "unsubstantiated" and "general" claims to the press. General? Unsubstantiated? There is nothing more specific and verifiable than the behaviour of these children on and around the Heath after school. Go and see for yourself how unsubstantiated my claims are.