Peter Rhodes on hoodlums, emergencies and what to expect from the national-alert scheme

So what epoch-changing message will appear on your mobile phones when the Government unveils its national emergency-alert project on April 23? We are assured that the siren-like whine, followed by a text message, will be used in such emergencies as fire, flooding and extreme weather (no mention of World War III). Similar systems have already saved lives in other parts of the world.

No-go area for gangsters?
No-go area for gangsters?

But what will the April 23 message be? How about: “You've forgotten it's St George's Day again. Do something appropriate immediately.” And suddenly 20 million Brits dress up as crusaders and get drunk.

And then what? The lesson of history is that once a new technology appears, people start using it all the time. Who in the corridors of power could resist using a messaging system which instantly reaches most of the population?

At best the alert programme might become an infuriating pocket version of those nanny-state messages on motorway gantry signs: “Check your tyre pressures . . . Have you got a clean hankie?” At worst, coupled with CCTV and face-recognition, it could take over your life: “This message, direct from HM Government, is just for you, Nigel. You've forgotten the beans again, haven't you . . ?”

Having seen the Home Secretary Suella Braverman bursting with enthusiasm for the Rwanda-migrant scheme this week, praising the accommodation in the African state, and slapping down the House of Commons with rampant optimism and determination, I reach back into my archives and wonder what has changed.

At risk of repeating myself, this comes from this column on April 19 last year: “Something must be done about the Channel people-smuggling trade. But if sending migrants to Rwanda is the answer, I'm Ramsay MacDonald.”

Curious tale from Japan where pay-as-you-go toll booths on motorways are being scrapped and replaced with plastic-card passes. Because the authorities control who may or may not have a pass, they can now deny the infamous yakuza gangsters access to the motorways. The yakuza are not taking this lying down and are seeking legal advice. A spokesman says: ”If they still prevent us from using the system just because we are gangsters, then we will put up a fight to the end.”

“Just because we are gangsters”? Maybe something's lost in translation.

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