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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Just When You Think You're Out of Date...

About ten years ago I wrote a short play called Fantasy Terrorist League about the changes we were making in the law that would damage our democracy.  It seemed topical at the time.  I expected it would have a short life span.  I have officially retired it as a piece of my acting repertory a few times now, primarily because the play was giving me crows feet (the play involves a lot of rictus grinning).  But it just won't bloody die.
I wrote couple of follow up pieces, variations on a theme, if you will, which I had performed with it a few years ago - I called this The Fantasy Terrorist Variations.  I then thought, enough, and put it to bed.
And then Boris Johnson piped up and started the ball rolling again.
In response to the crisis in Iraq and Syria, to the numbers of British citizens travelling abroad to support terrorism, he wrote that: "The law needs a swift and minor change so that there is a 'rebuttable presumption' that all those visiting war areas without notifying the authorities have done so for a terrorist purpose."  Basically, shift the burden of proof - if you return from a terrorist state then you are automatically presumed to be a terrorist and you must prove you aren't.  Which is exactly what my plays have been about - a shift towards a presumption of guilt.  Once again, they are no longer a bit out of date.
The governments response was swift and dismissive (thank goodness) but I wonder whether this was just because they saw it as a genuinely stupid idea, rather than a knee-jerk response to anything Boris says - i.e. that the response was more about domestic politics than good governance.  I hope it was both.
So, what is my response?  Well, we shall see.  I have a project in hand this year.  In fact I have written a new Fantasy Terrorist Variation to add to my collection.  It is called A Swift and Minor Change. And I'm about to record it now.

Additional - I've just posted my response online.  You can listen to it below.

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