It started with this pre-Christmas story. [Minister says we should strongly oppose discrimination against teenagers. Particularly when it's done using those mosquito device thingys.]
Mosquitos? Those ultra-high-pitched teenager-deterring screeching devices that provoked all that press attention a few years back? Are they still around?
Something about this story just wasn’t working for me. Was it that it smacked of grandstanding to win popularity amongst younger voters?
Or was it just that everything had gone so quiet about these devices that their sudden reappearance in a government policy speech could only mean that new cloth was being woven from old threads?
Was the Minister posing for photos, blowing the smoke from his shotgun, over a corpse that had died years ago?
I read the policy paper itself (yeah, dull old me, actually reading the underlying material). The only mention it makes of mosquito devices is to various successful campaigns for their removal.
Hmmm. Big hmmm.
So I asked about a bit: did anyone I know have any evidence of real, live mosquito use anywhere near them?
I got back a few comments like “well, I think there’s one outside a shop near me” but nobody could actually say they were sure one was being used.
Googling didn’t enlighten me much further. The suppliers of these devices seemed keen to trumpet their virtues, of course. [Here a Mr Gordon White of Plymouth City Council praises the reduction in vandalism they've seen since fitting them. When? Hmmm.]
Yet more grandstanding, it would seem. On the one hand, hardliners trying to show residents how tough they can be on the causes of vandalism. On the other, more liberal voices courting teenage popularity by banning them.
But are they being used now? As Tim Loughton flings them around as so much salt and pepper on his speech?
A job for FOI…
No. And the one they did have hadn’t been activated since 2008.
If you do have any evidence of real use, I’d be very interested to hear it. Not of previous installations, or claimed installations, or of a box on the wall that’s become part of local lore. Real evidence that they are switched on regularly, teenagers dispersed, and all that.
I mean, the Minister wouldn’t just use flimsy scare stories to brighten up a headline, now would he?
Afterpiece: Jon Baines has dug out this interesting legal briefing to Tim Loughton on mosquitos.