This Guardian article was highlighted in a posting made to the uk.politics.misc usenet group, by Alan G. Apparently, Special Branch is now 2.5 times bigger than it was during the Cold War. Furthermore:
In addition to the growth in its size, the special branch “now has far more civilian staff and the means for mass surveillance of telecommunications and the payments of informers which it never had in those days,” he adds.
In the run-up to the next EU summit in Brussels in mid-October, each special branch division in Britain will be expected to provide the names and profiles of activists who are expected to go to Belgium to protest, Statewatch says.
So Britain has a political police force keeping tabs on people who attend demonstrations, with powers to perform mass surveillance of telecommunications, growing to its largest level ever. And at the same time we’ve had the massive growth in CCTV (still largely unregulated) and a relentless eriosion of civil liberties by the current Labour govt extending back to well before 11 Sept 2001. The govt has enormous powers to invade our privacy, without any effective accountability. Maybe the term police state is a bit strong for the current situation, but the trend is clear — Britain is heading that way.