Technology tightened its Orwellian stranglehold on the nation's throat this week, with the news that 'talking' CCTV cameras, already used in a Middlesbrough pilot scheme, will be rolled out in a further 20 parts of England.

The cameras - which are so sickeningly symptomatic of the dystopian nanny state we live in that anyone who made them up for the purposes of fiction would be laughed out of town - are designed to issue loud commands to any lawbreakers their steely eye descends upon.

Drop litter, and you'll hear about it. Flail drunkenly about, and the control centre staff will put you in your place. Infringe the basic civil liberties of millions of people, however, and apparently that's fine.

Aside from the cost - negligible in governmental terms so far, but sure to balloon if the rest of the country is added to the scheme - and the laughable hubris of expecting this to actually deter antisocial yobs, the idea that UK citizens are all criminals-in-waiting to be treated with suspicion and ordered around like schoolchildren reeks of New Labour arrogance at its most repellent.

The BBC website reports that there are approximately 4.2 million CCTV cameras in Britain. Sleep well: Big Brother is watching.