Keith Waterhouse

Last updated at 00:00 26 June 2003

THE final outcome of the Osama Bin Laden security fiasco at Wills' 2lst birthday bash will be that in future it will take two hours longer to get into any royal function. Should you be wearing a false beard and a salmon-pink ballgown, allow an extra ten minutes. Otherwise, no change. We are promised the tumbril sound of rolling heads and that procedures will be tightened (they would hardly be loosened, would they?).

As police chiefs swear, it must never happen again. Of course not. Heaven forbid.

And life will go on. A few days or weeks from now, an enterprising redtop reporter will wander unchallenged through the apartments of a royal residence and, disguised as a cannibal chieftain with a bone through his nose, will be asked by the Queen if he has come far. So it goes.

Incidentally, if the Prince William fancy dress do was supposed to have an African theme, how come that the nearest thing to an African among the 320 guests was an imposter disguised as an Arab? A sardonic Guardian reader did suggest that at least the Queen might have made a grand entrance carrying a bucket of water on her head.

The whole episode was so surreal that the question of security seems almost a side issue. But then that's what security very largely is. It's an industry to keep men in peaked caps in employment, to sustain the sale of X-ray machines, and to add to the stockpile of confiscated nail scissors at Heathrow airport. But it doesn't make us any more secure. Nor is it seriously intended to. Security is an illusion.

A good many years ago my friend John Edwards and I, both of us then toiling in another parish, were despatched to New York to cover one of the political conventions. Floor passes at these jamborees are like gold dust and we had precisely one each.

Then we heard that the Editor and a large retinue of hangers-on were about to descend upon New York, expecting admission to the closelyguarded convention. By means of bribery, bullying, blackmail, begging and other subterfuges, John and I managed, in the course of a single afternoon, to acquire between us enough floor passes to seat the entire delegation from Georgia - all of them within potting range of Senator Edward Kennedy.

SECURITY is about inquests. It's about aftermaths. When the Brighton Tory conference bomb went off I was staying at the hotel next door. Earlier that evening I had dined at a restaurant along the seafront where literally the entire Cabinet were tucking into their sole meuniere. With the right weapon I could have wiped out the whole lot of them. But the next morning I couldn't even get across the street. You could have heard the stable doors slamming over in Bournemouth.

It will be the same in Windsor. I hope not too many of the Windsor Castle staff take milk in their tea, because the milkman has little chance of getting his float through the gates this morning.

As for Heathrow, what passes for security - although jobsworth officiousness would be a better name for it - has got so far out of hand that a friend of mine missed a flight from New York this week while a plodding young woman asked everyone a raft of stupid, pointless questions.

(When asked if I packed my own bag, I am always tempted to reply: 'No, I gave the task to a gentleman of swarthy hue I fell into conversation with in a pub in Soho.' Do not ever do this, unless you are in search of a cancelled holiday.) And as for Aaron Barschak, the 'comedy terrorist', the greatest danger he poses is that of appearing at the Edinburgh Festival with perhaps the unfunniest act on record. Now that really is a threat to security.

DAVID never had this trouble with Goliath. Giant killers slay giants. It's an established rule - read your Jack And The Beanstalk.

So instead of a 6ft 10in Croatian felling Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt, Lleyton Hewitt should have demolished the 6ft 10in Croatian.

That's the way it would have featured in Harry Potter And The Tallest Tennis Player In The Universe.

True - Hollywood likes tall heroes, which is why you get film hunks who have to stand on soapboxes for their close-ups, or, if the fellow they are playing opposite is particularly tall, he has to stand in a specially-dug trench.

But in real life, as in mythology, we expect our giants to fall victim to Tom Thumb- sized giant killers. What else are giant killers for, if they are not to kill giants?

I think the National Union of Giant Slayers and Associated Trades should hear about this.

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