Eagle-eyed reader(s?) may have noticed the NØ2ID button which has been added to the sidebar of this site; between the search box and the adverts (which you are free to click on, by the way, and so provide me with another 10 cents revenue!). This is because I have decided to finally get off the fence on the issue of ID cards.
I should explain that the reason I have been reluctant to take sides up until now is because I have been one of the “I’ve got nothing to hide” brigade, as ridiculed recently by Jarod Borries. If people really want to collate a load of information about me, I thought, then good luck to them; I can’t imagine it being of any interest to anyone. I have always thought that, should I attract a stalker, rather than trying to hide away and be secretive I would welcome them into my home, talk to them and tell them all about my life. They would soon be so bored that they would just leave me alone and pick on some other, more enigmatic prey.
On the other hand, although I haven’t any huge civil liberties fears, I have always thought it would be a complete waste of time. Once ID cards are up and running, I’d give it about 6 months before there are forgeries out there; perhaps sooner. With regards terrorism, unless you have to specify on the application form that you are a member of a terrorist group, I cannot see why terrorists are not perfectly legally entitled to hold an ID card; after all, most Irish Terrorists held British Passports. Concerning social security fraud, I don’t know how an ID card will have any effect on those employers who currently illegally employ people on a cash in hand basis.
So it may be a harmless waste of time, but should it be actively opposed? Well, the more I think about it, yes. For one thing, the “I’ve got nothing to hide” argument relies on the fact that we don’t live in a South American Dictatorship; but the recent Queen’s Speech, with a heavy accent on more authoritarian law and order measures, along with recent legislation which has resulted in the situation of the Belmarsh Detainees (terrorists so dangerous that they are free to go to any country that will have them!) makes me wonder just what direction we are going in; the lazy phrase “the thin end of the wedge” springs to mind.
And then, this week, there was the news that the authoritarian wing of the Conservative Party had outflanked its libertarian wing, in deciding to support the Government in next weeks vote on ID cards. All of a sudden it seems like a done deal, and to prevent ID cards we are going to have to rely on Liberal Democrats and whip-defying backbenchers. This is the shock which forced me to make up my mind. When I then read on the “NO2ID” website that there are over 50 pieces of information which could be accessed via your ID card, it confirmed my opinion that this is something to be fought against before it is too late.
Of course, it won’t be David Blunkett, but Charles Clarke who will implement the ID cards scheme, following Blunkett’s resignation last night. I can’t see there being a massive change in the direction of the Home Office under Clarke, but we shall see. He seems to exhibit a similar sort of arrogance to that which Blunkett displayed, and which to my eyes made him a poor Home Secretary and the worst kind of politician. It is often said that the best ruler is one who would have to be reluctantly dragged to the despatch box; in fact we we often seem to get egotists desperate to flex their muscles, and to expand and display their own powers. That certainly appeared to be the case with Blunkett; someone who introduced rafts of legislation conveying more power to the state and to himself. An illustration is the 2002 Police Reform Act, which allowed the Home Secretary to suspend a Police Forces’ Chief Constable. Once it was introduced I always got the impression that Blunkett couldn’t wait for an opportunity to put it into practice, and indeed he didn’t wait long; requiring Humberside Police Authority to suspend Chief Constable David Westwood following the Bichard Enquiry into the Soham Murders.
However, I do feel a certain sympathy regarding the manner of his exit. His paternity battle was unpleasant and ugly, but I understand and can empathise with his position. This led to the allegations surrounding the visas and train tickets, and which ultimately led to his resignation; but how many other people have fiddled their expenses or given preferential treatment to friends in a professional capacity? I am not saying it is right, but it is hardly a hanging offence. In the end I think it was the daily accumulation of negative headlines, along with the incredibly ill-judged criticisms of his colleagues in Stephen Pollard’s biography which left him friendless in Westminster, and so made his position untenable. He probably went for the wrong reasons, but he has at least gone.
However, as I said earlier, I don’t I think it will make much of a difference to the behaviour of the Home Office; and judging by Tony Blair’s eulogy in accepting his resignation (“You leave government with your integrity intact and your achievements acknowledged by all. You are a force for good in British politics and can take great pride in what you have done to improve the lives of people in this country”) I doubt he will be out of Government for long.