Tuesday, November 11, 2003

So it looks like Blunkett is getting his way for now with regard to id cards, although the atmosphere of this debate is a truly accurate reflection of British parliamentary politics today.

Forget any genuine discourse about the benefits and drawbacks of the actual legislation, instead lets just turn it into a proxy war for Blair vs Brown. In this way whether this piece of momentous legislation becomes enacted or not has more to do with where a few MPs stand on the minutae of internal Labour Party dogma (because lets face it: the only issue on which you can slip a fag paper between Brown and Blair is 'Who's the Boss') rather than any of the arguments surrounding the bloody things. Grrr.

Anyway, I've made my blood boil over this one many times in the past, so this is all I have to say, which is what I submitted to the BBC 'Have Your Say' comment section.

The problems with an id card clearly outweigh its benefits. Criminals, illegal immigrants and benefit cheats already easily evade the not inconsiderable identity and security checks put in their way. I have yet to see any evidence that an id card will reverse this situation.

For law-abiding citizens the card could rapidly become a heavy cross to bear - without a card nothing, however innocent and trivial, will be achievable but with it even clearly ridiculous transactions will be possible as those charged with checking identity will rapidly come to rely wholly on the card rather than assessing the validity of the individual.

Regarding terrorism, I simply have no idea how introducing a card will help to combat this, though clearly, the sensible way to avoid people killing you is to act in such a way that they don't want to in the first place, rather than erecting barriers to them doing so after they have already settled on a course of action.

Overall the card will be a highly expensive blunder that almost certainly will not be adopted by a significant enough portion of society to make it a universal form of id. It will curb neither day to day crime, terrorism, benefit fraud or illegal immigration, though it will give the police increased powers to detain and question individuals on their possession or non possession of a card, as well as allowing government departments access to increased demographic and individual data.

Whether the individual thinks that this is a good idea depends surely on their assessment of the recent performance of our famously truthful government and our equally non-discriminatory police forces.

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