There’s a good piece in today’s Sunday Telegraph about the British government’s unceasing determination to introduce ID cards. This time it was yet another “consultation procedure”, the purpose of which was to demonstrate overwhelming public support for the idea:
But the Home Office had not counted on nine enterprising young people who work in the IT sector and who, in their spare time, run an unfunded website that encourages their peers to take part in such national debates. They posted a form on their site – www.stand.org.uk. This was not a petition, just a mechanism for readers to participate in the consultation procedure. They were gratified that more than 5,000 people used their service, of whom 4,856 were against the scheme.
The Home Office initially dismissed these responses, and stuck to the claim of overwhelming public support for ID cards. That all changed this week, when the Home Office Minister Beverley Hughes belatedly acknowledged in the Commons the existence of Stand’s response. Thus, the overwhelming public support has vanished, and, by the only measure that has been taken, ID cards can be deemed unpopular.
One of the many things this episode illustrates is the great power of quite small groups, whenever any politician claims that there is “overwhelming” support for anything. You can prove that wrong just by opening your mouths and mouthing off, and if they’re wrong about that, what else are they wrong about?
“Unanimous” support, which often takes the form of some ass in a suit saying that “nobody is saying” what you then proceed to say and prove that you’ve been saying for years, can be even more easily punctured.