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A Question of Identity

As a dual national I have a French national identity card. As a British national who doesn’t have a driving licence and whose passport expired in December of last year, I have no state approved form of identifying myself.

Naturally I have never been asked to produce a form of identification in France by a state official except when crossing a border. Equally naturally I have been asked numerous times by police officers in the United Kingdom to identify myself (despite this being illegal without some probable cause, but then I suppose I have a shifty look).

Therefore I fear that a British identity card will become the pretext of even more bullying of white middle-class people by the low-life pigs that pass for law-enforcement officers in the UK today.

During the Second World War, I am told that a well known local dignitary in Ulster was chatting to a police officer at a railway station whilst waiting for a relative to arrive from Belfast. After twenty minutes the police officer said to the local businessman he’d known for years: “Mr Smith, please show me your identity card.” He then proceeded to arrest Mr Smith for failing to carry proper documentation. I suspect that a Gestapo officer would have shown more common-sense.

The chances are that the present loutish types will not behave better than the Royal Ulster Constabulary’s treatment of a Protestant businessman in 1942. Unfortunately, there is a genuine security advantage to identity cards (even when they can be forged). They provide an audit trail for car hire, bank accounts etc.

But of course in France, of course no self-respecting hotelier would dream of asking a single male for identification, unless they wished to cash a cheque…

8 comments to A Question of Identity

  • Jacob

    Are British policemen indeed so much worse than the Frech ?
    Are civil liberties more extensive and more respected in France than in Britain ?
    Do you feel your liberty curtailed in France because of the ID card?

  • Ralf Goergens

    I’ve also never been asked for I.D in Germany. Not even when I almost rammed a police car with my own. 🙂

  • I didn’t understand the bit about the Protestant businessman in 1942. Can you explain that part? Sounds interesting.

  • Mark: I suspect Antoine’s point was to show it was not the fact the person was a Catholic that the RUC copper was acting in such an idiotic manner, hense this is not a case of sectarianism, but rather an example of the mindset of British law enforcement to pretty much everyone.

  • Alastair

    I’ve been asked for my ‘papers’ in France, about 15 years ago by a policeman who looked more like a soldier. He and his friends were not friendly to me (a 16 year old tourist) at all, and exhibited a great deal of arrogance. They seemed to enjoy humiliating me. Other friends of mine have also had ‘papers’ demanded of them in France. A policeman’s never asked me for ID in the UK.

  • I suspect there is a cultural difference at work here. The culture of the Rule of Law is very strong in the UK – stronger than in France, I suspect. A French hotelier may be required by law to ask for your ‘papiers,’ but will just ignore the rule if he or she doesn’t like it. A British hotelier, if given the same regulation to follow, will doubtless follow it to the letter.

    Which is WHY excessive regulation in such a country as the UK is such a bad idea – our culture lends itself to little Gestapo types who really will nitpick that much.

  • Alastair shouldn’t feel too bad: I am a French national and between the age of 16 and… say 30, I’ve been relentlessly “checked” by policemen.
    I can even remember being stopped and asked my papers twice a day over a period of seven days and by the same team of policemen.
    “shifty look” on my part maybe (at 16, but not anymore passed 25) but most certainly arrogance and humiliation frenzy on the police’s side.

    It got better now… but then again, I’m at my desk most of the time.
    I guess I’m safe as far as I don’t leave the dacha…

    I went to London several times but I’ve never been asked anything by the police. And from my own point of view, British policemen ususally – let’s not generalize – sounds more respectful and, simply put, polite than the French ones. At least, that’s something 😉

  • A_t

    “Therefore I fear that a British identity card will become the pretext of even more bullying of white middle-class people by the low-life pigs that pass for law-enforcement officers in the UK today.”

    You’re not implying that middle-class white people have it really bad, are you? Like, man… whatever you’re getting, i guarantee if you weren’t white, it’d be worse.

    If it’s just a general point about british police being arrogant, condescending & ignorant, then that’s ok by me!