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Something to cheer about in the New Year?

Do not count on it but there is a much belated push on in Westminster to undermine the ID cards legislation that, if successful, would in effect make them voluntary. The Tories and LibDems peers (the later of which have at least been consistent in their opposition to ID cards) are at least going through the motion of blocking this monstrous intrusion by the state but I will believe it when I see it.

So… will David Cameron make the immediate scrapping of ID cards and abolition of the national register a manifesto pledge? If not then clearly it is still very much the party of Michael ‘a touch of the night’ Howard. Even if the move to prevent back-door compulsion succeeds, as long as the infrastructure of surveillance and branding us like cattle remains in place, Britain will remain nothing more than a Police State being held in abeyance.

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18 comments to Something to cheer about in the New Year?

  • Well, one can always hope that individual liberty becomes fashionable again. I doubt it, though. Here in Sweden, the only way the conservatives made any headway was by basically selling out and becoming social democrats. And that was mostly because of the Social Democrats’ dismally horrible handling of the tsunami. So, the conservatives have skewed the political climate of Sweden to the left, and stand to gain nothing for it. Approval ratings are rapidly climbing back to their pre-tsunami levels. The Swede may toy with the idea of freedom, but always returns to this shackles come election day. Better the evil you know…

    The Classical Liberal Parta is a ray of hope, though: http://www.liberalapartiet.se/

  • APL

    PDH: “Britain will remain nothing more than a Police State being held in abeyance.”

    Oh! Do you mean the New police state?

    Where we get to see the compassionate face of the Police state?

    You know, the caring police state?

    The police state, free at the point of delivery?

  • Compassion at the end of a loaded gun.

    Cognitive dissonance indeed.

  • John East

    Voluntary ID cards is the very worst option.

    Compulsory ID at least raises some resistance amongst the dumb electorate, whereas voluntary ID will be wecomed by the majority, they’ll only start moaning when they realise that they have to pay for it, but it’ll be too late by then.

    Voluntary scheme phase 2 is obvious. One will need a card to access a growing number of state services, when purchasing big ticket items (in the name of anti-money laundering), and a range of other services that we probably haven’t thought of yet. The ID card might still be voluntary, but if you wish to function in society you’ll be stuffed without one.

  • Very much in agreeance with the above poster. Witness the boiling of the frog.

  • “Voluntary ID cards is the very worst option”

    Absolutely. If they make ID cards compulsory then I canrefuse to carry one.

    If I have to use an ID card to access the NHS, to open a bank account, to work, to travel etc… it will be impossible to resist

    I still think the cost issue will arise. I heard an estimate of about £300 per card, assuming the government can bring the project in on budget. That would be about £18bn for the whole population. They now think the biometrics will need to be redone every 5 years, so about £3.6bn p/a

    I suspect Gordon Brown will scupper the scheme for ideological reasons and use cost as an excuse.

  • Julian Taylor

    What about having to use an ID card in order to either use London Underground or London Buses? Kuddly Ken is intending during the forthcoming year that you must possess a registered Oyster card (at present you can buy unregistered cards) in order to not pay extortionate travel fares. I gather that a single journey in Zone 1 would set you back £3.30, against £2.00 for the same journey with an Oyster card – a ploy that seems intent upon destroying what tourism we have left in London.

  • guy herbert

    John East:

    Voluntary ID cards is the very worst option.

    You mistake the strategy of opponents. The Government has said (and always remember we are talking about national registration here, not just stand-alone cards) that joining the system will be “voluntary”–meaning by that, ‘compulsory by stealth’. (Once you have been tricked into it, you will be under the notification regime for ever.) But in order to pull the con-trick there is in the legislation provision that the card may not be required for free public services until it is made formally compulsory in itself.

    Peers are insisting on taking them at their word, and restricting the scope for forcing registration on members of the public.

    Very few people will take the trouble unless they are forced to register, and the government would therefore risk a fiasco on the scale of the Japanese ID card system, where only a quarter of a million (out of an otherwise exceedingly conformist population of one hundred million) could be bothered. A national register cannot practically be made the key to population management and universal surveillance unless it is forced on people, so removing document designation would slow the process of database assimilation to the point where the Government may consider pursuing a different route rather than proceeding with a crippled bill.

    If “designated documents” are knocked out, the battle is not over, however. The Home Office still intends to compile a database on all passport-holders using prerogative power; the Road Safety Bill contains powers to collect information on drivers in connection with forced reapplication for driving licenses; and the Children Act Index and Criminal Records Bureau database build up threateningly under their own power, as does broad datasharing under a wide range of excuses (Electoral Registration, Council Tax registers, and so on).

  • Julian Morrison

    Politically, there’s a limited amount the Lords can do. They’re restrained by tradition from directly balking a manifesto commitment of the governing party. Also, they’re hoping to split the Labour rebels from the leadership by offering a compromise – where a purely oppositional stance might force them to vote along party lines.

    This is definitely a change of direction by the Tories. Howard was only against ID cards because he wanted to be the one to introduce them. Cameron seems to actually want them to go away. He won’t announce a commitment, though, for the same reason he’s not committing to anything else – he reckons it’s too early in the game to show his cards, and that’s not where he wants people to look.

  • The government should issue a limited number of free, fully-functional, transferable ID cards, which would enable one to use subways, government buildings, roads and hospitals and get discounts at government-run betting shops, at the cost of complete loss of privacy. The demand would be overwhelming. Before long they’d be for sale on Ebay at extortionate prices.

  • “there is in the legislation provision that the card may not be required for free public services until it is made formally compulsory in itself”

    How does this square with government’s claim that ID cards would stop NHS tourism? Or illegal workers for that matter? What would stop the government requiring ID cards for an increasing number of services through further legislation.

    N.B. According to the DT
    the LSE also puts the cost at £18bn. The report is unclear as to whether the cost is p/a or for implementation. I would imagine it is for implementing the scheme, in which case I am sure the LSE will be pleased to know I have independently reached a similar estimate.

  • RAB

    Bristol city council, in one of the only things I can ever remember them getting right, was to pass a resolution of complete non-cooperation with the operation of ID cards recently.
    Whether that amounts to anything more than when all those leftie councils used to declare themselves a nuclear free zone is anyones guess, but it is encouraging.

  • guy herbert

    mark –

    the LSE also puts the cost at £18bn. The report is unclear as to whether the cost is p/a or for implementation. I would imagine it is for implementing the scheme, in which case I am sure the LSE will be pleased to know I have independently reached a similar estimate.

    This is implemementation over 10 years. The LSE’s report is here. Note that this is still only internal costs to the ID agency and its proxies. (Reckoned by the Home Office at £1.3Bn, £3.1Bn and £5.8Bn in sucesssive estimates less than 18 months apart–ID cards appear to exceed Moore’s Law.) Costs to the punter, to business, and 10,000+ public bodies who might be expected to use the system, are extra.

    Frankly, if I’m to be enslaved, I’m not bothered how much it costs.

  • guy herbert

    How does this square with government’s claim that ID cards would stop NHS tourism? Or illegal workers for that matter?

    It doesn’t. The Government has expected the public to believe several incompatible and illogical things at once on this one. (The public has very largely obliged, where it has thought at all.)

    In fact, none of the government’s purported ambitions for them would be met by compulsory-carry cards, even.

  • John East

    RAB,
    I note that Bristol City Council is Labour controlled. It’s good to see the old anti-establishment socialist stance making a rare appearance. I’m puzzled how they manage to ignore the complete incompatability between individual freedom and collectivism, but what the heck, we need allies in Nulab if ID is to be squashed.

  • RAB

    It’s called wanting your cake and eating it John.
    Old time socialists loved freedom and would fight to their last drop of blood to defend it.
    Er the freedom to forment revolution that is!
    They didn’t(and still don’t) want Plod to know what THEY were up to, or the rest of us for that matter.
    However come the revolution they would have been well in favour of ID cards.
    I’ve just had a vision!
    A voice just said “Socialism is organised spite!”
    I must have a lie down now.
    I tend to enjoy Christmas too much.

  • guy herbert

    There are several other local authorities, the Welsh and London Assemblies and the Scottish Parliament opposing the scheme, too, for the record.

    Everybody hates this except New Labour, the civil service, and their fawning clientele of IT contractors represented by Intellect. Unfortunately we live in a bureaucratic state with an elective dictatorship.

  • Julian Taylor

    I am somewhat surprised that nobody on Samizdata picked up on Tony Blair’s latest Beria-esque caper. Apart from the truly awful ramifications of what he is proposing to do to children and/or their parents, just look at the comment at the bottom of the page, namely

    The Prime Minister has wanted for some time to remove responsibility for the anti-social behaviour unit, headed by Louise Casey, from the Home Office so that it can report directly to him.

    He believes that the Home Office is too cautious and reluctant to embrace radical ideas to tackle anti-social behaviour.

    This bodes ill for any argument within the ranks of even his own slavering minions. Given the dissent within the Labour party over the ID card bill could we see Blair set up another department, again under his personal control, that would be responsible for the issuance and administration of the ID card?