I was going to do a critique of Michael Howard’s piece on ID cards in the Telegraph.However, Stephen Robinson writing in the Telegraph, has done such a good job I decided it better to refer people to it instead:
If you like the idea of all this and can afford the £400 or so it will cost your extended family (the Tories could have said), then vote Labour and help Charles Clarke, the new Home Secretary, get one over all those he accuses of “liberal woolly thinking”. On the other hand, if you are sceptical of grandiose government in general, and of ID cards in particular, the Tories might have said, then vote for us.
Mr Howard might have added that he would take the billions that Labour will spend on this scheme, and use it to improve border controls, to put more police on the streets, and bolster the security services.
He might have pointed out that we face a real and immediate terrorist threat and that ID cards will not be fully operational for at least seven years, even assuming the technology works. The Tories might have remarked on how America’s Department of Homeland Security, no slouchers in the war on terror, have no plans for a national ID card, but prefer to concentrate their efforts on border control and intelligence.
They might have mentioned that the real terrorist threat we face might actually come from within the pool of 26 million short-term visitors to British ports and airports every year, and that, if none of these foreigners needs an ID card, then why should your elderly parents in Cheltenham?
The Tories might, heaven forbid, have said they would not raise or spend the billions the ID scheme would cost because Conservatives believe in small government and want to cut taxes, not raise them.
But Mr Howard could not bear the thought of looking “weak on terror”, so preferred to make his front-bench team seem ridiculous yesterday in forcing them to fall in line behind a scheme that will cost billions, make us no safer and ultimately prove highly unpopular. He has deprived millions of people like me with an innate scepticism towards government of a real choice next year. At the very moment when one senses that voters are growing uneasy at the controlling instincts of New Labour, the Tory front bench has endorsed Big Government on stilts. (Emphasis added)
Also, a few more critiques of Charles Clarke’s defence of ID cards have appeared. The ever excellent Spy.org.uk has produced a good critique here.
Henry Porter also provides a good critique in Friday 17th’s edition of the Guardian. A particularly good passage reads:
To be anonymous, to go privately, to move residence without telling the authorities is a fundamental liberty which is about to be taken from us. People may not choose to exercise this entitlement to privacy, or see the point of it, but once it’s gone and a vast database is built, eventually to be accessed by every tentacle of the government machine, we will never be able to claw it back. We are about to surrender a right which is precious, rare even in western democracies, and profoundly emblematic of our culture and civilisation.
A further point Porter raises is that we currently have many ways of identifying ourselves if we wish. The point of the ID card is for the government to identify us.
That is why the ID cards bill contains e.g. £1000 fines for failing to notify the govt of a change of address and other similarly draconian requirements on people to fill forms in correctly. It is also why there will be an audit trail recording every use of the card, enabling the government to monitor all our lives in incredible detail, as stated in my earlier article.
Spy.org.uk have also produced a clause by clause analysis of the ID cards bill that is well worth reading. Spy.org.uk has become an immensely useful resource on all things civil liberties, privacy and surveillance related.