Tuesday, November 07, 2006


ID Cards Likely to be a Dodgy Legacy for Blair

Michael White today wonders why Tony Blair is so gung ho for ID Cards when so much of the evidence seems unhelpful and even he, its greatest fan, sounds an unconvincing advocate. A report in the Sunday Times last July reported leaked Whitehall emails which predicted the scheme 'is set to fail and may not be introduced for a generation'. Blair assures us they will help foil terrorism, benefit fraud, health tourism, serious crime and illegal immigration and all at the cost of a mere £5.4bn. But against this can be adduced:

i) the dangers of identity theft which White reckons has reduced the utility of similar schemes abroad. However clever we are the fraudsters are only a lap behind us and always seem swiftly to end up in front.
ii) the problems government have had with complex IT schemes have been notorious- £20bn lost on the NHS scheme no GPs wanted to use; the Criminal records cock-up; family tax credits; and the Child Support Agency. White cites the successes like vehicle licensing and online income tax but one has to wonder if there is a track record here on which taxpayers can rely when their billions are invested.
iii) Early in 2006 an LSE study produced an estimated cost for the project of £19-24bn, rather than the fraction of that sum the government claim it will cost.
iv) Simon Hoggart, in his sketch also raises, for laughs, the quite serious question of what happens when we lose our sodding card or it gets damaged. Won't it be an almighty nuisance and, probably hugely expensive to replace? Polls show 80% of us are in favour of the idea but baulk at the likely price.

I haven't mentioned the civil liberties argument yet. In June 2004 the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas told the Home Affairs Committee that he was 'increasingly alarmed' by a plan for which he did not see 'sufficient rationale'. However Polly Toynbee argues, unusually for a Guardian columnist perhaps, that such opposition merely reflects 'the wish of the middle class to be victims too' and goes on to defend the 'benign state' against its opponents who on this issue come mainly from the 'anti state individualistic right'. She's right I'm sure, but actually, I would have thought there were just a few opponents of the scheme on the left as well....

I think Blair is very stubborn and when he sets out to do something, he doesn't backtrack or listen to others, and this will be his undoing.
Ellee - "U-turn if you want to..." Sounds familiar?
The argument that ID cards will be a kind of panacea seems as simplistic as the belief that the restoration of hanging will end serious crime. As I point out to the 'famous taxi driver' elements among my students, they still have murders in the States; and they still have terrorists, fraud and illegal immigration in, for example, Germany. On top of this, if my recent laughable attempts to renew my driving licence after a recent change of address are anything to go by, Simon Hoggart has got it bang on. Big Brother is watching you? He probably can't even turn his telescreen on.
Excellent graphic on today's posting Skipper!

Blair (Eric) would have been happy to know that he had 67 years still to go in 1948.
Loved trhe example and it does prove the point I think
Thanks, I was pleased with it too; God knows whose it is...
To be honest I think ID cards are a dead duck. It's a certain vote loser for Labour and, with the Tories pledged to oppose it, there is no way Gordon is going to go into what might be a very tight election against Cameron carrying that sort of hostage to fortune. Mark my words, it will be ditched as soon as GB is safely in No 10.
Not so sure GB will ditch ID cards - hasn't he spoken out in favour of them, quite enthusiastically?
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