Thursday, 29 January 2009

Manchester wins ID prize

For years it was easy for many people to overlook New Labour's love affair with corralling the British population like sheep. No longer: the party, filled with fury and knowing its time is short, is now embarked on a headlong rush towards the Brave New World. I suppose the idea is that if they can "roll out" enough of their agenda before the election the next government will find much of it difficult to repeal. Perhaps the reorganisation of the Home Office and the creation of the Justice Ministry played their part: now there are two whole departments devoted to thinking up new schemes of "public safety", two cabinet ministers competing with each other to produce the most dangerous legislation. The police, meanwhile, are preserving freedom and democracy by searching the likes of Tony Benn and Daniel Hannan's seven year old daughter under the Terrorism Act.

Today we learn that the lovely Jacqui Smith wants to pilot ID cards before the end of the year in a specially selected "beacon area", probably Manchester. Lucky Mancunians will be able to apply for the swanky EU compliant cards - and have their details registered for life (fines if you forget to tell them your new address) "on a voluntary basis". Airport workers in the city - unless legal challenges succeed - will have no choice.

Why Manchester? Is it because it's the spiritual home of the Guardian? Revenge for Terry Christian? Or perhaps Jacqui thinks the city's residents deserve a treat after plans for a mega-casino were shelved in order to demonstrate Gordon Brown's moral seriousness. A Home Office spokesman said that the "beacon area" scheme would allow the government to "manage demand" for the cards. Otherwise, I suppose, they would have to decide who gets one by a lottery, like tickets to a Wimbledon final.

This morning she visited a school in "a deprived part of Manchester" to spread the glad tidings among ID-hungry youth. She's particularly hopeful that 16 year olds will take up the offer of database slavery for a mere £30 - though why any self-respecting 16 year old would want a card that proves to the world they're below the drinking age is a mystery to me. She said "I think, having talked to young people this morning, that having a safe and secure way of proving your identity is something they want and something they need." I wonder if she explained about the fines.

ID cards are already being imposed on "foreign residents", many of whom have lived here without any trouble for decades; there wasn't much of an outcry, I suppose, because these days "foreign" is taken to imply something vaguely shifty and middle-eastern. Almost 50,000 have already been issued - and they have already "proved their worth", says our Jacqui. Apparently one person is "facing a conviction for people-trafficking". It's not clear just how an ID card helped solve that particular crime, but in any event one conviction per 50,000 cards issued hardly seems like the most cost-effective use of resources. On that basis, and taking the lowest, Home Office approved estimate of £5 billion for the entire scheme, the cards might be predicted to solve somewhere in the region of 1,000 crimes once the whole population is enrolled. That's around £5 million per crime.

Cheaper than bailing out RBS, I suppose.

4 comments:

lost causes said...

As the war on terror now has zero momentum, and the national pass time has turned from worrying about being blown up to worrying about money, is there any chance that ID cards will happen? Both the Tories and Libdems are against, and it seems impossible that Labour will win the next election. Are they just trying to waste as much money as possible before leaving office?

Here's some big government projects the UK needs:
- high-speed rail network
- fibre-optic to-the-door broadband
- an elected second-chamber
- decent, non-segregated schools for all children
- dentists!
- greener energy
- free childcare for 1 and 2 year olds

Here's what we get:
- ID cards
- Super casinos (almost)
- failing schools and faith academies
- 2 disastrous wars
- super bail-out
- porn witch hunt
- impossibly complex tax-credit system

If we're going to borrow and spend are way out of recession we at least need to leave a legacy of something useful, projects that inspire hope for the future. Crossrail is pretty much the only project to do this in 10 years.

oh well, only a couple more years...

Wasp_Box said...

Lost causes,

What a succinct summation. I couldn’t agree more.

One can only hope that the good people of Manchester will treat the repulsive Sith’s offer with the distain it deserves. No doubt it will be proclaimed a thumping success whatever happens.

Human Bean said...

I read this news story in my local MEN paper. Everyone I know won't be getting one. If I knew she was going to be in Manchester I would have gone to boo her outside the school. But I probably would get arrested under the terrorist act for doing that.
She said that these cards would help in combating terrorism. But how? Will these cards suddenly render any explosives useless? Will everyone feel less resently towards the Labour party thus causing a new age of enlightment so that no longer will the terrorist want to blow us up? And all for the delightful price of £30 plus 5 billion. S

Olive said...

She said that these cards would help in combating terrorism. But how?

Silly. One only has to look at Spain, where the national ID card scheme thwarted deadly terrorist attacks on the rail network in... Oh. Still, there's Israel, where supermarkets, bars, and crowded buses almost never explode, all thanks to their nationa... hang on a second... Iraq! Iraq is only the tranquil and permissive oasis of calm that it is becauase of their ID cards.