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What’s wrong with identity cards?03.02.2010 // by Simon Richards
The debate on identity cards has now been raging for so long that, at times, like the pro and anti-hunting lobbies, rage is indeed too often the principal feature of the argument. Why do those of us who oppose identity cards object so strongly to their introduction?
It would be wrong to attribute sinister motives to all advocates of ID cards. Many saw them as a practical response to a gigantic new terror threat. After the terrible events of 11 September 2001, it seemed right that something visible and practical, should be done to try to protect the public from future terrorist attacks.
Identity cards seemed such a good idea to so many people. At the time their introduction was first proposed, public opinion was overwhelmingly in support of them. Those of us, such as my own organisation, The Freedom Association, who opposed ID cards from the start, were labelled as soft on terrorists.
Since those early days, opinion has shifted remorselessly against identity cards. Why has this happened? Like so many a seemingly bright idea latched on to by politicians - Al Gore's claims for man-made global warming spring to mind - on closer inspection, identity cards proved to be far less of a panacea than had first been claimed. A succession of embarrassing leaks of supposedly confidential information held by the government and its agencies fatally undermined the public's faith that ID card information would be secure. Anyone who has ever looked at public sector IT programmes would have been deeply unsurprised by the shambolic state of the government's information systems.
On top of that, the vast cost of introducing such a system became even less attractive once the credit crunch and subsequent recession took a grip on the economy.
In addition, much credit must be given to those who took a courageous and, initially, unpopular stand against not only ID cards but the whole database state of which they are only the most prominent part. David Davis must take pride of place for his stand on this issue, helping to draw attention to an area which had already been of growing concern to many.
Important though the practical objections to ID cards are, the real issue goes much deeper. It is whether or not we the people should be the servants of the state or its masters. Identity cards are only one part of a sustained attack on traditional British liberties by our corrupt and incompetent political overlords. It is no coincidence that they are approved of by so many in the European Union. To the EU and the unelected bureaucrats and failed politicians who run it (and us), the British concept of individual rights and freedoms is as foreign as is the presumption of being innocent until proved guilty.
It is because the attempt to introduce identity cards is only a small part of a wider assault on our liberties that we must continue to oppose the whole database state, long after we succeed in defeating identity cards.
Simon Richards is the Director of the Freedom Association
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