Friday, November 26, 2004

Prime Minister apparently ignorant of own policy

The Guardian covers Tony Blair's much-blogged "text conversation" set up by a mobile phone company. Just like most articles about this, it entirely misses an important point by sniggering about Blair's familiarity or otherwise with technology.

What I find more worrying is his evident lack of familiarity with his own policy. In the text of the discussion, we find the following exchange:
Teapot: Hi tony, id cards, why shd we pay for them?

PM: The important thing to realise is we will have to change passports, many countries use biometric visas. We need to combine passports and ID cards.
Well, leaving aside his grammar, this is factually incorrect even as a statement of government policy. The latest version of the government's policy on ID cards does NOT foresee combined passports and ID cards. Mr Blair's bill, which his government proclaims as the flagship of the next parliamentary programme and hence of the election campaign, foresees a separate national ID card and perhaps a biometric passport as well. (Reference) Anyway, Tony's arguments are weak in the extreme. Why does the fact that "many" countries (how many?) use biometric visas mean that we should have an internal ID card linked to a monster database on all citizens? The biometric visa could be stuck to an ordinary passport (and, of course, torn out after use). Visas are issued to people - not to passports. There is no need for a biometric check between the visa and the passport, but there might be a case for one between the visa and the traveller. Why should we need to turn our passports into national ID cards by stealth?

Further, he ought to be ashamed of his own rhetoric. The best argument he can give is the false one that "other countries" somehow make us need ID cards. Somebody else's fault. Not me! This is an example of what Cory Doctorow calls "policy-laundering", attempting to shuffle the responsibility for unpopular policy onto others. Pathetic.

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