I couldn't help but notice the subject of ID cards raised its head on the Daily Politics on BBC this lunchtime. It included a marvellous peice of double think from Phil 'Custard Pie' Woolas when Brillo made the point that the biometrics could be stored on passports rather than ID cards. 'Not everyone wants a passport' said Woolas.
Where as you can't get through the doors at Marsham Street for people trying to force their way in to get an ID card, can you?
Here's the suprising bit; I have no problems with an ID card.
That is an ID card that I may choose to apply for, or not. An ID card that does not contain a copy of my fingerprints, DNA, inside leg measurement, favourite brand of breakfast cereal or number of shoes I own.
I have no problem with an ID card that contains my photo, my face is on display every time I set foot out of my door, if I didn't want it seen, I'd cover it. Nor do I have a problem with my address and date of birth being displayed on it, it is already on my driving licence. I don't even have a problem with an RF chip in the card carrying an encoded electronic version of my photograph, that would make it very difficult for someone to appropriate the card and substitute the photograph.
What I do have a problem with is the idea that I would have to have an ID card, and one would assume that being obliged to have one, I'd be obliged to carry it with me at all times. One can only assume that being obliged to carry it, a nice policeman would have powers to ask to see it if he fancied having a look.
The phrase 'nothing to hide, nothing to fear' cuts no ice with me. Firstly, when I walk down the road to the shops, I'm doing just that. I am a private citizen, and where and when I choose to go for a walk is nobody's business but mine, I am doing nothing wrong.
I'm a reasonable person, and not given to unctious displays of resistance. If a policeman comes up to me and politely asks me where I'm going, I'd probably be minded to say 'I'm just walking to the shops, Constable.' I'm not about to make a big fuss about it, despite the occasional digs at the Old Bill on here, I actually quite like the police. I've always personally found them to be professional, sensible and reasonable. In the main, they are decent people who are doing a job which, through ridiculous over legislation, changes every day. They have little hope of keeping on top of the changes and have a management which implements initiative after initiative. In my opinion, most coppers just want to go out and catch bad guys. It is sad that they find themselves as pawns in a political battle.
The problems come where a simple question posed by a police officer who may have just seen something to get their spidey-senses tingling turns into the routine tap on the shoulder and the request 'papers, please.'
How many times have we seen the scene in the Cold War era thrillers, where the noble Communist regime citizen is stopped by a plain clothes agent with that same request?
I commented a while ago that it was the little things from Communist Eastern Europe that chilled me, the big monolithic systems of controlling government provide a dull ache, but the idea of being stopped on the street and being questioned, for no apparent good reason, checkpoints on the roads, having to provide details of where you are going and for how long when you leave the country, having to do the same when you travel internally, having your vehicle tracked, and your movements monitored when on foot, these all provide sharp pricks of pain.
Some we will hopefully never see in the UK, some will certainly happen, and soon, others are here already. The introduction of an ID card such as is proposed is a big step down that road and it makes me very uneasy indeed, not just for what this government would do with it, but for what the next one, and the one in ten years will do with it. Once the genie is out of the bottle, it will be almost impossible to put it back in.