Thanks once again for all the comments about ID cards. Sorry I've not replied to them all recently. I've unavoidably had to be away for the last 5 days. I promise to get round to answering individual points in the next week.
Looking at the most recent comments it seems we are reaching a critical point of the debate, which I'd like to summarise as follows.
The Concept of ID Cards
The first thing I'd like to do, is to separate the actual concept of ID cards from their 'potential use' and their 'practical implementation'. I'll deal with these other aspects lower down.
When we look at the actual concept of ID cards, it is quite apparent that this is a neutral concept. For every 'potential' abuse pointed to by opponents there are 'potential' equal and opposite benefits.
When arguing against the principle of ID cards a lot of opponents throw into the debate aspects that at first glance appear compelling arguments, for example; 'its an invasion of privacy that damages our civil liberties'. This seems to be accepted at its face value, without anybody seriously asking what civil liberties are affected and how they are affected in a detrimental way. Ask these questions and opponents seem to find it very difficult to describe specifically what is being affected detrimentally. Where they do come up with arguments, they are generally arguments against the abuse of power or the incompetence of a bad government. By linking ID cards to a negative in this way, opponents obviously lead themselves to a negative conclusion. It is a self fulfilling prophecy. Which leads me onto the next points.
The Potential Use of ID Cards
Despite a huge dislike and mistrust of government, when pushed, most opponents will admit that they do not believe that this government has an evil authoritarian agenda to control our lives. They will also admit that under a stable representative democracy such as ours, the chance of there ever being such a government is extremely remote.
So, once we acknowledge that the governments motives are generally sincere, opponents then shift their position onto highlighting how misguided and incompetent governments are. Of course it immediately becomes apparent that this accusation could be used against any policy that the government was looking to introduce. We have to ask ourselves questions about the fundamental point of having governments at all. If we accept that under our system, governments have come about because on balance they are a force for good, then we have to accept that ID cards (their concept being neutral) will be used on balance in a positive way, like they are in the rest of the EU. (Remember liberty campaigners in the EU have no objections to ID cards and are bemused by their British counterparts opposition to them).
The Practical Implementation of ID Cards
The next objection is that the implementation of a workable ID scheme and National Identity Register (NIR) is just plainly impossible. Many opponents have raised the government's poor record in implementing IT databases, and I have retorted that this IT database has a number of advantages that will make this scheme different. Opponents have also pointed out problems with the biometric technology. The answer to all of this is that the technology is advancing fast, and that if you concentrate on the negatives of any new scheme, it will seem to have insurmountable problems during its development phase.
When I first talked about opponents raising practical objections to implementation, I called it a 'red herring' that was being used to distract from their real objection to the concept of ID cards in principle. The reason I said this was that; if you asked the question- what if all practical problems are overcome? Then opponents would immediately talk about their opposition to ID cards in principle. None would concede that ID cards would then be ok. So this made it clear to me, that practical objections were just being used as another tool to win support for their cause.
The practical implementation of a national database and ID scheme doesn't worry me for another reason; e.g. the fact that national databases can be so successful in the private sector. The banking system can be made to work for mutual advantage of both company profits and consumer interests in the face of stern practical and security problems. This means there is no reason why a system developed with new software and technology cannot be introduced successfully over a five year introductory phase.
Another reason for faith in a workable system is that, during the introductory phase, any problems in the system will be very apparent, and unless fixed to the satisfaction of voters, no party will go into a general election on a platform of making such a failing system compulsory. Ultimately the voters will decide. Just like the introduction of the scheme was based on a democratic decision (The ID scheme was clearly flagged as part of the Labour manifesto, even 1 of their 6 pledges), it will not become compulsory until after another general election. Opponents of ID cards are arguing against this democratic decision. To argue as opponents do, that the public didn't understand the issue as well as they should have done, or that the government didn't have enough of a mandate with 35% of the vote, is to argue that we need a better electoral system and a freer media, and on both of these points I would agree. What it does not argue against is ID cards, because the same level of public interest in and knowledge of policy could be said about almost any of the policy areas of government.
So firstly we established that the concept of ID cards is a neutral concept and therefore opponents highlighting potential negatives of the scheme is meaningless when there are an equal and opposite number of potential benefits of the scheme that could also be highlighted.
Secondly if we accept that governments are on balance a force for good, then we have to accept that the neutral concept of ID cards will also be used as a force for good.
And finally the electorate will have their say about the practical implementation of ID cards at the ballot box, just as they had their say about their current introduction. Any potential problems in the new scheme will be overcome and if they are not, the government will pay the price at the next general election. That is democracy. ID card opponents while right to point out potential problems and encourage the best scheme possible should accept that it was the democratic decision of the public that ID cards go ahead.