14 June 2007

Taking Liberties Indeed!

People who talk of Chris Atkins's ridiculous film in glowing terms and proclaim 'Nazi State' at the drop of a hat are like those who protest against choice on abortion - they are extremists who represent about 6% of the population. Like anti-choice people on abortion they talk a lot about 'future potential' but are the sort of fake libertarians that would, like Tory boy Paul Staines (aka Guido Fawkes), quickly make a deal with the extreme right if they thought it would further their 'cause' and then fire off libel writs when it suits. They are in fact not libertarians at all but the fascists they say they despise - like homophobes they protest too much so as to suppress their real feelings...

What this is about is their own insecurities at not getting their own way, rather than anything to do with true civil liberties. If it was to do with civil liberties then they would talk of written constitutions and agree with the Human Rights Act - yet from my experience, most of them are anti-social brats just concerned about the freedom to do what they want - moaning about speed cameras that save lives, CCTV that catches criminals, arguing in favour of legalising guns or smoking indoors - things that needlessly kill people and the so called 'traditional freedom' to kill foxes, and most of all the indignity of having to pay income taxes that help the poor, that really gets their goat! All these things affect their middle class freedom to drive fast, get drunk and disorderly, enjoy 'blood sports' and let 'stupid poor people' kill themselves. "Everyone knows, only working class people should be punished for breaking the law, cameras are too fair catching rich and poor alike, my daddy knows the local bobbies - they will let me off because I'm a law abiding rich person when I break the law".

But these extremists like the 'anti-choice on abortionists', can do a lot of harm and use people's natural cynicism and fears to present an argument that on the surface looks 'reasonable' but quickly descends into farce when the real facts are examined.

It is of course impossible to argue against someone who talks about what 'could' happen in the future. Society is full of exceptional examples where the law is applied absurdly or over-zealously, so of course there will always be examples of wrongdoing by the state - but these people quickly have to backtrack when their claims of 'Nazi-state' are investigated- there is just not the evidence to back it up so they talk of 'future potential' just like the anti-abortionists.

People can still protest where they like - and even on the odd occasion where someone gets an £80 fine or a night in a cell - it is not on the same planet as people being bumped off or disappearing in the night - these same people are free to protest a day later and usually do. Even recent British history suggests the state is more benign and open to criticism than it ever was. There has never been such a level of hysterical criticism of a government than the criticism levelled at this Labour government, yet there is no internment or sus laws, no poll tax riots or brutalised trade unionists like there were under the Tories. Minorities and others have freedoms they would never even of dreamt of having in even the recent past.

What this pathetic film and it's cult followers do is belittle the true achievements that have been made and make it more likely we will get a Tory government that will really take our liberties away again like they have done many times in the past.


  1. Hmm - so were all a minority and right wing. You are wrong on both counts, not unusually. Sadly for you and your desire to see us all branded property of the state, there's unease about these intrusions and not just from your "usual suspects". Over at No2ID, an organisation you continually ridicule rather than offer a single cogent counter-argument, there is a coalition of the willing. These are issues that unite libertarians from all colours of the political rainbow - from the greens and real socialists to the BNP.

    And before you start on about Thatcher and "sus" - take a look at proposals announced only last week for what amounts to "son of sus"

  2. "People can still protest where they like" Not outside parliament, Neil as you should know.

  3. As Martin Kettle points out;

    "To anyone in Whitehall on Wednesday, however, the dramatic thrust of Atkins's film Taking Liberties might have seemed hard to square with the evidence. For there, right outside the entrance to Downing Street, stood a line of male protesters wearing nothing save their boxers, holding placards complaining about the collapse of their pension rights. Given the sweeping absolutism of the assertion in Taking Liberties that the Blair government has swept away the freedom to protest in the vicinity of Westminster, the lack of police interest in this peaceable near-naked defiance seemed more than a little disjunctive."

    Urko, are you seriously telling me that this supposed 'ancient right' is true? Are you telling me that someone who did this sort of protest even a few decades ago would have been tolerated? They would not and you know it.

    You may be an exception and well intentioned but you are still very very much wrong, dangerously and ludicrously so.

    As for the Greens, 'real socialists', and other opposition - they say anything to criticise the government. An example of their hypocrisy is the Green's criticisms of Blair on his media comments. The Greens criticise the media all the time but when Blair does it he is still wrong - absolutely pathetic!!

    As for you lot being in a majority - dream on!

    NO2ID are hypocrites as well because they take the advantages on using mobile phones, bank accounts and internet while moaning about them without ever giving even ONE concrete example of how it has been detrimental to them. Once again - rubbish.

    As for 'son of sus' - haven't they already back tracked on this?

  4. "very very much wrong, dangerously and ludicrously so." In your not at all humble opinion.

    I didn't say I was in in a majority (and I'm not so deluded that I think otherwise), however, it's fact that a large number of people have found common cause with people like me and Longrider and left the Labour party. I don't know Longrider personally, but he's documented his reasons and they are broadly the same as mine. Funilly enough, I met another bloke recently who left when the right to silence was ended.

    You obviously don't care about civil rights and liberty, and that of course is up to you, but you simply make my case the more you characterise us as a dangerous gang of loonies.

    The same technique is always employed by authoritarian regimes - I didn't like it when Thatcher called me "The Enemy within" and it doesn't come any better from you - especially since you ought to know better. Thatcher didn't even understand the conceot of morality. I am not standing up for the rights of some hooray to drive their BMW at warp factor ten in a built up area and you know it.

    As for the Mobile phone argumement, since you keep shouting hypocrite I'll just point this out (again):
    Mobile phone -
    Can be switched off at any time
    Not required in order to carry out every day tasks
    Contains no boimetric data
    No monoploy supplier
    ID card -
    Run by the state only - no competition and no-one to turn to if they screw it up for you
    Offers me zero benefits at all and in fact will cost money for no gain
    Will be demanded for everyday transactions.

    These two things are not in any way the same - or even similar.

    Is is any wonder people compare you with the Nazis when you employ their techinques - wasn't it Goebbels who thought if you said something enough people would believe it? You calling me a hypocrite over and over again does not make it true.

    As for the demonstration point - last time I looked Downing Street was a distance away from the House Of Commons, where, unless they had applied for permission well in advance, the pension protestors would have been arrested as the woman who read the names of the war dead and a range or other "dangerous subversives" have been.

    I suggest that rather than trying to mudsling against those with another view, you take a long hard look at the people you are alienating and ask yourself if it's really worth doing for no gain at all.

  5. Urko, the reason I am going for the jugular on this issue and I admit I am doing that - is because a mountain is being made out of a molehill.

    We both remember how Thatcher really curtailed our freedoms - this government has (on the whole) improved things.

    I think the limited restrictions in parliament square (which lets be honest makes little difference to our ability to make a protest) is obviously for practical reasons rather than any real suppression of people's rights of protest.

    There are just so many people willing to hang around there that it is just a mess.

    There is always some nut nowadays that wants to loiter there for some preposterous cause or another and that drowns out causes of far more relevance. It is just not a suitable place to have numorous mass protests every single day of the year which is what was happening.

    As for the mobile phone hypocrisy thing - we are just not going to agree on this. We have had this new technology tracking our everyday lives for many decades now and the vast majority of people like it - they do not make any fuss about potential loss of civil liberties because they haven't noticed any problem. Simple as that. NO2ID are no different to anybody else in that they make use of this technology. If they really were as frightened of it as they say - they wouldn't use the internet, they wouldn't have mobile phones and they wouldn't trust banks, supermarkets etc with all their details.

    If it was voluntary like you claim then there wouldn't be 100% take-up and I guarantee that 100% of people in NO2ID use these things so they are talking out of their arses when they say they have a choice - they technically do but effectively do not. Modern living is more convenient so they choose it and they are hypocritical because if they meant what they say they wouldn't choose it.

    It is about an irrational fear of new technology and authority - I trust the government that gives me the NHS, pensions etc - you do not - it is as simple as that. the government is just an extension of us. If you don't trust the government you do not trust society and reactionary people like that go join the Tories, buy guns and build electric fences around their surburban houses.

  6. "There is always some nut nowadays that wants to loiter there for some preposterous cause or another and that drowns out causes of far more relevance."

    This is exactly the point. Neither you, our Dear Leader, nor The Party should be deciding who or what cause should have the right of protest.

    That is what freedom is about - letting those you disagree with have rights, whether you agree with their point of view or not.

  7. As I stated this is not about restricting who can protest or what they protest about.

    It is about regulating the number of protests in what is inevitably a very popular place to protest. My point is nowadays (which our feral press egging them on) every nut and his dog wants to protest in parliament square - there is just not the room - if they apply in advance anyone can protest there. This is just reasonable practicalities otherwise there would be chaos there.

  8. Both the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 still exist, and their use has gone up. Labour did not remove them it just removed the need for "reasonable suspicion" by the Terrorism Act 2000.

    Internment has only been instigated in the UK 3 times in the last century. For WW2 by the Conservatives. By the Ulster Unionist Party in 1971. Then most recently by Labour in the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 which is still ongoing but changed to house arrest by the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 due to the original Act infringing the ECHR.

    There are other little things like: being innocent until proven guilty (RIP Act 2000 etc.), or not have the prospect of being sent to prison due to gossip (Crime and Disorder Act 1998), the monitoring of every single car journey, the database of innocent people's DNA (under the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 such as those of 37% of black men in the UK), and constant sniping at trial by jury. Also since you don't like Thatcher just imagine what she would have done had she had the powers of the Civil Contingencies Act in place during the miners strike.

    Labour did good things for gay equality, but on other than that their commitment to civil rights is rather lacking.

  9. "It is about an irrational fear of new technology and authority "
    As I have told you many times, that is just a filthy lie. I guarantee that I know way more about technology and its uses than you and I can back that up with examples as you know full well. As for you "going for the jugular" - you're the one protesting too much like a homophobe and trying to discredit opponents with lies and smears. It's Dr Kelly, and the LSE report tactics all over and I say again, just because you call soemone a hypocrite doesn't make it true however much you'd like it.

  10. chris: "but changed to house arrest by the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 due to the original Act infringing the ECHR".

    And who brought in the ECHR?

    You can't have it both ways, criticising Labour saying they wanted to do this bad law or that bad law...then ignoring the fact it was their OWN legislation that prevented them.

    "the database of innocent people's DNA"

    And how many innocent people would still be in jail if not released by DNA evidence? There are two sides to this you conveniently ignore.

    "the prospect of being sent to prison due to gossip"

    And how many people have actually been affected by this?

    Urko: You may know more than me about technology but you still seem to have an irrational fear of it.

    Show me a member of NO2ID without a mobile phone, bank account and internet use and you will show me someone with principles - otherwise they are the 'filthy liars', hypocrites all.

  11. who brought in the ECHR?
    the ECHR was ratified in 1951 with cross party support, but actually by signed by of the conservatives government.

    And how many people have actually been affected by this?
    over 9000 and counting

    how many innocent people would still be in jail if not released by DNA evidence
    Irrelivant. That evidence because it is used in a trial would always have to be stored like all other trial evidence. If new evidence came up it would have been accessable for reexamination, in this DNA is just like all the other evidence. The problem here is about DNA samples taken from people where never even accused of a crime.

  12. Chris: "the ECHR was ratified in 1951 with cross party support, but actually by signed by of the conservatives government."

    Yes, but it was the Human Rights Act of 1998 by this Labour government that made it law in this country.

    "Over 9000 and counting [sent to prison for gossip]"


    "Problem here is DNA samples taken from people where never even accused of a crime."

    OK, I hear 100s of rapists alone have been caught because of this, would you rather they hadn't been?

  13. Your lack of understanding on the ID/panoptic state issue is not convincing (i.e. I suspect you are intentionally fogging the issue because you know you cannot really defend it)... I cannot believe even a statist like you cannot see the difference between Orange or T-mobile knowing my location 24/7 (if I have my mobile switched on) and not wanting the government to know where I am or what I am doing 24/7.

    I think most people the threat posed to civil liberties by Orange is a tad different to the one posed by the British state and most people do not have difficulty seeing that.

  14. But why trust Orange more than our elected politicians?

  15. Urko: You may know more than me about technology but you still seem to have an irrational fear of it.

    Show me a member of NO2ID without a mobile phone, bank account and internet use and you will show me someone with principles - otherwise they are the 'filthy liars', hypocrites all.

    We've been round this many times, I can't believe I'm even bothering to respond to such a pathetic argument, but you keep repeating it so I can't help myself.

    It's really simple (I can't believe you don't really understand so I can only conclude you are just doing it to be annoying - which of course is your perfect right) - having a bank account doesn't make me a hypocrite any more than you are a hypocrite for not having a sat nav (or whatever technology you lack).

    You are being gratuitously nasty in continually poking this daft "irrational fear of technology jibe". Doesn't it occur to you that many people like me embrace new technology willingly (I bet I live a much more technological life than you do) when it offers some benefit?

    As you have repeatly demonstrated, it is you that has an irrational belief in the magic of unproven technologies to prevent people doing bad things by trying to micromange them through spying.

  16. why trust Orange more than our elected politicians?
    1.They have more of an incentive to perform
    2.It is not compulsory to use Orange
    3.They don't want to keep my fingerprint data in an insecure database
    4.I don't trust them that much more (sadly, it is a bit) but they don't have such all-encompassing power over my life - they don't make laws, for example.
    5. I would trust Orange more than Mrs Thatcher - wouldn't you?

  17. Isn't it hypocritical to say you oppose something then go and use it yourself?

    If it is 'voluntary', why no example of someone at NO2ID who has decided to not use mobiles, internet and a bank account?

    Surely there would be one example if it was voluntary?

    In practise it is effectively compulsory to have these things because life would be virtually impossible and certainly very very inconvenient without them.

    So accepting that (by their choices) everyone is quite happy to have these levels of surveillance in their lives (including NO2ID people), then the question is; if we trust private companies (whose only motive is profit) why not the government (who provide benefits and public services when we are in need regardless of our finances)?

    The answer is of course that the media are favourable to companies like Orange because they pay the media's wages. Orange can spend millions on improving their image and get virtually no negative publicity. The Government however, is rubbished in virtually every newspaper every single day.

    Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that people trust private firms more but are they right to?

    I think the answer is no, I think the government is far more trustworthy than Orange. At the end of the day, all Orange want is your money. The Government however have to win people's votes and support - a far harder task. What do Governments get from ID cards or DNA databases? There motives are not money, it is to make people's lives better - because that is how you win support and votes - that is a much better motive than just mere profit.

    There is a choice over DNA databases or ID cards - sadly only Labour or Conservative. A better electoral system would certainly improve our power over government by giving us more choice, but ultimately (in a democracy) if you do not trust the government - you do not trust society and that is very sad indeed.

  18. Oh. Regarding Thatcher (and she certainly was an odious character).. I would probably trust Orange more than her personally (even though the question doesn't really make sense because I have no idea who Orange are?) Also Thatcher had controls on her - she had to win elections and at least some of the media highlighted her faults and kept her in check. The controls on Orange are more dubious (because without government regulation to keep them in check) they would have a competitive market driving them on. Remember that before governments health and safety and othe regulations in this country, companies like Orange would be driven to and seemingly quite happy to see children working and people on subsistence barely above starvation wages - indeed in parts of the world they still do this. So even companies like Orange only behave themselves due to the government (under pressure from the media and electorate) controlling them (even a Thatcher government).

  19. if you do not trust the government - you do not trust society and that is very sad indeed


    You are doing it again. As the jury in the Clive Ponting case pointed out and Mrs Thatcher never grasped. Society isn't the same thing as the government. There's a hell of a lot more to society than government, than goodness! The fact that you can't see that explains your slavish championing of the most draconian measures even though as you accept, they offer zero benefits.

  20. At the end of the day, all Orange want is your money.
    Correct - and I could go to Vodafone of indeed no-one, but I give them my cash because it offers me a benefit.

    Contrast this with the Govenment. They wany my money and my biometric data, to put in an insecure database which offers me zero benefits and in fact will just charge me to have that data put at risk. Are you getting the difference yet?

    Your argument on hypocrisy holds no water at all but it is typical smear tactics rather a cogent justification of the government's compulsory theft and licensing of my identity - you offer none because there can be none in a civilised society.

  21. You seem to have managed to drop the "irration fear of technology" smear - how about dropping the "hypocrite" tag since it's one that could realistically very easily be levelled at you (or anyone) using your carzy definition. I mean - I must be a hypocrite to use electricity at all by your definition!

  22. At the end of the day without regulation from the GOVERNMENT, Orange and all corporations/ companies would be sending our children and everyone else to work 16 hours a day in appalling conditions. Our history tells us that and so does conditions in other parts of the world. So without government your nice private companies would be robbing you left, right and centre. to trust them over the government is just insane.

    NO2ID say one thing and do another. It is not difficult to work out their hypocrisy. All I ask for is ONE example of someone without a mobile, internet and bank account. Hey if it's voluntary there MUST be someone? And yes some of them do have an irrational fear of technology - you only have to look at the bad-science these same people use over mobile phone masts etc.

  23. Isn't it hypocritical to say you oppose something then go and use it yourself?

    Yes it is.

    I don't use a complsory insecure government database of my biometric data - and I never will.

    I do use a mobile phone when it suits me.

    There is a world of difference between these two things and anyone who tries to pretend otherwise is more delusional than the most fervent religious maniac!

  24. NO2ID say one thing and do another.

    I can't speak for all of No2ID (although I am a member and a supporter - I gave my Labour Party dues to them once I got the refund) but that is a simple lie.

    No2ID say they are against ID cards and the government's database. No2ID is not a campaign against mobile telephones or bank accounts so stop trying to pretend it is.

  25. you only have to look at the bad-science these same people use over mobile phone masts etc.
    and your evidence for this is....oh I forgot, you don't "do" facts, evidence, that sort of thing - all a bit old hat isn't it? Seriously though, your "these people" sneering sounds more like the Tories you so despise than someone who accepts everyone's got their right to a point of view, but maybe that's a bit old-fasioned and democratic-sounding too.

  26. It is all interlinked. NO2ID are against databases, tracking people and audit trails (but only seemingly if done by the government) they seem to turn a blind eye to these things when it comes to private corporations (as their individual actions show). So yes it is relevant if they own mobiles, use the internet, have tesco loyalty cards and have bank accounts. Everyone in this country have one or more of these things - and this is just not statistically realistic if there were a REAL choice.

    You say there are 'zero benefits' to things like a DNA database or ID cards - but tell that to women whose rapists have been caught or to the LSE who came up with a list of benefits from having ID cards (although there are problems with the govt scheme - as I have admitted).

    It is this idea of a perfect 'liberty' that is a religious fervour. The idea that anything the govt do must be bad. Do you accept that sometimes the government need to act to ENSURE our liberty and help it thrive? DNA database is a good example - are not women safer on the streets because of it?

  27. Do you accept that sometimes the government need to act to ENSURE our liberty and help it thrive?

    Yes - but ID cards won't do that - and not even the government can realistically claim that they would do.

    DNA database is a good example - are not women safer on the streets because of it?

    A big claim, Neil, if you mean are they less likely to be attacked, then I'm not convinced - although there are two areas - detection and conviction of the offenders and their incaceration which may offer a degree of extra safety vs no DNA database - but why were (according to the admittedly unscientific evidence of my Mum)women safer on the streets in the 50s when we had no DNA database?

    I notice you've dropped the claim about No2ID and wireless masts - now you need to withdraw your claim that No2ID is opposed to mobile phones and bank accounts, then you can do away with the daft hypocrisy smear and I can go to bed.

  28. I have a particular bee in my bonnet about mobile phone masts because...well see this post.

    I see the same people campaigning against mobile phone masts as I do at NO2ID events. And to top it all I see them using mobile phones as they leave...absolutely incredible. I wouldn't be surprised if they moan about bad reception as well!!!

    As for evidence see this and this.

  29. You and I both know that the safety or otherwise of women in the 1950s has no bearing on a DNA database - of course there are many different factors and these have changed since then. Cancer rates can go up even if smoking rates go down but that doesn't mean that smoking does not cause cancer - it does cause cancer.

    I am not claiming that the DNA database is the only factor in protecting women - just that it is a significant one.

    ID cards do have benefits - even opponents of the government scheme like the LSE admit that - they just argue about how it is going to be implemented and question whether the benefits outweigh the costs. They even suggested their own scheme that they thought was worthwhile - so don't tell me there are 'zero benefits' to ID cards because you clearly are being 'religious' about it.

  30. As for evidence see this and this.

    Didn't see the No2ID connection with either of these sites - no doubt you are going to reveal all.

    As for such inconsistences - I refer you to your tirade against religious people and how you feel one can't trust their judgement, contrasted with your support for Tony Blair's judgement - is that any less hypocritical?

    I have still seen no evidence other than your claim that the same people attend all these things - and what were you doing at a No2ID meeting and a phone mast protest anyway?

  31. I think the technology issue is being confused here.

    The issue with ID cards is not technology. It is with the compulsory gathering of personal information punishable by civil fines and restriction of access to public services if you refuse to comply. This is why it is a civil liberties issue. If the government were using index cards and lots of paper files, it would be a civil liberties issue.

    Tesco and Vodafone are not civil liberties issues as use of their services is voluntary: yes it would be inconvenient not to have a bank account, but Natwest aren't going to fine me and stop me going on holiday if I don't have one.

    It would be my choice not to have a bank account and live with any inconvenience this caused.....that is a very important principle: my choice - not that of the current government.

    If however, Orange suddenly start fining us for not having a mobile phone I think a few more civil libertarians may take issue!!

  32. Anon: To be honest I would imagine that the costs of not having a bank account and mobile and internet would amount to as much as as big fine to most people.

    If something was really voluntary- wouldn't there be plenty of examples of people who had chosen not to have these things - whereas in reality there is no-one. Doesn't sound very voluntary to me.

    Urko: NO2ID to their credit, have organised a few debates in Brighton about ID cards - so I have attended to add my voice. Needless to say I was outnumbered - but what the hell eh! I notice in the Guardian today - a NO2ID spokesman arguing against the NHS database so they don't just talk about ID cards. The local Lib Dems and Greens have been prominent in the NO2ID campaign and make up a lot of their members - and they are very anti-phone masts without any idea of what they are talking about.

    I do believe that religion can get in the way of people's judgement. I don't think it had any real bearing on Blair's decision to support Bush but it probably has in other areas. I disagree with him profoundly on faith schools for example. So is it hypocritical for me to support Blair cos he is religious? I would prefer Blair not to be religious and I criticise decisions where he has been influenced by his religion, so if it hypocritical I'm not sure. My earlier comment (on the other thread) about not trusting religious people per se, was too sweeping a statement and I will backtrack on that, but the general point I stand by.

  33. " a NO2ID spokesman arguing against the NHS database so they don't just talk about ID cards." As usual, you respond to what you decide I said, rather than what I actually said. Come back when you have concrete evidence that NO2ID campaigns against mobile phones and bank accounts and you might have a point about technophobia and hypocrisy - but we both know full well that No2ID doesn't and you therefore have no argument and are simply engaging in playground-level mud-slinging of the worst Daily Mail kind.

  34. By the way, I wasn't sure if I was going to see Taking Liberties, but I will certainly go out of my way to see it now. Have you seen it?

  35. I have spoken to a few people who have seen it and I didn't want to waste my money or line the pockets of the people behind this film.

    The point about NO2ID is that there opposition to audit trails and tracking makes them de-facto opponents of bank accounts and mobiles. You cannot get round this.

  36. Hi Neil,

    According to the Treasury Select Committee there are approx. 8 million people in UK who do not have access to a bank account.

    As far as I know, these people are still allowed to get a job in the public sector; they are still allowed freedom of travel and if they fall ill they can get treated at a hospital.

    And they can do all this without the need to ask the Home Office for permission!! This all sounds like a perfectly reasonable state of affairs to me :-)

  37. The point about NO2ID is that there [sic] opposition to audit trails and tracking makes them de-facto opponents of bank accounts and mobiles. You cannot get round this.

    That is arse. You offer no evidence of your claim because you have none - zero. NO2ID opposes universal tracking of this kind by the government, the compulsory taking of biometric data and the creation of a large and insecure database to hold it all. That is totally different, and no amount of you chanting "You cannot get round this" with your fingers stuck in your ears alters that.

  38. Andrew Watson22/6/07 11:50 am


    The Home Office wants ID cards to become part of daily life. Liam Byrne says that by 2020 he wants life without an ID card to be "quite unthinkable".[1] Andy Burnham says that "proving who you are, day in day out" is "part of being a good citizen".[2]

    However, this ID card which Mr Byrne and Mr Burnham say will become indispensable in your daily life will not belong to you, but to the Home Secretary,[3] and he reserves the right to take it away from you completely at any time.[4]

    Even when you have "your" ID card in your possession, the Home Office expects you to have to put it into card readers at doctor’s surgeries, post offices, banks, shops and hospitals in order to verify your entitlement to carry out daily transactions.[5] If the Home Office central computer says "No", you will not be allowed to carry out that transaction.

    This gives the Home Office a day-by-day, case-by-case veto on many of the actions essential to your daily life.

    Here’s the crucial question you should ask yourself - Do you believe that you will control "your" ID card? Or will it instead come to control you?

    Even if you believe that the present Home Secretary would not allow the ID cards infrastructure to be abused in this way, can you be sure that another Maggie Thatcher won't be in power in 20 years' time? Think what the Conservative government of 1984 might have done with this ID card system during the Miner's Strike, such as tracking strikers' movements or harassing their families by preventing them withdrawing their own money from their own bank accounts.

    If you support the ID cards scheme, you're not just giving this level of centralised control over our daily lives to Ministers in this government, you're giving it to all future Ministers in all future governments, of all political alignments.

    Andrew Watson


    [1] http://press.homeoffice.gov.uk/Speeches/sc-identity-21st-century

    [2] Radio 4, Today Programme, 28th March 2006, 0651 http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/listenagain/ram/today1_0630_20060328.ram

    [3] Identity Cards Act 2006, Section 6 Clause 3. http://www.opsi.gov.uk/ACTS/acts2006/20060015.htm

    [4] Identity Cards Act 2006, Section 11 Clause 3. http://www.opsi.gov.uk/ACTS/acts2006/20060015.htm

    [5] Home Office Web site

  39. Anon: "According to the Treasury Select Committee there are approx. 8 million people in UK who do not have access to a bank account."

    Yes, but most of those people actually want a bank account but cannot get one for some reason or other (it is not through choice). Most of the rest have mobile phones (95%), loyalty cards etc. I doubt there is anyone who doesn't have something that allows some company or other to track them or have audit trails of them etc. That is the crux, if people objected to being tracked as their main concern, they would surely not have ANY of these things.

    Urko: If you want to see their opposition to these things - you only have to look at their website. There are unsubstantiated claims about what the 'evil' government will do with this or that. Take a step back after reading their site and think does any of this sound plausible. Because of the mistrust of government that has largely been created by our media - people will believe all sorts of wacky stories and conspiracy theories rather than look at the facts in a rational way.

    When you think about the role of government in regulating, on our behalf, the private firms that people are placing so much trust in (and when you consider these firms dodgy activities in developing countries and in historical terms) it becomes absurd to trust private firms with data and not the government.

    Andrew Watson: "Do you believe that you will control "your" ID card? Or will it instead come to control you?"

    Sorry to disappoint you, but I think I will control the ID card and it will improve all our lives. The only difficulty I see is with implementing the IT and biometrics behind the scheme.

    The biggest safety factor here is that it will apply to everyone - that is what I like about the scheme - because if things were going wrong on any sort of level that NO2ID claim will happen and people were not getting any benefits out of the scheme - it would quickly fall - it wouldn't take many people to beat an ID card, as the Poll Tax demonstrated. The ID card will be regulated by us, because it will need the vast majority of us to support it for the scheme to work.

    The difference is that when people start feeling the benefits and convenience of the scheme this will certainly be no Poll Tax. Ask yourself why are the government so enthusiastic? Are they all evil schemers?

    As for future governments, you cannot go living your life in the present by what 'could' happen in the future. You could use this argument against anything. People might democratically elect Nazis, but that is not a credible argument against democracy. Thanks for the links, by the way.

  40. Hi Neil

    "Yes, but most of those people actually want a bank account but cannot get one for some reason or other (it is not through choice)."

    Sorry, this is factually incorrect. It may help if you do a little bit of research before making assertions based on what you would like to be true. I'm sure you wouldn't want to be accused of spreading disinformation to support a political agenda would you? :-)

    Of the people who don't have bank accounts fear of banks and being seduced by easy access to credit are the main reasons for this CHOICE. Other key reasons are confusion about the documentation required, the idea that you need to have a job to have one and being completely financially dependent.

    The socially excluded (i.e. homeless etc) are absolutely a factor too.....but they are by no means the main one.

    Check out Financial Services authority bulletin FSA/PN/128/2001 for more information.

    No, the key factor here is CHOICE. Individuals are free to choose to have a bank account, Tesco club-card, mobile phone etc. Individuals can weigh up the costs/benefits/risks and decide whether to have one or not.

    Registration on the NIR is NOT voluntary (despite supposed pledge in the Labour manifesto). I don't want one - but I will have to have one. I see no benefit to me as an individual.

    The costs to the country far outweigh the limited benefits ID cards will bring.

    This argument should have been long over. The case for the government's ID scheme has been well and truly demolished. Let's hope Gordon Brown is being advised wisely on this: because pursuing the scheme will only lead him into wasting yet more tax payer's money. And this will cost him even more votes.

  41. Help help we're being invaded by evil job-stealing immigrant paedo terrorist fraudsters! Only the tabloids can save us! Erm. ID cards. I meant ID cards. :D

    You said: "The ID card will be regulated by us, because it will need the vast majority of us to support it for the scheme to work."

    This is an interesting point to make, since there is no vast ID-supporting majority - so by your own logic it won't work. And since it so clearly doomed, surely the best thing to do is bin it before it gets off the ground...?

  42. Anon: According to the FSA report that you cite..

    "Fear of banks and of being seduced by easy access to credit are some of the main reasons why more than a sixth of the adult population does not have a bank account, according to new research by the Financial Services Authority. Other reasons include a misunderstanding about the documentation needed to open an account and the idea that you have to be employed before you can have one. To help combat these misplaced fears, the FSA is today launching a free booklet -''No bank account? Why it could pay you to have one.''

    Misplaced fears and misinformation hardly sounds like a positive choice does it?

    I think this sort of fear largely sums up the opposition to ID cards as well.

    "since there is no vast ID-supporting majority - so by your own logic it won't work."

    Well there was mass opposition to congestion charging and 24 hour drinking as well, but now a majority support those things. People are naturally sceptical of change - conservative, I think they call it. But sometimes..just sometimes the government have to take a lead on public opinion, and when they are shown to work, people can make a more reasoned judgement.

  43. "Misplaced fears and misinformation hardly sounds like a positive choice does it?"

    Well some might say the fear of having easy credit pushed onto them is a perfectly valid and realised fear, but then that isn't really the line of argument I wish to take.

    I believe the banks and the FSA are doing their best to educate customers that having a bank account is a positive thing. But ultimately the choice should and is left to the individual.

    What you are saying is well "I (as in the government) know better than the individual: therefore, it is valid to force ID cards onto people."

    This is why labour is increasingly being tarred with anti-libertarian rhetoric (whether it is the use of more friendly phrase of "nanny state" right through the harsher "totalatarian" analogies.)

    It is this arrogance that I deplore. Yes, this government has got things right in some cases: but it has also got a fair few things wrong.

    It will never know best. And I resent the idea that it needs to know everything about me unless I choice to make use of one of its services.

    I'm happier in life making my own mistakes. I'd prefer to have the state out of my life as much as possible. I don't want an ID card. I have no problem proving and protecting my own identity.

    It will have limited impact on terrorism. It will have some impact on combating ID related fraud and mis-use of public services....but these economic costs are a tiny fraction of the cost of implementing the scheme. So that argument is totally bogus.

    No matter which way you look at it the government's argument is built on sand, but still be carry on with the scheme.

  44. I'm sorry neil but we are not extremists. We just stand up to bullies, like tony blair and this labour Government.

    The british people have a right to know what our government, are trying to do to them.

    I will say this now, I hate labour and tony blair for his abuse on our civil liberties. That means, ID cards and many other things he is doing or has done.

  45. Anon, I understand your concerns. This government has been arrogant on some things. Then again some things it has been criticised for - like party funding, freedom of information, right to protest - I think this government has improved our rights in these areas. Party funding is far more transparent, individuals and the media have access to government files they never had access to before and there is more freedom to express our discontent than ever and people are making more protests because they have more rights and feel freer to express such discontent.

    With regards to the Iraq war and rendition - of course these things are indefensible - the difference however between this government and previous ones is that all British governments have sucked up to the US and things like rendition have always happened but this government has had it's support for the US administration more publicised. In the past these things would have been kept secret. Wasn't the rendition issue discovered due to a journalist making use of the FOI legislation?

    I don't share your fear of ID cards. I have said this before but I see the ID scheme more in the mould of the smokng ban legislation - something that is good for us all but that will only work if compulsory. I don't think we should reject everything the government do just on compulsion grounds- on the whole governments are massively beneficial to our lives. I am interested to know what you think the government's motives are? Are they just misguided in your opinion? Are they less informed than NO2ID? Are they just in hock with big business and don't care about the people or what? For me to share your opinion - it seems to me that I have to believe that the government is made up of some pretty nasty individuals and having met a lot of ministers - I just do not believe that in the slightest. I also don't think the facts support the opposition's case.

  46. I don't fear ID cards, Neil, this is the wrong word. I just don't think the costs justifies the outlay. It's as simple as that. It's a bit of a no-brainer to me.

    It will end up costing somewhere between £6-£20 bn plus the individual cost to you. And the benefits will be limited.

    I agree with you: I think the government's have our best interests at heart. I think they always do. I also think they had the best interests of Iraq at heart too. I've never really bought into the oil-conspiracy argument. Acting in my best interest doesn't mean that the outcome will be positive though???

    "I did my best" may help engender some element of sympathy: but doens't make-up for a lack of competence.

    I think the "real" motive is the desire for joined-up government....the idea that 1 database is better than 9: and therefore, one database administrator is better than 9.

    I guess that they can't really say that too loud as perhaps announcing the potential loss of 20,000 predominantly labour voters in the public sector might not go down too well??? Perhaps???

    I think largely the government has been sold by big business the idea that e-government works....that "big databases" bring big savings and increased in productivity.

    Now having been on the front of installing big systems many times, they generally don't deliver very much (except in the cases of the VERY BEST with a very high technological understanding). They bring some benefits but they generally cost a fortune.

    And centralisation by technological control doesn't work.

    So again, back to my original assertion. Will cost a lot, little impact on terrorism, little economic benefit. And on the downside increases risk of data abuse, risks increasing racial tension in some areas (remember those riots in France???) and risks increasing "computer says no" syndrome....

    Why are we supporting this again?

  47. Anon, I share your concerns about the costs and practicalities...but that is not the reason most opponents are against ID cards. They are against it in principle - they then use any argument they can find to justify their position.

    I believe this government made a decision about Iraq based on what was good for UK voters not the Iraqi people who they are not accountable to. Blair made a decision that backing Bush would be more popular than going against him - he got that wrong. I also believe that securing supplies of oil was a factor in the decision - especially in the US.

    Yes government's do get decisions wrong, but the ID cards situation is different in that - any downside of the IT will very quickly be noticed. Governments will have to make this scheme work or they will lose votes - I believe that is a very big incentive. If for one second this government thought this scheme was unworkable they would have dropped it by now - this is not the sort of quick decision that had to be taken about Iraq.

    If we look at the 'choose and book' scheme in the NHS, although it has been very costly - it is now working very well - with many thousands of bookings being made every day and this will be of benefit well into the future.

    There will be problems with the ID scheme and it will be expensive but the principle is correct - the practicalities will either mean the scheme is dropped or it will be made to work - and I believe once up and running it will be of benefit.

  48. Again, I am struggling to see why it will be of benefit?

    People are opposed to things for lots of reasons: but the LSE and NO2ID (two of the main critics of the scheme) are opposed to THIS ID scheme....not ID cards in general.

    Decision making is quite simple....what are the costs? What are the potential risks? What are the benefits?

    Now here we know the costs will be great. There are risks to civil liberties and social cohesion that may or may not materialise (depending on your point of view!)

    And the benefits are well pretty limited: Some economic efficiency gains perhaps? Some limited protection against ID related fraud perhaps, or perhaps it will get worse?

    No matter how you spin it: in my opinion if you are for THIS scheme as it is currently proposed, you simply don't know what you are doing!!

  49. Did anyone really predict just how useful CCTV would be in tracking criminals down?

    Now, it is almost an indisposable tool in the fight against crime and is crucial in tracking down those criminals who were always difficult to catch - the random crimes with little or no motive.

    There is still those who cry civil liberties about CCTV - but they know they are fighting a losing battle because the benefits are now so obvious and people go about their lives mostly oblivious to any possible infringement of their civil liberties. Yet CCTV 15 years ago or even less, was in the same position as ID cards. Liberty groups claimed it was unwarranted, the costs were too high, it would severely infringe liberties and the benefits were non-existent. They were wrong on all these points.

    The benefits of having ID cards are similarly difficult to quantify in a practical sense, but in theory we know they are there, just as we knew CCTV would help the fight against crime (as it has proved to do).

    I have talked about the figures of this on other threads but I am convinced that efficiency savings, reduced ID fraud and other non-financial benefits will easily outweigh the costs and risks. My only concern with the present scheme is whether it can be made to work efficiently enough. There are problems with having such a large IT database, with the biometrics and possibly with enforcement but if these can be overcome we should go for it, if not whether the government wants the scheme or not will be out of their hands decided both at the ballot box and in the worst case a collapse of the scheme. If this is another poll tax then it will fall quickly, if it isn't, then I am all for it. I suppose we will both find out who is right in the next few years. Whatever you believe about this government, I hope we can both agree that they want to win the next election and if ID cards were losing them votes then I think they would drop it. At the moment I think the ID scheme may need adjusting but it is still workable and that is why te government are pressing ahead.

  50. Hi Neil

    "The benefits of having ID cards are similarly difficult to quantify in a practical sense, but in theory we know they are there"

    Perhaps you would like to list them? I can see you are in favour so am happy for you to be on the optimistic side.....:-)

    Cost of current scheme somewhere between £7-20 bn of tax payer's revenue plus £30ish to you individually....

  51. Lets assume your upper figure of £20bn is correct.

    Most of this is the start-up costs, which of course are a one-off, once the scheme is started - the annual maintenance costs would be around £85m.

    The government have estimated ID fraud annually to cost £1.7bn. (As I have explained earlier, the nature of the crime means this is probably a serious underestimate).

    Lets say as a conservative estimate that ID cards will prevent £1bn of fraud a year - this means the scheme will break-even after about 20 years.

    This is taking the highest cost projection and a very conservative estimate of savings from ID fraud.

    Then there are the non-financial benefits of ID cards to be taken into account - combating terrorism, organised crime, illegal working, automatic payment of benefits. etc.

    Like I say I do have reservations about the scheme but I think they can and will be ironed out, if not then it won't happen - simple as that. Either the government have completely got it wrong and NO2ID have got it right - which is of course possible or the government (who remember have to get a mandate for this scheme from the electorate) will make it work in some form or other. At the moment I am not ready to man the barricades but I do accept I could be wrong - lets see who is right.

  52. Hi Neil

    Come on Neil, you were involved in a pretty in-depth debate about ID cards about a year ago. You know that the £1.7bn figure is bogus.

    Most of the so-called identity fraud relates to "owner not present" fraud e.g. use of credit cards on the internet and as such ID cards would not have any impact on this. And as for de-frauding the tax payer: most benefit fraud relates to people lying about their circumstances not their identity i.e. claiming unemployment benefit when they have savings etc.

    This £1.7bn figure has been analysed to death by all parties on both side and has been widely dismissed as being supportive to the scheme. Nice try though!

    So if the government wants to combat ID fraud why doesn't it dedicate some resources to educating people how to reduce the risk of being de-frauded when shopping on-line. Hell, if it wants to be all nanny state about it, why not simply buy every one a simple shredder and advise to shred personal documents.

    This will have way more impact on the issue and cost, what? A few million?

    Same with terrorism. I'm sure a few more trained policeman to keep track on all these potential suspects will be of more use in this area. Let's improve our border security...let's improve our foreign relations....etc. etc. All potential solutions to the actual problems.....not some wishy washy ID nonsense that will have little impact on anything except that tax payer's purse.

    The idea that you are happy to let the government spend £7-£20bn of our money on the vague hope it might achieve something is nonsense.

    There are 101 better uses of this money. And if they can't think of anything, then well just give it back to us! We after all earned it!!

    PS As one of the 9,000 Liberty members I agree with your new thread on motorists. That's not what I pay my subscription fees for. But then agreeing with people is less interesting than arguing with them :-)

  53. Did you hear on radio 4 today about how taxi drivers are pushing for an ID scheme to protect them from attacks.

    There are a million uses for a good ID scheme.

    The £1.7bn figure does contain card not present figures which is why I suggested £1bn instead BUT I imagine the real figure could be several billions because the nature of fraud is that a lot of it is hidden. There are many benefits that we cannot quantify until the scheme is up and running.

    At the end of the day I am willing to let the government have a go at this - I am glad they are willing to be so brave.

    If we took the attitude that something is too difficult then we wouldn't have done half of the beneficial things mankind has managed.

    We will have to wait and see. Maybe you are right and the government will fall flat on its face - I personally think the jury is out.

  54. Did you hear on radio 4 today about how taxi drivers are pushing for an ID scheme to protect them from attacks.
    Yes. As with many of these reports, there was no questioning or analysis in relation to this - just an assumption that it would work. Did you also see the story about driving test fraud? - in spite of having to provide a photo licence before taking the test. Presumably cabbies think they will be able to install a fingerprint reader and/or iris scanner?

  55. ....so brave. Brave? brave? is that a joke? They have repeatedly refused to comply with legitimate FOI requests about the costs of the scheme - after all, if they have nothing to hide.....oh I forgot, they are hypocritical double-standard merchants.

  56. I wouldn't defend the government withholding cost information but with the current media focus on the negative with none of the positive being highlighted, I would bet it was to present a balanced view rather than for any sinister reasons.

  57. As for the cabbie ID scheme - they obviously think it will bring some benefit or they wouldn't propose it would they?

    Of course some people will get around the scheme - these things can only be a deterrent - but a deterrent is better than nothing at all.

  58. "but a deterrent is better than nothing at all"

    That depends on the cost and inconvenience of implementation, of course - I suspect that faced with costs and a decline in custom, the scheme may well fail - we'll see. Obviously the people who have asked for it think it would work, but no-one's challenged them about the practicalities. I've travelled in quite a few cabs with CCTV recently - surely that's a lower cost solution?

  59. "I would bet it was to present a balanced view rather than for any sinister reasons"
    Balanced view? what are they putting in your water supply? The government has millions to spend on pro-id propoganda - they probably have already spent upwards of a billion on this scheme but they won't even comply with the law they passed and release details. They are treating us and the law with utter contempt and I cannot believe you can dismiss such anti-democratic behaviour so lightly. If the scheme is so wonderful why can't they just come clean and tell the truth about how they have spent our money? You can't have it both ways, Neil, if you expect me to trust the government, they MUST show some evidence that they trust me.

  60. urko: I would have thought CCTV in a cab was a bigger infringement of liberties than an ID card scheme?

    It seems a lot of people who predicted an 'orwellian state' when there were only a handful of CCTV cameras are dropping their opposition to CCTV now it has been around for a while and is virtually everywhere. Sort of ironic don't you think? I think opposition to ID cards could similarly disappear once it is up and running.

  61. As for the cost of the scheme, I agree the government should release the figures.

    I imagine they fear the media will kill the project - maybe they are even right about this.

    The media have tried to kill loads of issues; congestion charging, 24 hour licensing, the smoking ban. Doesn't mean they are right. At the end of the day - the government will fight the next election in this issue - if people are so opposed to this that it obliterates everything else then they have a choice to vote Lib Dem or Tory or Green or any other party that opposes ID cards.

  62. I would have thought CCTV in a cab was a bigger infringement of liberties than an ID card scheme?
    Depends on the scheme, but someone having a picture of my face is less worrying to me that someone having name address and other data about me to do as they wish with.

    I never objected to CCTV per se - but as I've argued with you before, I think it's effectiveness may have been exaggerated - I suspect it mostly only helps identify suspects and prove crimes rather than prevent them.

  63. [I think opposition to ID cards could similarly disappear once it is up and running]

    Support for ID Cards amongst the genral population is quite 'soft'. It has already slipped from its high water mark level of 80% to less than 50% and procurement for the project hasn't even started yet. In fact, it has been delayed yet again, but we'll let that pass. Anything less than flawless execution of this project will cause it to slip considerably further. Unfortunately for the government this is looking increasingly unlikely.

    But less us assume that it bucks the trend and delivers on time and to budget. Even the government's own figures show that an expected third of the adult population will actively resist compulsory registration. The incoherence of the business case for ID Cards - last week it's terrorism, this week it's social security fraud, next week it's what, global warming and personal carbon allowances? - will make keeping public support rather difficult. People need to know what exactly they are for. And the poll tax fiasco showed that it didn't take that many dedicated hard-core refusniks to bring the scheme to its knees.

    I am a senior IT consultant. I have acted as 'toubleshooter' on government IT projects that have gone arwy so I know what I am talking about. It is possible that the government could deliver the ID Cards project without serious mishap but the odds for that happening are long indeed. You ain't seen nothing yet, sunshine.

  64. [But why trust Orange more than our elected politicians?]

    Orange did not conspire to fabricate evidence about weapons of mass destruction to wage an aggressive war against another sovereign nation. Elected politicians did.