The whole ID card debate [BBC Q&A] has not even been at the top of the political agenda for weeks or maybe even months, but today the final die has been cast that means I have to abandon my position on the issue of sitting on the fence for ideological reasons.
First of all, what do I think of ID cards? Simply put, I have no problem with them in principle. I carried a carte d’identitÃƒÂ© spÃƒÂ©ciale when I lived in Belgium and it was very useful when travelling in the Schengen zone, proving who I was at the bank, video hire shop etc., rather than using the multitude of utility bills and other such nonsense that you need to prove who you are in the UK.
Hence I’ve been OK with the idea of carrying an identity card in the UK, providing there was some, however vague, future prospect of the UK joining an EU passport free zone. On the other hand, the card scheme is expensive and the rationale used for its introduction by the government has been more about control and preventing terrorism than giving a service to citizens.
Anyway, John Reid, our beloved Home Secretary, has today announced a set of ludicrous border controls to be introduced between now and 2014 that will basically enforce inward and outward bound checks on everyone at every border to the UK. For details of this, see this Guardian article. This means that not only will we be forced to carry ID cards by 2010, but we will also have some of the tightest controls at our borders of any country in the world, and, oh, while we are on the subject, Britain also has the most CCTV cameras filming its citizens too… This really is starting to resemble something from 1984.
Further, when a whole range of government policies are crying out for more cash, John Reid has managed to lever a doubling, yes, a DOUBLING of cash for border controls. And all of this is in today’s climate where illegal immigration into the UK is even down on the numbers of a few years ago. Blair seems to have given Reid a carte blanche to sort out the bad headlines in the Daily Mail and he’s doing that with a repulsive gusto. It’s abhorrent.