Thursday, 25 September 2008

"A laminated poll tax"

So says Chris Huhne of identity cards: the Liberal Democrats have been good on this. Mock-ups of cards for immigrants, which will be issued from November, firstly to non-EU students and marriage visa holders, were 'unveiled' today as the saying goes. They will be told they must have the card when they apply to extend their stay in Britain.

Jacqui Smith tells us that the cards will people "easily and securely to prove their identity". "Allows" is, of course, a deeply ingenuous adjective in the circumstances, as these people will have no choice as to whether to have such a card or not. The message is, at the same time as being misleading, a deeply populist, dogwhistle one -  "We want to be able to prevent those here illegally from benefiting from the privileges of Britain," and the information the cards contain will apparently help HMG to do that.

They will do bugger all to fight terrorism, partly because they won't extend to people who are here for less than three months, and the latest press-release doesn't focus on the T word.

The Conservative position is to oppose the identity card scheme but to support the use of biometrics in immigration documents. I have some sympathy with that, as long as it is recognised that biometrics can be hacked.

Labour are justifying the introduction of identity cards for these groups of immigrants on the express basis of strengthening  immigration control. Hmm. To use groups who do not have the vote as a guinea pigs for this project is nasty. And the information will be held digitally and centrally - let's hope securely, eh? But I still don't see what the purported justification will be when they seek to introduce the cards for the indigenous population in a few years' time. 'Immigration control' as a reason to demand Mrs Jones from Worcester to report to an ID interrogation centre when renewing her passport for a trip to Spain won't really cut the mustard, will it?

It genuinely amazes me that Brown is using up vanishingly rare political capital to progress this fantastically expensive, deeply illiberal project.

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