Who’s papers are they anyway?

During his monthly press conference yesterday, Tony Blair mounted a staunch defence of his ID card scheme.

Not only will they halt fraud, illegal migration, health tourism, global warming and goodness knows what else, they will apparently, also make our lives easier.

According to the Prime Minister, having a government ID card would make it simpler to access benefits and take out a bank loan or mortgage.

In a stunning piece of irony, my morning newspaper placed this next to a lead article about Britain’s spiralling debt crisis and which according to the government, is due to the ease of getting a bank loan.

What worries me is not the lack of a compelling argument for ID cards.

Nor indeed do I turn puce at the notion of being asked for my papers; we already can be stopped at will by police and we are filmed in our every waking hour.

What makes me ill with worry is the fundamental shift in mentality involved in a government ID.

Right now, who I am is up to me – I look in my wallet and I could be identified by my bank, which I chose, or my cricket club, of which I am a voluntary member (Surrey since you ask). I could define myself by my family, my history, my faith.

Bring in government ID cards and who you are is no longer in your hands. You shall be identified (or not) by their number, their information. The state will tell you who you are.

Now some might say that it is merely a sexier NIS card but it is not. Your national insurance number is only for paying your taxes or for claiming your benefits. The NIS card is not a valid form of ID.

When I moved banks a year and a bit ago, I was asked where I went to University, where I lived, how much I earned and other relevant details. At no point did they ask me for a retinal scan nor did they ask for the government’s opinion of me.

The bank does not need this card. Nor does my employer, nor my club, nor my local pub. Indeed none of the institutions upon which I rely gain anything.

In fact the real recipient of a new wealth of information is not the bank or whomever, but the government.

Suddenly, every time I take out an overdraft, fly on a plane, go to the cricket, get ill or do anything at all, central government will be informed. And not the Inland Revenue, not the NHS, but the Home Office.

If I have no bank card, no Surrey CCC membership card, no NIS card, I am still a person, I am still me. If my bank makes a mistake, if they think my middle name is Fabian not Francis, I tell them and they correct it. 

Under the new system, should the government make a mistake, then my name is Fabian like it or not. They, not I, will be the final arbitor of who I am.

I shudder as the government, and especially Tony Blair, wax lyrical about the evil menace of identity theft as an excuse for nationalising my existance.   


3 thoughts on “Who’s papers are they anyway?

  1. Well you may not turn puce, but i do. Anyone demanding my papers will get a response worthy of my Anglo-Saxon forefathers; they shall be told to duck off.

  2. Very good points. It reminds me of Chesterton’s description of the rationale for birth control, where the plutocrat says to the poor man, ‘I do not pay you enough for you to bring children up, so I must make a sacrifice: I will deprive myself of your children.’

    Likewise the government says, ‘you can’t stop people from stealing your identity, so this is how we’ll protect you: we’ll steal it ourselves before anybody else gets the chance to.’

  3. New No.2: “Good day, Number Six.”
    No.6: “Number what?”
    New No.2: “Six. For official purposes, everyone has a number. Yours is number 6.”
    No.6: “I am not a number, I am a person.”

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