Scanning the coverage given to off-the-record briefings on the
introduction of identity cards did nothing to lift the spirits over
Easter. Home secretary David Blunkett has won the Cabinet battle,
we are told with varying degrees of authority, for compulsory ID
The coverage does not reflect the splits within all the main
parties on this issue. However, it does indicate a change in
attitudes around Westminster. Hence, those of us who did not like
the idea are now prepared to consider the prospect.
The majority view appears like this: “Well, never been madly keen
on the idea myself. But don’t see how we’re going to sort out the
immigration shambles unless we have them.” It’s the case of the
lesser of two evils, given a widespread acceptance that it may be
impossible to find out the true intentions of those entering
There are few things more depressing than a change in policy
brought about through the failure of former policies. But as a
country we have difficulties understanding the connection between
problems and solutions these days.
For example, most people are said by respected pollsters to support
the war on Iraq. When stopped in the street by one last week and
asked for my view, I was given the choice of answering yes or no. I
replied: “yes”. The young man took no note of my provisos about
wanting to free the people of Iraq and my belief that Saddam
Hussein had possessed weapons of mass destruction.
Likewise, when canvassing opinions among activists in different
parties on compulsory ID cards, most agreed that they are likely to
be introduced, but few welcomed the idea. Most displayed a grudging
acceptance that other means have failed so we’ve no other choice.
As we are learning with Iraq, it may be wise to canvass wider views
about why the idea of ID cards is being considered as a
Will a requirement for every citizen to carry a common identity
card, however technically sophisticated, restore our confidence and
feeling of security?
Within the ivory towers of Westminster and Whitehall, such
questions have not yet been thought through. Hopefully, enough
politicians will face them on the doorstep in the weeks ahead.
If they do not, maybe they should be reminded of the consequences
of opting for quick fix solutions which prove only to make bad
problems even worse.
Sheila Gunn is a political commentator and a Conservative
councillor in the London Borough of Camden.