Friday, 23 April 2010

Realpolitik—why I am not voting Labour

NO2ID is a non-partisan pressure group and we do not tell people how to vote; we wish to stop the government’s ID scheme and repeal the Identity Cards Act (2006), and will work with politicians of any stripe to that end. That’s the official line, anyway. As we move closer to Election Day, and on the heels of our last post where we asked Thanet candidates to declare where they stood on the government’s ID scheme, I see no reason why I can’t tell you how I am going to vote, or not vote, in this election—a bit of realpolitik.

In this post, we said “Thanet NO2ID noted that the government’s mishandling and loss of data, overbearing Identity scheme and other related concerns will be a major issue at the next election. NO2ID does not tell people how to vote, but we feel that Dr Ladyman has wrongly bought into the ID scheme and that this will have an adverse affect on his and the Labour Party’s fortunes at the next general election...”

In its manifesto, Labour says that it seeks to learn from mistakes, and further makes the extraordinary claim that it is proud of its record on civil liberties. In 2008, Gordon Brown attempted to introduce 42-day detention without charge against all advice and simply for PR reasons: he wanted people to think he was being tough on terrorism. The Lords sensibly threw 42-day detention out. But Brown, and the Labour Party, continues to steam on with the ID scheme, a totally undemocratic system that will extend state surveillance over the population to an unprecedented degree.

And what do the Thanet Labour Party candidates have to say about the ID scheme? Apparently, they continue to support it. Stephen Ladyman, courtesy of the Home Office, comes out with all the old tropes about identity cards being a weapon in the war against fraud, ID theft, crime, terrorism, illegal immigration etc. This is total nonsense. In this post, I explain why ID cards are not a panacea to these problems, and could even make them worse insofar as the ID scheme sets up new targets and goals for fraudsters. Michael Britton is clearly clueless since he infers that the government’s ID cards are just an extension of existing means of ID. No they are not. The British ID card is a new database-linked license to live, the thin edge of a system of total social control. Ladyman’s point about these ID cards not being compulsory is disingenuous; they are clearly meant to be compulsory in the long run, and eventually you won’t be able to do anything without one.

A bit more on ID cards: the Labour Party seems to have bought into the idea that biometric ID is infallible. It was with then interest that I listened to a recent BBC Radio 4 programme—Biometrics: An Identity Crisis—which pointed out that fingerprints, while useful as a forensic tool in criminal investigations, cannot possibly be effectively used on a daily basis to verify the identity of millions of people. There are bound to be huge numbers of misidentifications. Face recognition is also not reliable—photo ID is well-known to be a kind of placebo. Iris scans are the only fairly reliable biometric, but the government has dropped the requirement to iris-scan people for ID cards because, said Meg Hillier in the programme, it was too expensive. She might have added politically unpopular, too.

Back to the 2010 General Election: I cannot possibly vote for any candidate that supports the ID scheme. The scheme is a farce, but a dangerous farce, and it’s got to be stopped, along with overbearing snooping, the building of more databases, the fingerprinting of children, and so on. Realistically speaking, this means voting for one of the opposition parties. In 2005, I voted Liberal Democrat as a protest against Labour’s foreign policy and sponsoring of the ID scheme. I applaud Laura Murphy’s (Lib-Dem), sensible position on this latter issue: “I can categorically state that I am personally opposed to the ID scheme and I would wholeheartedly support the repeal of the National Identity Cards Act.” I would consider voting for her, but am mindful of the danger of a divided opposition vote allowing the Labour candidate to squeeze in, and so must also consider voting for Roger Gale (Con), who has also consistently opposed the ID scheme in parliament. Regards Thanet South, I consider Laura Sandys (Con) a strong candidate, and someone who has a solid grasp of what democracy is about, and why the ID scheme seriously threatens our democracy.

Of course, people must consider all the policies of any given political party before deciding who to vote for in the upcoming election, and I know positions on the economy may be decisive--they usually are. What I would like to say, however, is that political parties are not "all the same." As was shown in the last post on this blog, there are significant differences between the parties on civil liberties and the ID scheme. It has been my purpose to raise awareness of this latter issue, and to try to persuade you that it is important.

If you are eligible, please get out and vote on 6 May, because that is the most important thing of all!

Friday, 16 April 2010

Thanet NO2ID hustings

Thanet NO2ID recently contacted Thanet constituency parliamentary candidates —the ones that had contact information readily available online that is—and asked them to comment on where they currently stood ref the government’s ID scheme. Here is my note together with the candidates’ responses listed in the order that they were received:

Dear [name inserted]

As a candidate standing in the upcoming general election, I was wondering if you could give me your view/s on the national ID scheme currently being rolled out by the Home Office. Also, would you if elected support the repeal the National Identity Cards Act (2006) in the next parliament?

Please note that I would like to report any comment you make verbatim on Thanet NO2ID's blog [link removed]. As a single issue pressure group we do not tell people how to vote, but we are interested to let Thanet voters know where you stand on this important issue.


Roger Gale (Con. Thanet North)

I am wholly opposed to the government`s plan.

Laura Murphy (Lib-Dem. Thanet North)

I can categorically state that I am personally opposed to the ID scheme and I would wholeheartedly support the repeal of the National Identity Cards Act.

ID cards are completely unnecessary when we already have plenty of means to prove who we are. The track record the government has about keeping our personal details safe is a joke and we all know that a determined hacker can break into any IT system eventually. It's therefore disingenuous of the current government to say that ID Cards protect us from terrorism.

It's a gross infringement of our civil liberties to be obliged to participate in such a scheme (which is what is happening by stealth). Economically it's already costing the nation billions of pounds which we can ill afford and the costs have been rising since the scheme was first mooted. I have spoken to one pensioner on the topic who said that she's not spending a large portion or her pension on having a card and would rather go to jail. She had an ID card during the war and knows what a national emergency really is.

The very best of luck in your campaign.

Stephen Ladyman (Lab. Thanet South)

Identity cards are being rolled out to foreign nationals in the UK at the present time and are not compulsory for UK citizens. UK citizens can voluntarily apply for one when the roll-out programme reaches their area.

The rationale behind the UK Identity programme is that we wish to (the following bullets are from the Home Office web site)

* help protect people from identity fraud and theft
* ensure that people are who they say they are
* tackle illegal working and immigration abuse
* disrupt the use of false and multiple identities by criminals and those involved in terrorist activity
* ensure free public services are only used by those entitled to them
* enable easier access to public services

It seems to me that all the above are laudable aims especially since identity theft is now a real risk for people and that illegal working and abuise of immigration rules are a major concern with people. I would encourage anyone who has concerns about them to look at the official sources of information at the following link:

rather than relying on third party views of what they are and what they are not.

Michael Britton (Lab. Thanet North)

Unlike the other parties, we have made an effort to make sure we place controls on immigration, I draw your attention to our Manifesto and the items covering the subject.
I am a Candidate of the Labour Party and as such I am required to support my Party in Government, as the Government they have to make decisions based on many components Your question is very simple, yet the issue is very complexed, one has to asked why not, most citizens in the UK have to have some form of identification. this is an extension of that process.

Laura Sandys (Con. Thanet South)

As you know I have campaigned locally against ID Cards. But my opposition started from the moment that it was first muted by the Labour Government. I am also against the raft of legislation that allows all the snooping that goes on - there are now 1,242 pieces of legislation public servants can use to enter homes, including powers to search for unregulated hypnotists, a dancing bear without a permit, bovine semen or a fridge with the wrong energy rating.

I have been campaigning against the erosion of our civil liberties long before I was selected as a candidate and will continue to do so whatever the result here in South Thanet. I have worked closely with Henry Porter and Anthony Barnett on the Convention for Modern Liberty that was also hosted by NO2ID and can assure you that on all these issues you have a strong supporter.


Thanks to the above candidates for responding. Candidates who have not thus far responded but would like to say something can leave a comment.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

The Database Election

(The following statement reproduced from NO2ID's national website)

The general election will be over in a month. But the struggle over ID cards has already lasted more than one parliament. The database state has built up huge momentum. Stopping it will require MPs of all parties to pay attention now — and take action for the long-term.The opposition parties have promised to scrap the ID scheme and ContactPoint, and to review other databases. But Whitehall won't want to lose its empires whoever is elected. Whoever is elected needs to know how much it matters, and have the determination to follow-through.

[...] Despite recruiting just a few thousand guinea-pigs so far, the Home Office still intends that everyone will be fingerprinted and indexed on a central database — whether or not that involves a token card. The start date has slipped back from 2008 to 2012, but the plan still is for you to pass control of your identity to the state when you apply for a passport.

Medical records. The Department of Health has engineered a massive mailshot to patients during the election. You may have received a letter. It might have gone missing. But fail to respond and your GP's records on your family may be irreversably locked into a central database, retrievable without your consent from that point on. Opt out now.

ContactPoint. An index of every child in England and Wales has gone live despite technical faults and security concerns. Putting everyone on the system doesn't make any child safer. The existence of a "shielding" scheme denied to most families suggests the reverse.

DNA and criminal records. A million (and counting) innocent people are already on the largest DNA database in the world. When will they be taken off? The Criminal Records Bureau may treat you as a convicted criminal if you have been arrested. The Independent Safeguarding Authority can ban you from your career for accusations, or even for its own idea of 'risk factors' in your legal behaviour.

Data surveillance and trafficking. Many government bodies collecting more personal information about you, holding it for longer — and passing it around: when and where you travel; your finances; who you contact by phone or e-mail; what you read or watch online.

Mass surveillance, whether of road journeys (ANPR), overseas travel (e-Borders), in communications (data retention) or through any of the many national databases is profoundly different from the selective surveillance for a purpose that has always been part of law enforcement. It means the death of privacy. It means a future official looking over your shoulder while you live your life now.

Join NO2ID today.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Totally desperate MP claims scrapping the ID scheme will mean job losses

The ruling Labour government is becoming increasingly desperate [edit out April Fool's story from Guardian] It is the constant snooping and move towards total social control that marks the redundancy of this government. In the following press release, forwarded to me by James, NO2ID North of England coordinator, a Labour MP claims that scrapping the ID scheme will mean job losses. Rubbish! The ID scheme is one gigantic con that is costing a fortune to set up, and which cannot possibly be of any utility. It's sole purpose is to tag the population in order to allow government to gain more control over society. It won't work. Scrapping the scheme will mean more money being spent on what's important: law enforcement, targeted police work, border control and fraud prevention. Both opposition parties are committed to scrapping the ID scheme, and scrapped it will be.

Campaigners have criticised local Labour MP, Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods for deceiving the public over the threat of local job losses resulting from the possible scrapping of the ID card scheme. Dr Blackman-Woods claimed that plans to scrap the scheme would “cut jobs in Durham's Passport Office which administers the voluntary ID cards scheme” but new information gained by the non partisan campaign group NO2ID under the freedom of Information act shows that since the ID card scheme came into law in 2006 it has resulted in no new jobs being created in Durham.

James Elsdon-Baker the North of England co-ordintor for the campaign said “The claim that we need the £230,000 a day ID scheme for jobs is madness when the government is readily announcing cuts in front-line services. We have gone from ID cards will stop terrorism, to ID cards will create jobs, it's a failing scheme with increasingly thin justifications for it's existence. When the scheme is scrapped I’m sure the civil servants that have been made to work on ID cards would be happy to go back to working on useful things that people want."

Meg Hillier the Minister for Identity has recently announced that if Labour is re-elected the North East will be one of the regions where the scheme will come to next. Both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Party have stated they will scrap the scheme to spend the money on front-line services if elected.