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!

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