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Sleepwalking into a police state

I’m thinking of declaring the 29th of March 2006 ‘[tag]Freedom Day[/tag]‘, because it is the day that freedom died; or at least started to.

Maybe I’m being over-dramatic — even melodramatic — in these posts; but I don’t think so.

The House of Lords has been doing sterling work in standing up to the [tag]ID Cards bill[/tag], as have the few sane voices in the Commons: Liberal Democrats, some Tories, and a few brave Labour rebels. But yesterday the Lords accepted a ‘compromise’: from 2008, when we get or renew a passport, our details will be placed on the [tag]National Identity Register[/tag]. However, we will have the option of opting out of getting an [tag]Identity Card[/tag].

Err, excuse me? Is it possible that their lordships have totally missed the point? The database is the whole problem. The database is the thing we can’t step back from. The database is the single point of failure. An identity card — just a card with some personal information, such as our parents or grandparents had during the second world war — would be bad: but the real problem in the modern age is that the card itself is just a key to the database1.

What were they thinking of? For that matter what were the Commons thinking of in letting this through, and what were the government thinking of in introducing it in the first place? Are these people so dazzled by power — is the Labour party so intoxicated by its brief2, unfamiliar taste of it — that they can think only of exercising it in more and more repressive and restrictive ways?

Welcome to the police state, people: maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of our lives.

And while it might not be the end of the world — many people all through history and into the present have had to live under far worse conditions than we can expect here in Britain — it is the end of something we might call the British Dream. The idea of Britain as one of the oldest modern democracies, governed by ‘the Mother of Parliaments’; of Britain as any kind of bastion of freedom: that idea died a bit yesterday. And it will die a little more today, as the legislation is passed; and a little bit more in the future. It is dying by pieces; we may not live to see it choking its last breath out in the gutters; but our children will. And by the time that last gasp happens, it will be too late to do anything about it.

I only hope that our children will be able to find some way to resurrect it.


1.Perhaps not just a key to the database: presumably a smartcard, it will actually be able to hold a lot of data itself.

2.Even at nine years it seems pretty brief to me. Especially compared to what came before. Though even Thatcher never tried anything like this.

[tags]ID Cards, police state, freedom, uk government, politics, single point of failure[/tags]

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