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Home Office seeks spin doctor to sell cuddly ID card brand

An ID card says something about a man. Oh yes...

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The Home Office is hiring a head of spin in order to sell ID cards to the British public, despite the fact that it has not yet published the response to the "consultation" earlier this year, and has yet to put a bill before parliament, far less get parliament to pass it. Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman Mark Oaten has cried foul to both the BBC and Telegraph (registration required, life's too short), but while it's nice to see MPs starting to notice that the Home Office regards them as a tiresome formality, it's not exactly news.

Read the Consultation and Draft Bill published earlier this year and you'll have trouble working out what it is about the scheme that's still available for consultation, as it's so obviously something the Home Office intends to happen come hell or high water. And the elusive pilot scheme questions are quite obviously about trying to improve the experience of registering, nothing to do with whether or not you want to.

But the job ad is interesting (applications in by Friday please) because it tells us quite a lot about how the government is going to pitch the scheme, and what it's going to cover. For starters, note that the ID Cards Head of Marketing post will be part of the Communities Group Directorate, and if you look at the Home Office's directory structure here you'll see that this is predominantly the touchy-feely units, while the heavy squad is organised under the Crime Reduction and Community Safety Group. David Blunkett's quest to make the ID scheme a widely-popular instrument of social cohesion and commerce is well known, and the Head of Marketing will have to sell this vision.

The job will include "responsibility for all aspects of positioning and promoting ID cards and ID card services to its customers and stakeholders" and: "During the passage of the Bill, this will include communications with Ministers, MPs and others." So as you see it is absolutely wrong to say the Home Office is going ahead with the scheme without bothering about MPs. On the contrary, it seems to be hiring somebody to sell them it. Isn't that political lobbying?

And "the programme will involve contact with delivery partners, major users of the scheme (such as the Health Service and Police) and with members of the public." Why would the Health Service be a major user of the scheme? Well, because healthcare will be conditional on production of an ID card, of course.

The most recent consultation, such as it was, finished in July, but it would appear that a form of consultation more familiar to government spin doctors continues. Organisations with an interest in ID cards, both favourable and unfavourable, will need to have their views and concerns "understood and managed". Broadly, however, the Head of Marketing will develop a "Marketing Strategy" (note the capitals) "covering the vision for the scheme, its positioning and branding". and there are plenty other examples of marketing bollox: "defining the customer experience and behaviours to support the brand", "Coaching and developing staff in marketing/sales/distribution concepts and best practice", and in the essential skills section "Developing the marketing strategy for a new product/service. Particularly relevant is experience of universal services intended for all customers (including hard to reach and 'difficult' customers who cannot be turned away)"; "Developing and implementing strategies for new brands, advertising, public relations and communications" and "Driving demand and encouraging take-up".

Compulsion is of course a wonderful encouragement to take-up, and possibly fertile ground for ID scheme campaign slogans. "Your identity - lock it down before we lock you up" or "Difficult customer? We get all sorts in here, sir..." or "Know who you are. We do." Or even just "Don't leave home without it." Snappy, that one. ®

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