Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/02/06/enlightened_conservatism/

Conservatives flesh out ID opposition

Enlightened Conservatism

By Mark Ballard

Posted in Security, 6th February 2007 15:55 GMT

The Conservative Party launched its campaign against the government's ID card scheme today, juxtaposing a libertarian stance on identity against a tough stance on crime, punishment and immigration.

First and foremost the campaign's image doctors have presented in their advertising message a moniker for their anti-ID campaign - BADIDEA (for which the designers appear to have borrowed quite heavily from the independent No2ID group).

What the Conservative campaign then calls "Good ideas" are to provide more prison places, and complement them with drug rehabilitation so there's some chance of reforming the people stuffed inside. At the same time, they want to improve the border police to keep foreign criminals and terrorists from, we presume, adding to our indigenous population of crooks and drugged up wasters.

The gist of the campaign runs thus: "Instead of spending billions of pounds on ID cards," wouldn't the money be better spent on building more prison places so there's room for dangerous criminals to be locked away?

There'd also be change left from the ID billions, said the Conservative campaign, to try and actually help those people that are locked up to reform their characters, instead of letting them atrophy on a cocktail of prison drugs. There'd even be enough money to build a border police force strong enough to do what opponents to the government plans reckon ID cards will never manage: keeping Britain's shores free of nasty terrorists.

ID cards themselves won't ever do what the government reckons and prevent terrorist attacks (the Spanish ID card didn't prevent the Madrid bomb), illegal immigration (only long-term visitors to the UK will have to carry them), identity fraud (computer experts say it won't work) and human trafficking (can't knock the border police).

If you thought the last reason to scrap ID sounded a little weak, it might be worth considering it some more. Biometric border controls (using the fancy passports being foisted on everyone in the "developed" world) are proceeding without regard for parochial political debates about things like civil liberties. Likewise, international police and immigration databases and plans to give privileged travellers an easier time.

Only this week the government announced that its "project iris" eye scanners were up and running for "frequent travellers" at Birmingham airport. The logical extension of this scheme is a less-than-easy time for underprivileged travellers, from whatever country, with all their attendant problems, frustrations, grudges and grievances.

Why, indeed, is there any need to spend billions on ID cards? Still the Conservative campaign sounds delectably seasoned to get the popular - i.e. tabloid - British psyche salivating. Watered down, the message is: why do you need ID cards, when you can just lock more people up? ®