Wednesday, December 05, 2007

It's the Issues Wot Count

ID Card
50 Million Tiny Millstones
There have been so many polls to comment on of late, but most convey the same message about changing attitudes to our current government. I enjoy these as much as the next man who has deep concerns about the man at the top; feelings which I never had to the same degree about the Blair administration, but ones that more and more I find others have come to share.

The classic response from the Brownites is "ahh, but it's the issues that ordinary people really care about". Well, for a start that is now nothing more than an assertion of dubious provenance, not really an argument. I know many people significantly more left leaning and less attuned to the day-to-day goings on in Westminster than myself who are starting to worry about the kind of mood music that drifts out from the Brown Camp. More than that though, it's the kind of statement that assumes that not only is the policy fundamentally right, but that ordinary people agree with that assessment, with the airy complacency and arrogance of the current government that more and more are coming to detest.

On one policy, that Brown could so easily have ditched, with nothing but credit to himself for doing so, it may be that he has made another major misjudgement. It was without surprise, but with pleasure nonetheless I read the report of the first YouGov poll showing a majority of Britons who oppose the ID Card/National Identity Register scheme. True, this comes after the HMCE data scandal(s), but it also comes well before the real costs start to hit the wallet directly and before such joys as a trip to the registration centre become an everyday reality. It's hard to see anything other than a ratchet on this one, as the unsustainable arguments in favour of the scheme wilt in the sunlight, just as even the practical objections alone to the scheme begin to ripen in the public's mind.

I suspect Brown doesn't really care one way or the other about ID cards on a personal level, but saw it as a 'tough and decisive' buoyancy aid to his premiership. There's really not been much in the smoke signals about what he believes about this subject, and frankly it would be odd if even the most political of beasts didn't really have the occasional "frankly I don't give a damn" issue where you just try to read the polling runes. In this type of analysis though, it may well come to pass for Brown that this buoyancy aid may increasingly seem more like a rather large and costly millstone. It couldn't happen to a nicer bloke.

As for the government line that the HMCE data fiasco is in fact an argument in favour of handing more data to the government, I'm frankly too tired to give it the contemptuous treatment it truly deserves.

I haven't even tried (and nor has any minister as far as I can see) to understand the argument they are peddling. Are they really saying that for every piddling little transaction we must present ourselves for our biometrics to be checked (no phone banking, no use of your plastic on the Internet, even if unconcerned about the government having such detailed information on our day-to-day lives anyway)?

Or is it simply a case of poorly informed, inadequate political figureheads spouting what institutionalised civil service mindsets, befuddled by the sales pitches that I know the major consultancies can cook up, tell them to say?

The intellectual incoherence of the government line on the subject is offensive enough even before consideration of whether it springs from politically motivated dishonesty or simple inadequacy.

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