Friday, March 31, 2006

Blair's End

It's said that all political careers end in failure, and Blair has chosen ID cards for his exit.

His new law (my ellipsis) requires:

- every Brit resident to carry an ID card with 10 fingerprints, 2 iris prints and a photo;

- a national ID database;

- millions of scanners for bureaucrats and cops to read citizens' biometrics and ID cards;

- a very large & secure data network to enable scanned cards to be checked against the database.

More than half a century after Britain got rid of its wartime identity cards, laws to set up a similar scheme were given Royal Assent yesterday.

Some of the world's largest IT companies are likely to line up for the work...A report published by the London School of Economics last year - and fiercely disputed by the Home Office - estimated the cost of implementing an ID cards scheme at between £10.6 billion and £19.2 billion.

It will be a high-risk project, with the prospect of its being scrapped never far away, so the private sector will probably demand hugely profitable fees.

Contrary to my predictions, the scheme will be highly disruptive. Starting 2008:

(It) will involve a visit to one of 70 offices around the country to give all 10 fingerprints, two iris prints and a photograph (by each of the) about six million people each year (that) renew or apply for a passport...

But Blair's man hopes the scheme will survive Labour being turfed out by the electors:

(The home secretary) said that he did not think the Conservatives...would...reverse the scheme (after the next election) because it would be too far advanced by then... (However) David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said: “Under a Conservative government, the scheme would be scrapped and the savings put to other uses - including strengthening our security."

The third Brit party, the Liberal Democrats, would also scrap the scheme:

The Government's identity card scheme will be expensive and ineffective. We would scrap it and use the savings to put 10,000 more police on the streets, and equip them to combat crime more effectively.

The next election is due by May 2010. By then the project - like all previous Brit government IT projects - will be well over budget, and the first wave of 6 million Brit men women and kids will have been annoyed by being forced to spend 1/2 a day each to get the Big Brother treatment.

Blair's party has at a stroke alienated the Brit electorate and given their two opponents strong cause to form a coalition against them.

Extraordinary.