Alex Massie

A Few Simple Questions for Alan Johnson

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Home Secretary, is "identity theft" unknown in countries that already have identity cards?

If it isn't, then how will Britain's ID cards solve that problem? (A problem that is, in any case, vastly smaller than you claim.)

You now say that ID cards will be "voluntary". Doesn't that compromise their (putative) effectiveness?

And if the case for ID cards is so compelling - as you insist it remains - why has your government been backtracking on the matter?

You argue that you are "committed to delivering them more quickly to the people who will benefit most". Previously this was everyone. Who "needs" them "most"? Or, to put it another way, who doesn't need an ID card? Who will benefit least from an ID card?

You say that you are "pleased that the government will be looking at bringing forward proposals for pensioners aged 75 and over to receive an identity card free of charge." What about 74 year olds? Why should they have to pay? Don't their identities need "protecting" too? Why will your government "protect" a 75-year-olds' "identity" but not that of someone born a year later? Do your proposals make any sense?

Mind you, even ancient people looking forward to free ID cards ought not hold their breath (for, er, all sorts of reasons) since you're only "looking" at "bringing forward" a "proposal". 

Or is this just a PR gimmick? Surely not!

If the case for ID cards "has been made" why do you think "getting a card will be a big decision for some people" ? Do you really mean to draw a comparison between getting an ID card and procuring an abortion? Because that's what it sounds like.

And yet you persist, like your predecessors, in pretending that ID cards are wholesome and nutritious and good for us. So why not make them compulsory? The government in which you serve, after all, has had few compunctions about compelling people and businesses to knuckle under any number of terrible ideas before. If even you don't have the courage of your convictions why should the electorate respect those convictions?  Or are you simply making it all up as you go along?

Finally, when Gordon Brown asked you to serve as Home Secretary why on earth did you say yes?

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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