Back when Boris Johnson was on a mission to stop identity cards being used in Britain, he made a very persuasive argument: if parliament allows such expensive technology to come into existence, then the government will cook up excuses to use it. They will start to ‘scarify the population’ by saying there is a threat or an emergency. If they sink millions into an ID card scheme then be in no doubt: our liberty will be threatened. The slippery slope, he said, is one that the government is sure to go down.
Boris Johnson is in danger of becoming the Prime Minister he once warned against. At first, we were told that any vaccine identity system would be used only for foreign travel. ‘I certainly am not planning to introduce any vaccine passports, and I don’t know anyone else in government who is,’ Michael Gove said in December. ‘What I don’t think we will have in this country is — as it were — vaccination passports to allow you to go to, say, the pub or something like that,’ the Prime Minister assured us in February.
Now he suddenly tells us that people visiting nightclubs or other large venues from September will, after all, be required to show proof of their vaccination status. It seems a negative test will not even be sufficient: a new vaccine-only card will deny the unjabbed access to clubs and other events. He also did not rule out using this technology for pubs and restaurants — and no one should be surprised if the discussion then turns to shops, airports and public transport. Nor should anyone be surprised if all this is done using emergency powers, with no parliamentary vote.
For many Britons, the government’s change of heart is not a problem: one poll this week suggested that two thirds of us are in favour of vaccine passports for nightclubs.