Peter Oborne

Have the English lost their historic love of liberty?

Have the English lost their historic love of liberty?

Imagine, for a moment, you are an international terrorist. Not a leading one, mind you, who might have his picture on cigarette cards if such things still existed, but your ordinary, bog-standard warped fanatic who can’t get a girlfriend and who is therefore looking for something to spice up his life. Having joined the freemasonry of random murderers, you find yourself in Great Britain a few years hence, and are about to strike.

Listen, as the robot-staffed phone lines say, to the following two options. First, if you are not a British subject, press ‘hash’. Second, if you are a British subject and will be deterred from planting a bomb because you have an identity card, press 1; if you, even despite having an ID card, will plant the bomb anyway, press 2, light the blue touchpaper, and retire. Of course, 100 per cent of international terrorists like you will take the final option. And the notion that non-Britons will be deterred from evil because they cannot hold an ID card should not detain any rational being for a split second.

This is relevant to the Commons’ second reading of the Bill to introduce ID cards because of the event that spurred the government to introduce them: the attack on America on 11 September 2001. David Blunkett, the last home secretary, favoured an ID system, though one searches the archive in vain for any compelling defence by him of the proposal. As is not so well known as it should be, Mr Blunkett decided it would be wise to back ID cards mainly because Mr Blair did; and Mr Blair — who said at a press conference this week that ID cards were an idea ‘whose time has come’ — was in favour because various of his unelected and rabidly authoritarian advisers had convinced him it had to be done.

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