When the Prime Minister mentioned ‘Covid status certification’ as part of his route back to normal life, one man must have enjoyed the moment. For Tony Blair it was yet one more little victory in his UK comeback tour, made all the sweeter because Boris Johnson was once a principal opponent of the idea of any ID card system.
Blair has been pushing vaccine passports like nobody’s business. A recent paper published by his Institute for Global Change advocated that we carry ‘digital health passports’ on our smartphones, which we could scan on entry to bars, theatres and other places. If you don’t have a smartphone, the paper suggested, the venue could take a photo of you instead, and check it against a database of people who have been vaccinated. ‘The public is increasingly comfortable with the trade-off between protecting our civil liberties and protecting our health,’ it asserted, going on to list several apps and app developers which it claims are already working on suitable products.
This is the kind of stuff which used to make Johnson go off his chump. When he was editor of this magazine — and Blair was pushing his identity cards bill through the Commons — Johnson threatened to eat any identity card he was forced to produce. In April 2004 The Spectator carried a piece by Peter Hitchens in which he wrote that the introduction of ID cards ‘would signal the end of privacy — and of England’. While Johnson this week appointed Michael Gove to look into the ‘scientific, moral, philosophical and ethical’ issues concerning vaccine passports, it is hard to escape the conclusion that Blair is having a very hearty last laugh.
It is not just ID cards.