Friday, March 17, 2006

You have increasingly looked like an elephant

Today's House Points column from Liberal Democrat News. I am not sure I understand it either, but I wasn't well when I wrote it.

Castro Clarke

Highgate School, 1967.

“Ah, Clarke. Thank you for coming. I have it in mind to make you Head Boy next year, but there are a couple of things that are worrying me.”

“I see, sir.”

“The first is that since you have come here you have increasingly looked like an elephant, but we can’t do a lot about that and Matron tells me that no one has been trampled this half. The second is that I have had word that you are a bit of a leftie.”

“It’s true, sir, that I have an admiration for dictators like Fidel Castro…”

“Splendid! That just what the Governors look for in a Head Boy. Have a bun, Clarke.”

* * *

It was always going to be a public-school socialist who brought in identity cards. It’s the noxious blend of contempt for democratic traditions and unshakeable self-confidence. And Clarke doesn’t have the lovely manners such an education is supposed to give you.

Charles Clarke was at the dispatch box at 10 p.m. on Monday night when news came that the Lords had again refused to pass his bill.

These days we are all supposed to be in favour of family-friendly hours. The Commons should shut up shop in the early evening so MPs can rush home to supervise Jack and ChloĆ«’s homework. But you have to admit that there is something about a late-night row.

Clarke’s case was that the Lords were holding up a bill that had been promised in the last Labour Manifesto. “We will introduce ID cards, including biometric data like fingerprints, backed up by a national register and rolling out initially on a voluntary basis as people renew their passports.”

But it is not on a voluntary basis at all, people argued. If you renew your passport you have to get a card and go on the national identity database whether you want to or not. Clarke’s answer to this point? “No one is forced to renew a passport if they choose not to do so.”

The best argument against this came from Simon Hughes. So let’s play out with him:

The Home Secretary has come here tonight to say to the elderly relative who is told that his or her child is ill in another country, "This is a matter of free choice, but you must have an identity card if you want to visit a relative who is very ill." … That is not freedom of choice in the conventional sense of the term, and the Home Secretary can never persuade us that it is.


Anonymous said...

It was always going to be a public-school socialist who brought in identity cards.

Presumably liberals never would. Are public-school conservatives just not competent enough - I know Michael Howard tried twice, and was blocked by the socialists back when they were in Opposition, was he public school?

Iain Sharpe said...

I suppose Jonathan's point is that the right would not get away with it because there would be opposition from the left complaining of crypto-fascism or whatever.

A working-class Labour minister would be less likely to do it because they would fear it is a way of encouraging the state authorities to harrass their own kind.

So it is likely to be a public school socialist for whom their raison d'etre in politics is to find ways of controlling the poor for their own good.

Jonathan Calder said...

Thank you, Iain. I understand what I wrote much better now.