Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Roberta Blackman-Woods and the abolition of slavery

One of the strongest of the many reasons for celebrating the defeat of the Labour government earlier this year was its determination to being in national identity cards. Do not forget, incidentally, that one of their chief advocates was Andy Burnham in his days as a junior home office minister.

The arguments in favour of the cards were varied and weak, but the most absurd of all must have been that used by the Labour MP Roberta Blackman-Woods. We must have identity cards, she has consistently argued, because administering them will make jobs in her Durham constituency.

And she did not give up after the general election. Here she is, as quoted by the Durham Times from 12 June 2010, writing to her Liberal Democrat opponent in that contest, Carol Woods:

“During the election campaign, you accused me, amongst many other things, of scaremongering about your party’s plans to scrap the voluntary ID cards scheme and the impact this would have on jobs in Durham.

“Unfortunately, my fears have proved to be entirely justified as the Tory/Lib Dem Government, in one of its first policy announcements, have said that more than 60 jobs at the Durham Passport Office will be axed.

“Indeed, given that the Government seems intent on also abolishing the next phase of biometric passports, the job losses could end up being even worse.”

She concluded by calling on Carol to apologise to her and the people of Durham.

Blackman-Woods resembles the Liverpool MP General Tarleton who, on 15 February 1805, told the House:
There are in Liverpool alone above 10,000 persons completely engaged in the slave trade, besides countless numbers affected and benefited by it. I have received instructions from my constituents to oppose Mr Wilberforce's intentions with all my power.
The General Tarleton is now in name of an inn near Knaresborough. I doubt anyone will ever go for a pint at The Old Roberta Blackman-Woods.


Anonymous said...

Well the LibDems worked their socks off in Durham (and Newcastle) but Labour got back in both cities and they have certainly got the MPs they deserve!

Richard Gadsden said...

Tarleton was a guerilla commander of Loyalists in the American War of Independence. Is that silly "glorifying terrorism" law still on the books? If so, arrest the publican of that pub!

dreamingspire said...

Well, the upgraded passport was unveiled yesterday. Whether it is "the next phase of biometric passports" referred to by Roberta we shall see.
The case for being able to hold a secure ID token, capable of being used to secure your activities on-line, is very strong. Other countries that have historically had non-electronic ID documents are moving in that direction (e.g. Germany), but here it was the "we are watching you" and "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" rubbish that prevented the true case being made. There is in the USA now a float at the federal level of the concept of an electronic token for securing your identity on-line, but also with the realisation that it doesn't have to be government issued as long as it conforms to a nationally, maybe internationally, agreed technical specification that means that on-line services can always validate it. There could thus be many issuers - and you could hold several of them [1] as long as, when accessing public services where your "real" ID (i.e. recognised by govt) is needed, you use a token that matches the identity by which govt knows you.

[1] Often for an on-line service it is only authentication that matters, so no need to expose any more personal data (maybe none) than is essential for continuity when receiving the service.

Unknown said...

The have such "e-ID" in Sweden already, issued by the major banks and the former telecoms monopoly. I have nothing against that idea at all, in fact it is useful and convenient. What I object to is having the government fingerprint me and get me to provide a lot of personal information, which would then be plonked on a massive database available for the police to trawl if they are ever short of suspects.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the biometric ID cards were not going to be capable of proving our identity over the internet, were they?