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Labour stands alone on ID cards

Labour is the only party running for election on a promise to deliver identity cards, according to analysis produced by the London School of Economics.

But opposition claims to oppose ID cards are vague and leave a lot of room for disappointment after the election. Of the ten election manifestos published up until yesterday, only Labour's contains a commitment to deliver ID cards, said LSE academics Dr. Edgar Whitley and Dr. Gus Hosein.

Analysis presented on the LSE election blog shows the Liberal Democrats have presented the most reliable opposition to ID cards. They have vowed to scrap ID cards and the next generation of biometric passports.

Libdem opposition to ID cards, it is implied, is the most substantial for its stand against next-generation biometric passports.

Fudge fingers
Biometric passports presently involve nothing but mugshots on a chip. The next-generation passports will include fingerprints as well. The government claims that international commitments oblige it to add fingerprint biometrics to passports. But, the LSE notes, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US have all refused to put fingerprints on their passports. And the UK has rejected EU requirements for the same.

But the government has decided to use its biometric passports databases to deliver core components of its identity cards system. That would provide the same functionality even without the piece of plastic called an ID card.

So those parties that have promised only to scrap ID cards (the Communist Party, Plaid Cymru, and the Respect Party) have not, it is again implied, given enough information for a voter to make an intelligent choice in opposition to ID.

Finger of fudge
Part of the problem is that the Identity and Passports Service is so shady about how it is building the ID cards system, and is still making major infrastructural changes to its design. It is difficult for any opposition party to say what exactly it is in opposition to.

So the Conservative promise to scrap ID cards and the National Identity Register (the name given to the suite of systems and databases on which the card would operate) could mean a variety of things, says the LSE.

Just as an ID card was only ever a token for a biometric population database, so in the IPS' latest ID scheme blueprint the card is but a token connected to the passports database. (The biographical store of the ID scheme will be shared with the Asylum database).

Hedge pledge
That leaves those parties who promise variations on the theme. The Pirate Party offer the surprisingly conformist pledge to scrap ID cards and "regulate" the National Identity Register. The Alliance for Green Socialism would scrap id cards and "databases". The Green Party would scrap ID cards and express "grave concerns" about the government's collection of biometric data.

Their positions imply that either they don't really know or they don't really care, or perhaps they do but haven't had time enough to look into it.

It is ample illustration of the way in which industrial mobilisation in the pursuit of profit from the biometric database state, scientific mobilisation for the sake of it, and government mobilisation for the sake of the enemy within in the war on terror, benefits cheats, foreigners and paedophiles, has left those scant islands of humanist opposition gasping for air and grasping for something to hold on to.

What they got was the playground taunt from government and industry that their healthy suspicions about unprecedented growth in the power of the state were signs of paranoia. (Woe betide if they were actually of a nervous disposition).

All they have been able to grasp since is that catch-all moniker, the ID card. One would hope their continued and concerted opposition is backed by honest sentiments, if not substance.