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Identity cards – now terrorists won’t need to forge them

Isn’t it reassuring that the finest minds of their generation are serving in Gordon’s government. Take home secretary Jacqui Smith and her brilliant solution to the problem of compulsory identity cards: making them voluntary! This oxymoronic u-turn sets a new benchmark in government dithering.

The whole point about identity cards – or so Tony Blair told us – was that they were meant to be held by everyone. That way, wrong ’uns, illegals and people with dark faces (sorry, ‘criminally-profiled terrorist suspects’) would be easy to spot because they wouldn’t have said card. They could then be banged up for weeks without charge under the proposed law on detention of suspected terrorists.

Now that the they are voluntary the terrorists, illegals etc will not even have to go to the inconvenience of forging their ID cards. Only those who actually have the cards will be liable to arbitrary arrest and detention by the police, when they inevitably confuse Mr Oswald B. Linden with Osama bin Laden. We can sleep safely in our beds secure in the knowledge that they know where we live.

In her further wisdom Ms Smith has made students an exception to voluntary compulsion. They will all expected to have identity cards. Which is inspired because, of course, students are the one group in society that can be absolutely guaranteed to lose their identity cards, after using them to cut up lines of coke or whatever. This means that the government won’t have to go to the trouble of losing the identity cards themselves, in the way they lost the child benefit records of 25 million citizens.

Senior managers at the HM Revenue and customs, have been amply rewarded for losing our bank accounts, national insurance numbers and pension details by posting them in a jiffy bag to al Qaeda. A grateful government has increased their bonuses by more than 50%. You might find it surprising that officials in dysfunctional government departments are getting any bonuses at all, but incompetence on this scale doesn’t come cheap. It takes brains to lose £3.3 bn in overpaid tax credits, and civil servants need proper incentives or, heck, they might go to the private sector.

Talking of which, Gordon Brown himself must surely be in line for some kind of bonus for losing £4 billion of our money on the bullion markets. Gordo sold most of Britain’s gold reserves off the back of a lorry eight years ago when it was worth 275 dollars an ounce. Now the yellow stuff is trading at nearly a 1,000 dollars, which makes GB the biggest rogue trader since Jerome Kerviel.

You can see why banks are so keen on hiring top politicians like Tony Blair when they leave office. I bet Societie General will be lining up to hire Mr Brown, who will be able to name his price even if he can’t price his name.

About @iainmacwhirter

I'm a columnist for the Herald. Author of "Road to Referendum" and "Disunited Kingdom". Was a BBC TV and radio presenter for 25 years - "Westminster Live" and "Holyrood Live" mainly. Spent time as columnist for The Observer, Guardian, New Statesman. Former Rector of Edinburgh University. Live in Edinburgh and spend a lot of time in the French Pyrenees. Will that do?


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