Should he or shouldn't he? Pugnacious UK Home Secretary David Blunkett must currently be puzzling over whether or not to attend the first major public meeting on his ID card scheme. Naturally, having isolated the crazed libertarians and captured the hearts and mind of the British public he would not want to give credence to the views of the crazed libertarians. But on the other hand, the meeting seems already to have quite a goodly contingent of people you might call concerned members of the establishment, or representatives of key bodies and groups, signed up. Those who've been invited, but haven't yet confirmed, could be said to be starting to look a little isolated.
Or even chicken. The crazed libertarians at Privacy International, Stand.org.uk, Liberty and the Foundation for Information Policy Research so far seem to have done a pretty good job in setting the scene for a serious debate. It will take place at the London School of Economics on Wednesday the 19th May, entry is free but space will be limited, so email email@example.com soon if you wish to register. The Register itself should declare an interest here - the organisers have very kindly asked us if we would like to support the event, and we have agreed.
At time of writing the speaker list is still growing, but already includes the president of the Law Society, the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Great Britain, the director of JUSTICE, the assistant information commissioner, and a former chief constable. And of course the usual crazed libertarians and the Liberal Party, the only major UK party so far to come out unequivocally against the ID scheme.
Currently flying the Labour Party's colours is David Winnick MP, not thought to be entirely enthusiastic, while Simon Thomas of Plaid Cymru is also signed up. David Blunkett and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens, we understand, have yet to make up their minds. The Conservative Party is similarly still considering whether Home Affairs spokesman David Davis would be appropriate, and if not, who might be.
We at The Register understand David Blunkett's problems here very well. Naturally he doesn't want to give the oxygen of publicity to a few middle class lefties, but it really might not be a smart idea to let leading reps of the law, prominent black and Muslim groups and influential ex-coppers rattle around without any government representation whatsoever. And the loyalists who sometimes get sent to agree with him on the Today programme possibly won't do.
But we have a helpful suggestion. Earlier this week, dealing with the doubts of Martyn Thomas of the UK Computing Research Committee and Ross Anderson of the FIPR, Blunkett told the Home Affairs Committee: "I love academics when they get into these areas. I would be very happy to have a debate with Professor Thomas about this..." We feel sure that debating with Ross Anderson, who is already signed up, would be equally acceptable, so perhaps David could view the meeting as recreational.
We believe that security and IT experts love it when politicians get into these areas, too. ®
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