Analysis British Home Secretary David Blunkett's resignation last night casts doubt over his ambitious and controversial plan to implement a compulsory biometric ID card scheme. The plan has been deemed "technologically impossible" by the Government's own IT chief. Blunkett was also viewed as Tony Blair's most senior political ally. He resigned after he could no longer deny giving his nanny preferential immigration treatment.
In the highly centralized UK political system, the Home Secretary officially wields power over the police, prisons, immigration and drug crime, a role so broad that clashes with the judiciary are considered part of the job. Like his New Labour predecessor, Blunkett made a virtue out of antagonizing as many civil liberties groups as he could. Last year he oversaw the publication of the Civil Contingencies Bill, which permits politicians, with a handful of Privy Council votes, to bypass the monarch and impose sweeping restrictions on movement, and seizures of property, however they see fit.
This year Blunkett has proposed making every offence arrestable, and in turn, giving police the power to make every arrestee submit to a drugs test and DNA sample. So be careful where you park… But it's the expensive ID card plan that has raised the most widespread concern. Although mooted as a voluntary card, it's really compulsory for employers; it's based on unproven technology; even the Home Office can't work out how much it will cost. The list of fields to be stored on the card looks ominously like an open-ended data trawl.
Which sensible politician, with an election just months away, wouldn't want to kick this as far away as possible? Well, Blunkett's successor at the home office, Charles Clarke, isn't much more of a civil libertarian. At the Department of Education he welcomed the installation of X-ray machines and police stop and search tactics into schools. But Clarke must decide how much political capital he wants to spend on a scheme that has already been compared to the Poll Tax. ®
Europe kicks UK out of biometric passport club
ID checks could have stopped cockler deaths, says Blunkett
Think tank survey claims 81% support UK ID cards
Need a job? Get a card - arresting ID pitch to business
ID cards will hit business, watchdog warns
Abuses of the English language, ID cards...
Home Office defends ID card plans (again)
Populace asked: Do you like ID cards?
Visa 'fast track' row threatens to engulf Blunkett
ID scheme, IT the key to Blunkett's new terror laws
Get yer draconian Blunkett rhetoric here
Suicide pigs fly to support Blunkett's War on Terror
Blunkett moots 'proof-lite' internet and banking banning orders
Register backs Blunkett drive for trust in government
ID card doubts - Blunkett blames dead German philosopher
Blunkett explains your terror nightmares - be very afraid
Blunkett sets out store on compulsory ID cards
Everything you never wanted to know about the UK ID card
Blunkett poised to open ID scheme offensive tomorrow
Home Office seeks spin doctor to sell cuddly ID card brand
UK ID cards to be issued with first biometric passports
Biometric gear to be deployed in hospitals and GPs' surgeries
UK gov pilots passenger tracking in fight against terror
Tag, track, watch, analyse - UK goes mad on crime and terror IT