A further signal that the Government was prepared to write off the ID Card Bill and blame the opposition was provided this morning by former Home Secretary David Blunkett, who told Radio 4's Today programme this morning that he hoped the House of Lords wouldn't block the establishment of the Serious Organised Crime Agency "as they appear to be going to block ID cards."
Blunkett is not of course Home Secretary, but he's still a key ally of Tony Blair, still has a very expensive house, and is likely to return to office after the election, on the completion of his period of rehabilitation. So this particular aside is likely to have derived from inside knowledge of how Labour intends to play the election. Assuming this goes ahead in May, the Government will need to cut deals with the opposition in order to deal any legislation pending. The ID Cards Bill was - until last week's flurry over the Prevention of Terrorism Act - the most obviously controversial, but the SOCA Bill could also present serious problems. Its central objective is to establish the 'British FBI', but it also substantially increases police powers of arrest and includes the proposed 'religious hatred' offence.
Blunkett's words appear to indicate that the Government is prepared to sacrifice ID cards, and bring in a new Bill after the election, in order to get SOCA through. Both Bills would face difficulties going through normal Lords procedure in the time available before the election, and the Tories would find it difficult, considering their heavy misgivings about the current ID Cards Bill, to support it going through unchanged and unexamined on Parliament's dissolution. Killing two Bills however might look bad for them in the election campaign, so Labour probably calculates that the Tories can be forced to nod through SOCA, then be blamed for spiking ID cards.
Blunkett's rehabilitation campaign, incidentally, proceeds apace. He's been doing the rounds of the newspapers portraying himself as the victim of press intrusion into his private life, and discoursing on identity and being proud to be English. This is perhaps an appropriate time to remind ourselves who it was who used his public office for his private convenience, and who was dragging private lives into matters on the day he resigned. ®