The people of Manchester have either lost all interest in travelling abroad and drinking, or couldn't give a monkey's about the government's lame duck ID card scheme, if a commons answer is anything to go by.
Manchester is the first big trialling ground for the ID card scheme, before a broader trial across the rest of the North West. The government has been spending almost half a million quid trying to publicise the scheme in the city, touting its uses when travelling to Europe and clubbing.
And the results so far?
Meg Hillier, the Home Office minister stuck with responsibility for the scheme, revealed in a Commons answer this week that a whacking 1,300 people in Greater Manchester "have applied and attended an enrolment appointment for an identity card" between November 30 and January 14, 2010. Allowing for three Bank Holidays and weekends, that works out to around 43 people a day.
Hillier revealed that over the same period, 439,000 passport applications were received by the Identity and Passport Service. However, she said that passport info was not "readily held in a format to enable a further breakdown of those resident in Manchester". She added that while ID card applicants could also apply for a passport, the two processes were currently separate. Fingerprint biometric passports are due to kick in from 2012, at which point anyone seeking a passport can also get an ID card.
However, a quick back of the envelope calculation using those figures suggests that while 0.7 per cent of the UK population as a whole was applying for a passport, a mere 0.05 per cent of the 2.5m Greater Mancunians were rushing to get an ID card. If you use the population of the city proper, the rate is 0.26 per cent.
Back in October, the government said 2,000 people in the North West expressed an interest in applying for the card. That suggests a conversion rate that would make a direct mail firm proud. though how many more people have joined the queue remains to be seen.
Perhaps those eager early birds are simply hoping to have a truly unique collectable if the Tories scrap the benighted scheme if/when they get into power. ®