Blunkett resigns

15 December 2004

Oh joy. Oh sweet, sweet joy.


32 Responses

Quick! To the flash! We must have the predictive Charles Clarke/Alan Milburn/John Reid/whoever Policy Generator!

Also, Wikipedia’s already been updated

Steve Badger

Beta seems to be succinctly up to date also…

Stephen Backholer

Everone I speak to said you should not have gone. You would have made the best PM this country would ever have. Good Luck.

Graham

Hurray, Lets see what Charles Clarke does and find out if I can vote Labour in May.

Happy happy day!

Hugh

Let’s not get carried away. Losing Blunkett is, of course, splendid. However, not only has he gone on what the miserable spinners insist is a technical matter on a private issue (rather than shamefacedly over his extremist and authoritarian policies or needlessly abrasive political style), but he has been replaced by Charles Clarke. Aside from his startling resemblance to Fungus the Bogeyman, Clarke is the genius who brought you the top-up fee. The BBC are currently quoting him as saying that he shares many of Mr Blunkett’s views, and strongly believes in ID cards. How uplifting for us all.

If Blunkett has stayed on, after reaching the brink, like Blair did last year, he’d have only been more resolved than ever to do his job (like Blair is now) and to get his ID card baby through. Clarke will not be as determined, being parachuted in halfway through, he will take time to settle in the job, there’s the distraction of an election next year, and he’ll probably spend much of the third term setting up a leadership bid. So Blunkett going is a Good Thing (though the reasons are piss-poor, the end result is the same).

And at least it wasn’t Milburn who took his place.

Hugh

That’s all absolutely true, of course, but isn’t the worry that, with the “don’t let the bastards get you down” mentality that Blair et al have inherited from the Tories, they will be shy of ditching such a flagship policy? It seems that a large part of their election strategy was pandering to the illiberal, prejudiced agenda of the Daily Mail (and in doing so, leaving the Tories nowhere to go on issues such as crime and immigration – imagine! Leaving Michael Howard no room on the right!). I can’t see Clarke reversing that.

But of course Blunkett going is a good thing. I must correct any impression in my earlier post that he /has/ in fact gone over a technical matter on a private issue – he has, of course, gone because he is a lying, arrogant, twisted bastard who thought he could get away with it. Just wanted to clear that up.

Double result here for those pissed off with Blunkett’s draconian “terror legislation”:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4100481.stm

Maybe we’ll even see the total return of law :)

It’s a good day to bury bad legislation.

Hugh

I don’t think this actually is the reason, but it is interesting, isn’t it, that Blunkett went yesterday, and their Lordships gave judgement today. I mean, if Blunkett had still been hanging around – well, he wouldn’t have gone today or tomorrow, would he, as it would have looked as if he was kicked by the judgement, not by his sordid little private life? Overly fanciful to think that somebody got wind of the way their judicial minds were working, and saw yesterday as a good day to bury a bad Home Secretary? So that today we have a new one, who can sweep about the place being all new-broomish? Just a thought. Or serendipity.

Don’t good things usually come in 3s? So, kids, you get one more wish…use it wisely

Max

I think it is naive to think that Blunkett’s illiberal policies are anything other than the policies of our dear leader himself. Tony seems to need someone else to put forward his dirty policies, and I doubt that Blunkett going is going to change anything.

John Erskine

I’m proud to have spent thirteen years as a Labour Councillor representing an inner city area in Leeds.

There are some aspects of David Blunkett’s approach with which I disagreed, such as our policy on asylum seekers and refugees. However the idea that his policy of ensuring the law protects ordinary people from yobs and thugs through measures such as ASBOs is reactionary is pure claptrap, the product of an esoteric liberal individualism which has absolutely nothing to do with the democratic socialism for which Blunkett (and I) stand. When the people who criticise Blunkett on this website have had to listen to pensioners in tears about the activity of anti-social teenagers, or deal with individuals with learning difficulties who face bullying and abuse from their neighbours then they might understand that the state has an absolute duty to intervene.

As for the rubbish about identity cards – most of our European neighbours have them. They merely represent the visible proof of citizenship, and of joint participation in the endeavour of being part of a state. If you don’t like the European concept of citizenship, where we have both rights and duties, and the state is the manifestation of our collective will, go somehere else. Your attitudes will fit in well with survivalists in Montana, or the legions of other extremely rugged individualists who have made America such as caring place.

iainl

Does the above count as “feeding the trolls”, Chris?

If that is the way “New” Labour feels about the legitimate concerns of those who don’t believe the Blair line that ID cards are both a dessert topping and a floor wax, then it is little wonder they are charging headlong into the the disaster.

None of which has anything to do with New Labour attempts to legislate politeness.

John Erskine

There’s a generational thing here – I was just short of voting age in 1979. I lived right through Thatcherism, I’ve worked in mining communities for most of my professional life, and there’s a world of difference between what we experience now, and what we had to go through then, something for which I’m profoundly grateful to the current Government.

I don’t understand the concerns about ID cards

a. they aren’t a big issue – the fact that we have a media that doesn’t check facts, prints lies with impunity and couldn’t meet the standards of referencing, validation and peer review that are expected of any postgraduate student is, and is the greatest threat to our democracy and freedom today

b. they are merely a visible manifestation of our joint membership of this common endeavour called a democratic state

We’ve a simple set of choices – do we recognise the need for an interventionist state; or do we accept the American view in which relations in society are essentially governed by a series of contracts, and in which their Constitution is a minimalist document whose primary purpose is to protect the individual from the depredations of the state?

If we think it’s a good idea to be allowed to have an assault rifle in the kitchen, to extract oil from unspoilt wildernesses or to shoot burglars in the back with impunity then the latter is the way to go. I work with vulnerable people, disadvantaged communities and those who need society to look out for them, and I’d prefer a strong democratic state any time.

Incidentally, I’m not New Labour and never have been. I don’t understand the term – I’m a Gramscian.

For more on the ideas I’m thinking about, read Will Hutton’s discussions of the ideas of Rawls and others in ‘The World We’re In’ – also take a look at the politics bit of my old friend Dave Fisher’s blog – we don’t agree on everything but I think he makes some sensible and elegant points at

blog.davefisher.co.uk/politics/index.html#0009-Civic-Virtue

incidentally, if I have mercilessly mucked up that hyperlink I apologise unreservedly. It’s the first time I’ve done one. Dave has done me the great favour of putting me onto Linux, but more than a decade of Gates colonisation has done no good for my IT skills!

the fact that we have a media that doesn’t check facts, prints lies with impunity and couldn’t meet the standards of referencing, validation and peer review that are expected of any postgraduate student is, and is the greatest threat to our democracy and freedom today

Well, beyond the obvious point that there has never, in any country, ever, been a media that lives up to academic standards (so it’s a miracle democracy’s still around), I have a wee gripe with this. I can see an argument that our form of democracy demands an informed electorate, and that media misinformation is therefore the greatest barrier to a properly functioning democracy we have. But freedom? What’s that word doing in there? Democracy != freedom, and it really annoys me when people casually lump the two in together. It’s the rhetorical disease of our time, sadly.

On the ID cards issue, the argument about personal liberty is only one of the many arguments against the proposed scheme. Problems of utility (they won’t do what it’s claimed they’ll do), functionality (they won’t work properly), systematic inflexibility (the system will not admit to error – the Tuttle/Buttle problem), further pushing illegal immigrants into the hands of organised crime, institutional prejudice (certain groups may be caused far more problems by the system, without there ever needing to be direct, personal prejudice against them), and many other such arguments. To characterise all opposition to them as being highly individualistic is just wrong.

Adam

It’s about time we had a home secretary/government that sees ’1984′ as a warning rather than a guidebook.

John Erskine

There’s nothing rhetorical about linking democracy and freedom – meaningful freedom, namely freedom which isn’t at someone else’s expense, is only achievable in a working democracy.

If 1984 is a warning it’s a warning to the media – the ten minutes hate of the Daily Mail and the Daily Express; the sentimental and mindless inanity of so much contemporary music; the vicarious so-called slices of life of the soaps (why does no-one ever do anything interesting, like a real job?); or the arid pointlessness and tedium of ‘I’m a celebrity.’ That’s what is really corroding public life and civil society in Britain – the view that there are no big questions, no history, and that nothing requires any hard work or analysis….

“they are merely a visible manifestation of our joint membership of this common endeavour called a democratic state”

When was the last time you saw pro-democracy campaigners holding placards saying “we want ID cards”? When was the last time you saw anti-authoritarian pamphlet that said “biometric assessment of entitlement to public services is what is really needed here”?

The symbols of a democratic state are a ballot box and freedoms (amongst others) of speech, of the press, of association and of movement. And if you doubt this, then maybe you should take a look at what people who are denied democracy are actually demanding.

The choice is not between total interventionism and the minimalist state. To couch it in terms of black and white, of intervention vs. individualism, is to dismiss any discussion of the role of the state, and even politics itself, as moot. I can argue for social democracy and against ID cards at the same time. And as much as you may dislike the American Constitution for allowing gun nuts to keep arsenals of weaponry (btw, the Second Amendment is a perfect example of a hastily-made and practically irreversible law meant to guarantee the state’s security which had severely unfortunate repercussions), it was also one of the first political documents to guarantee many democratic principles at the same time, and has inspired other worthy documents such as the Declaration of Human Rights (also a thorn in the Home Office’s side, I believe).

If you wish to frame the arguments of ID cards in terms of guaranteeing the security of Britain’s democracy rather than the concept of democracy itself, then please do so. But I have yet to hear how spending £5bn (most of which will be raised by increasing the fixed price of passports and driving licenses, which is highly regressive) will in any way increase our security compared to other methods. Answering any of my questions here will be a start.

In a nutshell..what will ID cards actually achieve? What will they do to make our society better? And playing catch-up with our European neighbours is not an answer. Ideas should be judged on their own merit, not just because “the other guy did it too”.

Hugh

Chris’ last post pretty much encapsulates how I would respond to the pro-ID card post – you haven’t put forward an argument as to why they are positively good, so much as arguments as to why they aren’t that bad (“I don’t understand the concerns about ID cards/ a. they aren’t a big issue” &c). What is it, positively, that you feel they will do?

One problem I have with them is the holding and tracking of data through them (which is what moves them far beyond a mere badge of citizenship – I have a badge, or at least a reflection, of citizenship already, thank you, it is my little maroon passport). The argument seems to be, you have nothing to fear if you are doing nothing wrong. This relies on a huge degree of trust by in the electorate in the State and the State machine. The recent HoL judgement indicates both the dangers of allowing individual Ministers or officials to take decisions (secretly, and, for that reason, quite possibly arbitrarily, how would we know?) as to what is dangerous and what is not, and the apparent inclination of our current masters (well, the disgraced Blunkett, at any rate) to such decisions, and such judgements as to what is wrong and what is right.

And did anybody hear the Foreign Secretary on the radio yesterday? The HoL majority were simply “wrong”, in his view – and he was anxious to point out that the CoA verdict went the other way. Jack may be a splendid lawyer, significantly more so, clearly, than the 8 Lords (7, and Lady Hale) in the majority (how grateful they will doubtless be to have Jack set them right on these little legal niceties – they are, after all, only learning), but has nobody explained to Jack the nature of the relationship between the HoL and the CoA, that the judgements of the former are of binding authority over the latter (or somesuch)? With rule-of-law whizzes like Jack around (or dearly departed David), no, I don’t want ID cards, thank you all the same.

To deconstruct Erskine’s arguments, firstly David Blunkett was a good thing because he wheeled out heavy-handed, gimmick policies that pandered to Joe Public’s kneejerk and make him think he was doing something useful. Therefore, we’re all awful people for not agreeing with his granny-saving tactics.

Two, Europe has ID cards so we should too, and since the state is bigger than us we ought to let it have as much authority as possible… If not, we’re obviously selfish and – God forbid! – a bit American.

Oh, and three: it’s not the government that’s bad, it’s the media. The fact that a. this is a standard Labour diversionary tactic (‘we’re not as bad as…’), b. a usual Labour method of smearing an opponent and c. hypocritical bollocks as Tony and co. have been performing frenzied annulingus on the press since 1994 rather makes that argument look feeble. It also shows how far Labour spin has gone, to try to twist Orwell works to its own ends, even while in doing so proving some off his most dire predictions.

Y’know, I think the best trick I learned from the late Paul Foot was how to turn an opponent’s rhetoric against them.

Alexander

(God, that was a badly written post! I really need to draft things properly. Then again, so does the Home Office…)

> As for the rubbish about identity cards – most of our European neighbours have them.

a) What are they going to protect us from exactly? Are you really stupid enough to think that terrorists will not be able to get hold of them?

b) I don’t need a card to feel I belong. An expensive card at that.

Matt

PS — you may note I have not complained about carrying a card, which is what you make the media tell people is the only objection.

PPS — As an aside, if you can’t even get the child support agency’s computers to work, how do you expect to integrate the ID card database successfully?

iainl

For these cards to achieve what is claimed of them, they have got to be perfect. Not just pretty secure, and their machines fairly reliable, but perfect.

This from the Government that had 60,000 machines knocked out for a week because they installed an XP patch on Windows 2000. Clever.

Spain have still had terrorist attacks despite ID cards, and a national database of every citizen within their borders hasn’t secured Israel, either. Labour attempts to sell them as a panacea are completely unrealistic, but they seem utterly incapable of explaining their use in something approaching a believable manner.

l.

There is not a cat in hell’z chance that the will get any of the ID card technology to work effectively (EDS are going to do the work BTW). The card fakers are already rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect as they are going to be so easy to fake and sell at high prices. All the biometric technologies propsed have been broken, the computer system is just going to collapse because they will use all the wrong technologies beause they always do. This is an expensive disaster in the making, but I am sure they will plug on with it in that glint-eyeed Blair/Thatcher way.

iainl

Meanwhile, the Government insist that the scheme is wildly popular, because the only big group against it are a bunch of geeky IT people, and what do they know about running a country?

Jack

Much of this discussion is a terribly depressing indictment of the state of a large group of the British “left”. I only wish half as much attention was devoted to poverty as to the more trendy aspects of “human rights”.

The coalition between the hard right and some factions of the left is certainly a convenient distraction. Why tackle the real issues of poverty and environmental destruction when you can chirp on about ID cards and Iraq and continue to enjoy the fruits of global inequality?

iainl

Maybe, just maybe, if this Government didn’t throw untold billions of pounds at an illegal war, and then billions more trying to implement a deeply flawed ID card scheme, they might actually have the cash around to do something about poverty?

Or at the very least, not run up such an alarmingly large monthly deficit last month.

G

So to paraphrase Jack – because there are bigger problems in the world we shouldn’t concern ourselves with the expensive and flawed asault on civil liberties or indeed any “trendy” aspect of human rights. Not sure I follow that logic.

Oops, accidentally closed off comments for this post. That shouldn’t have happened. Anyway, do carry on…

Hugh

Jack – unlikely as this may sound, it occurs to me that there might be more than two “real issues” affecting the world at any one time, and that some of these “real issues” (in fact, all those you mention) might even be interlinked to a greater or lesser extent. Pretty off-the-wall thinking, I know, but there we are.

On another tack – can anyone explain to me the logic in having an ID card scheme either that one opts into, or that does not make it compulsory to carry the little beggar at all times? Were I a ne’er-do-well, surely all I would need to say would be “Left mine at home, I’ll pop it into the station next week” and get on with my nefarious activities? Brilliant stuff. Anyway, haven’t we just satisfied ourselves (even if Sir Alan Budd isn’t satisfied) that the Home Office civil servants, let alone their technical gimps, are a bunch of incompetent layabouts who couldn’t organise a pissup in a brewery (unless it was on the instructions of the Secretary, in which case it could be done, no special favours, obviously, just a bit quicker)? Do we want this shower poring over our details?