In his unveiling of the final design for the national identity card last Thursday, Alan Johnson reminded us quite what a monumental failure the whole scheme has been.
Having last month backed down under pressure from all those with sense (including the public, both opposition parties, airline staff and some in the civil service) and announced that the cards would not be made compulsory, Johnson could no longer sell the scheme as the miraculous, one-shot solution to terrorism, illegal immigration and identity fraud that had been promised. At the great unveiling the cards were more humbly presented as “an important addition to the many plastic cards that most people already carry around."
The chief merit of the new card is apparently that it’s slightly smaller than a passport: useful as “a credit card sized travel document" for journeys within Europe. Doubtless those fed up by the burden of lugging about their weighty, cumbersome passports will be happy to shell out the £30 to buy an ID card, but the rest of us may not be so pleased that we’ve already paid a total of £200m towards the scheme, and are looking at another £5.4bn if the scheme progresses as planned.
When faced by a British public distrustful of big state databases, fed up with grossly wasteful gimmicks and unwilling to tolerate further intrusion into their lives, the government should have scrapped the scheme entirely.