September 23, 2005

The Day The Minister Came to Town

Posted in ID cards at 6:02 pm by David Gould

I’d spent all week phoning the Home Office trying to get them to reveal the time and location of their not-so-public biometric roadshow. I found out through alternate means around 3pm the day before and starting phoning around. Given the Home Office’s previous treatment of peaceful protestors (1, 2), we decided to remain incognito.

I was intercepted on my approach towards the ID Cards Minister, Andy Burnham. I was told that I could speak to him after he’d finished his media interviews…

For a while it looked as if nothing would happen. The BBC said they had to leave and so the troops came on rather inconspicuously.

The BBC suddenly notice the banner and start pointing the camera at it. I use the distraction to shimmy past all the people who are supposed to stop me and start talking to Burnham.

He said he wouldn’t talk to me on camera. “What do you have to hide?” I asked. I repeated it when I noticed this big camera lens behind me.

When I asked the question a third time, he agreed. We sat down, surrounded by cameras and microphones.

First question: “Why are you using public money–our own money–to sell the public a scheme that hasn’t been passed by parliament? Don’t you believe in democracy?” (thanks to Guy for that one).

Slight pause then he started talking about supposed benefits of biometric passports. I asked him how much it was going to cost. He evaded the question. I repeated the question, must have been at least 6 times.
Then I said “You’re obviously not going to tell us the cost so I’ll ask you an easier question. How would ID Cards have stopped the London bombings?”

Another pause. Burnham replies “I’ve never said ID Cards would be a silver bullet”. Thinking about it now, I should have replied “You just did.” Oh well, hindsight.

“So what you’re saying is that after we lose our privacy, after we spend 6 billion, Al Qaeda can simply do the exact thing again. Terrorists always attack the weakest link.”

Burnham then started his ‘people like you’ speech. “If you’re worried about privacy, your details are already on the DVLA blah blah”.

I replied “I’m glad you brought this up” . This when the Home Office goons started saying “that’s enough”. Apparently, Burnham’s handlers were talking about getting him out of there as quickly as possible.

I think it was at this point I asked him if he’d read his own bill. Unbelievably, he refused to answer that question. So I kept asking it, maybe 10x, before eventually answering “yes” in a small voice. Think he lied? I did. Shame I didn’t know it well enough to test him on it.

Then I said “As you know, all these databases are separate, and what you’re doing is assigning everyone in the country a unique identity number so that you can amalgamate all these databases into a massively intrusive personal dossier. This numbering is actually illegal according to the German constitution because of what happened in the 40s there.”

I repeated the same point about 3x because I didn’t make my point particularly cleanly.

His reply was “We do things differently blah blah.”

I stood up, was amazed that their stand was swamped by No2ID protestors and nobody was stopping us!

I started handing out leaflets to everyone, including Burnham himself: “Just so you know what we’re talking about…”

————

I just spoke to the BBC, they said because of Hurricane Rita and the terrorist alert at Manchester, it probably won’t get on the national news, but apparently it’s been on the local news already and it will be on the evening news as well (6:30-7pm). They also said it should make BBC News 24 although I haven’t seen anything yet.


New Statesman coverage

The Register/Infowars coverage

Bristol Evening Post coverage

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