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There was an interesting straw in the wind during the ‘Any Questions’ Radio 4 programme from the village of Deddington in Oxfordshire on Friday evening. One inevitable question raised was whether ID cards would have helped to prevent the London bombings. All four panellists, including government minister Alan Johnson, were in agreement that they would not have helped. But, interestingly, following the discussion, chairman Jonathan Dimbleby put the question to the assembled audience: “Who favours ID cards?” According to Dimbleby, the response was that “an overwhelming number oppose ID cards”. And remarkably this strong antipathy was expressed on the day immediately following the London bombings, when you might have expected there to have been more equivocation.
If I was in government I would certainly be getting increasingly worried about the change which is steadily taking place in people’s attitudes to ID cards, as they find out more about the assumptions, costs and implications of the scheme. For any government is able to take a country to war even against the will of the majority of the population. But not so with ID cards, which will obviously require the compliance and co-operation of the vast majority of the population. The fact that government ministers are at last conceding that the ID card is not after all the magic bullet which will solve all our problems, maybe they are beginning at last to see the light.John Welford, 13 years ago.