[ Home page | Web log ]
Others may be interested in these two plots of takeup of my Political Survey:
(Note offset vertical axis on the second of those.)
David Blunkett on Today this morning: (emphasis mine)
John Humphrys: And I take it that what you're saying is that the government can move forward towards a solution that is the one you'd like to see, but you're not pretending the fight is over, are you?
David Blunkett: Well, I'm not into a fight. I mean, this... this isn't something I'm gaining political points for at this moment in time. I'm trying to address the issue of modernising, preparing Britain for the rest of this century and what is happening in Europe and North America in terms of the introduction -- not of cards, because the card is a means to an end -- but of the biometric identifiers that make the prevention of the theft of our identity and multiple identities impossible-- not, not nearly impossible but impossible; and it is the database, it is the biometric identifiers, that is the... that is one of the two crucial changes to the debate of the past. The second is the enormous world change, world movement of people and organised crime and terrorism that is materially different to ten years ago.
Charitably, we can assume that Blunkett meant that biometrics will make identity theft impossible (and not just nearly impossible), not `the prevention of [identity theft]', as he actually said. There is only one problem with this.
It is not true.
Never in the history of human endeavour has an unforgeable document been produced. Never in the history of IT has there been produced a perfectly secure database. Current biometric technologies are easy to spoof, with photographs of other people's irises, bits of cellophane with their fingerprints on, and any number of trivial attacks. More sophisticated technology might help a bit, but whatever technology is chosen for ID cards, they will remain in circulation for years. Does Blunkett seriously believe that the Home Office will, in its choice of technology, be able to outwit a decade or more's worth of future criminals?
Blunkett obviously doesn't have any expertise in this field -- which is fine, of course; our governmental system is supposed to promote generalists and give them expert advice to allow them to choose between policies which they may not be qualified to understand on their own. But who is feeding him this crap about biometrics? Where has he acquired this fantasy about unforgeable cards, unspoofable biometrics, and `impossible' identity theft? Why does he think they will prevent identity theft, when in fact they're likely to make it easier, and more damaging? What is going on?
(I wish someone would volunteer to do a good anti-ID-cards leaflet, per previous suggestion.)
There has been some confusion over my statements about Anne Campbell and university tuition fees in a previous piece. I was sloppy with my comments and therefore I shall correct them now.
They [new students] may not know the history of Anne's promise to vote against top-up fees prior to the 1997 election -- a promise which she quickly forgot once the election was won, though oddly one which recurs in her propaganda now the deed is done -- and may not realise that her seat is by no means safe.
I have to hand a letter sent by Anne to every student in Cambridge in 1997. Here is a scan of the letter:
(This copy was kept by a more organised friend. Their identity has been obscured on this scan.)
For our purposes the key claim in this letter is,
Labour will not allow universities to introduce tuition fees. Access to higher education must be based on ability to achieve, not on ability to pay.
Fees at universities in the UK are regulated by the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998, which gives the Secretary of State for Education the power to, (26 subsection 4)
require the governing body of any such institution [one which is funded by the Higher Education Funding Councils for England or Wales, or the Teacher Training Agency; that is, a university] to secure that, in respect of the relevant academic year, the fees payable to the institution by any prescribed class of persons in connection with their attending courses of any prescribed description are equal to the prescribed amount.
The Act therefore gives the Secretary of State power to impose fees and regulate their amount. It was used by David Blunkett to impose an annual fee of £1,050 in 1998.
Anne Campbell did not vote against the Teaching and Higher Education Bill when it came before Parliament. (In fact, as you can see from The Public Whip, she was touchingly loyal to the Dear Leader during the 1997--2001 Parliament as a whole.)
Labour has centralised control over fees, so that universities cannot introduce fees of their own choice. (This is what the `top-up fees' controversy is about.)
On this basis, Anne was correct, in a very pedantic sense, to state that `Labour will not allow universities to introduce tuition fees'. Universities were not allowed to introduce tuition fees; instead, the government did it for them.
Labour has introduced a tuition fee.
You can either view this as a promise that Anne was in no position to make; or as a promise which her party has broken. In either case you would be forgiven for any surprise you might feel on learning that she did not vote against the measure when it came before the Commons.
(If you would like a higher-quality copy of the scan of Anne's letter, please email me.)
This is all done with wwwitter.
Copyright (c) Chris Lightfoot; available under a Creative Commons License. Comments, if any, copyright (c) contributors and available under the same license.
Hosted and supported by