Monday, December 06, 2004

Bad news is still news.

The hullaballo around Blunketty drags on apace, and while I still refuse to lower myself to the witch-burning spectacles devoured by so much of the media, it does seem to be reaching such fervour that I am now wondering how the whole shenanigans affects the limping plight of the ID Cards Bill.

Think of it this way, for instance. Blunkett, as the head spokesperson for the scheme, also represents to some extent the "human" side of it - that is to say, in order for people to trust the system, they must trust the people pushing for the system. In his role as Home Secretary, the Blunketty one must therefore come across as 2 things, most of all: 1) firm, but also 2) trustworthy. These aspects represent the yin and the yang of the Home Office's relation with the people, a cause and effect amplified greatly by the fickleness of the tabloid-reading masses.*

But now, this moral upstanding is challenged, and doesn't seem to be going away as quickly as anyone might have hoped (Blunkett for obvious reasons, the media who want to get back to the next reality TV series, and me because it's clouding the whole ID thing and really is quite boring). The questions on my lips are: Are the public so fickle as to equate the failings of our Dave with the trustworthiness of the ID system, or indeed politics in general (which already suffers a fair amount of suspicion anyway, despite what Blunkett would decry)? And is the ubiquity of same Dave within the news a real threat to the publicity of the various pro- and anti-ID Card movements?

Bear in mind that, as the government are so eager to push the Bill through the Houses as quickly as possible, with as little scrupulous inspection as possible, the most likely way the Bill is going to get repealed is through a large amount of public pressure. The ability to get people interested in the issue will depend partly on if they are sick of hearing about the same people on a daily basis. Or, at least, their initial reception to the matter may depend on this to some extent, which counts for a fair bit.

So, I like to see this circus as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the amount of column inches being generated may serve to divert attention away from the bigger, longer-term efforts that Mr B is involved in (although not necessarily the sole dependency in), and obscure the nation's lust for morals. On the other hand, it may be that given the right opportunity, whichever outcome we see can be turned to an advantage. For instance, it may be easier to attract attention to the other efforts of David in the wake and lull of any further enquiries, and to the further "transgressions" offered in the name of humanity. Or if, somehow, the Secretary does (astoundingly) offer his resignation, then perhaps it makes it all the easier to draw some light on the projects he is currently "overseeing" (at least media-wise).

The lesson here is not that we should be baying for Blunkett's blood, or even that we should be ignoring the ongoing furore completely. It is that we should realise the spotlights are focused on our corner, and that even the media can be manipulated to our advantage if done right. It's an ill wind, but it may yet turn out to be blowing the right way.

* The amount of apathy within the general population towards DB at this point is, of course, questionable. One suspects that the media and the politicians alike will do anything to make politics more interesting.


Chameleon said...

The point about shifting the burden for carrying out the checks from the Immigration Service to employers is well-observed and reminds me of the fines imposed on airlines for transporting illegal immigrants into the country (which is why you still need to carry your ID card or passport when travelling within Schengen, as the member of staff at the check-in desk will request to look at it, however cursorily, thereby replacing the border guard who merely examines the boarding pass at the exit). I returned from a conference in Wales (outside the Schengen zone) via Amsterdam. As we were about to disembark, we were informed that we would have to produce our documents. A large number of the passengers on board were from China and Japan. It cannot be a coincidence that the "random" inspection of passports had been decreed for our plane. As for the hullabaloo, I fear it may be a diversionary tactic. The length of the average attention span is notoriously decreasing. I am glad, however, that the government can no longer use Scotland as a guinea pig for its unpopular policies, as it did with the introduction of the poll tax. On election night, the map of Scotland is mostly red, which might mean that we will have the ID card foisted upon us anyway since Labour is well aware of Scotland being a safe constituency. I have never voted for Labour (or the Conservatives I hasten to add) and am never likely to as a result of its casual attitude to civil liberties. Whereas Blunkett's sexual liasons are merely trivial and not worth a moment's notice, the abuse of power is serious and should be treated as such. Since no money changed hands he will in all likelihood weather the storm. I do not believe that he has the integrity to resign.

Scribe said...

Indeed, the "integrity" of politicians over resigning matters has possibly over the last few years had more of a "filtering" effect, so we're now imbalanced towards a cabinet of people who *really believe* in what they're doing. There's probably a big discussion to be had somewhere, some time, about the conflict between leaders that have "faith" and leaders that listen, and in a sense our democracy will always be a compromise between the two.