This week, once again, Tony Blair has been bleating on about ID cards. For decades now, often in the face of fierce resistance from his Tory opposition, such opposition that scrapped his national ID card scheme back in the Coalition Government. Then Home Secretary Theresa May reportedly had the hard drives storing our information gobbled up by a grinding machine in Essex. Then came the pandemic, and Blair was back arguing that vaccine passports meant it was time for such ID; then, earlier this week, he teamed up with the bloke that used to spar with him at the dispatch box, William Hague, to make the case once more.
The pair produced a paper together via Blair’s Institute for Global Change, entitled ‘A New National Purpose: Innovation Can Power the Future of Britain’. One of the flagship proposals is the idea that our smartphones should contain a designed ‘digital ID’. Arguing in an age of the on-demand economy in which you can find a date, order dinner or scroll through Twitter getting yourself wound up by bad opinions, digital ID would make life easier for everyday public services, with your passport, driving licence, tax records and qualifications all held on your phone.
The journalist Ross Clark, who we had on this channel the other week, reckons this is a step towards China’s Orwellian social credit system; he asks too if the British state has become any more capable at doing big IT projects since Blair wasted £10 billion on a scrapped plan for digitising the NHS? Let’s not forget that the NHS Covid app, Track & Trace, had tens of billions spent on it and wasn’t brilliant either.
So joining Darren Grimes to discuss is James Woudhuysen, Visiting Professor of Forecasting and Innovation at London Southbank University, a specialist in IT, Energy and Asia.
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