We need one to go abroad, not to stay home. Public domain

We have yet another of those attempts to impose a national ID card upon the British population. The argument is that it will solve a problem or two and that’s most certainly correct. The unfortunate thing is that the problem it will solve is liberty. And yes, liberty really is a problem to a certain all too large section of the those who would rule us. For liberty means, is defined by, us getting on with what we wish to do instead of what we’re told. Some people really hate that.

Brits need national ID cards to curb illegal immigration and prevent another Windrush scandal, says a think-tank.

The influential Policy Exchange says an ID registration system for 3.6million EU citizens living here after Brexit should apply to British citizens.

David Goodhart, its head of demography, immigration and integration says: “We strongly recommend reopening the debate about ID management to reassure people we know who is in the country, for how long, and what their entitlements are.

There’s something important being missed here:

ID cards are a controversial topic, however, with opponents arguing that they infringe civil liberties.

Tony Blair’s government brought in a £5bn ID card scheme in 2006 but it was scrapped by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition just four years later.

David Goodhart, Policy Exchange’s head of demography, immigration and integration, said he believed ID cards were necessary – but acknowledged that people would be wary and said ID cards should be phased in voluntarily.

Voluntary will never last, of course it won’t. The report is here:

Roll out ID system for EU citizens. A unique digital reference for interactions with the state is being developed for the 3.6m EU citizens settled here after Brexit. This experiment with a unique number system should be a trial run for an initially voluntary system for UK citizens.

Note the “initially” there.

The basic and underlying problem here is one of the very structure of how we organise ourselves. It’s entirely possible to think of the State, the government, as being the important thing with the populace just the people to be managed by it It’s also possible to think that it’s we the people who are the important bit, government just being those things we do together. Or even just the people we hire, communally, to take out the societal trash.

And the way that this works in Britain is that second. This always comes as an immense surprise to Europeans when it’s described to them. The British police – to say nothing of any other arm of the State – don’t have the right to ask for our papers. It’s not just that we don’t carry them. It’s that they’ve not even the legal right to ask who we are or why we’re where we are.

No, really, British copper stops you in the street and asks “What are you doing?” and the answer “Going about my lawful business” is sufficient. Not just sufficient, it’s complete. There is nothing to add from either side.

Another way to put the same point is that a copper has every right to arrest you if he thinks you’ve done something wrong. And his actions in doing so are always open to review over wrongful arrest and so on. But he’s no right to even question you about anything at all unless he’s willing to take it to that arrest stage. Do also note that any citizen also has the power of arrest. Just as the average Joe on the street corner doesn’t have the power to compel you to answer questions about what you’re doing there.

All of that is also the way it should be too. We institute government for our benefit, we’re not a problem to be managed by the governors.

This will all sound terribly romantic, even Ealing Comedy or 1066 and All That. But identity papers are terribly un-English and if they’re brought in then something important about that idea of Englishness will be lost. And how much do you have to hate the place to do that to it?