Thursday, May 13, 2010


Worrying Emanations from the Coalition.

Theresa May, appointed Home Secretary is trying to sound diplomatic, democratic and caring. Unfortunately when we strip away the thin veneer of compassion we see little difference from Old School Tory thinking. And little difference from New Labour thinking.

She says that ID cards will be scrapped. What ID cards?  I was under the impression that ID cards had been shelved long before the election. And, just like the previous administration, she doesn't mention the massive database on which the ID cards were to be based. It is not the cards themselves that are intrusive, and in the wrong (even government) hands downright dangerous. It is the database that stores the information, and not just name, age and fingerprints. The database is an organic, growing beast storing ever more information about people, gathered from every form, paper or electronic you fill in, from phone and email conversations and sundry other sources. The capacity for error is massive. The capacity for misuse is equally horrendous. Yet there is no mention of its being scrapped, along with the ID cards it was created for. in fact, there is no mention of it at all.

Personally, I wonder if the whole fiasco is actually a well defined plan. Producing the database might produce unease in the electorate, so we plan ID cards, build the database then if and when the protests become loud enough we scrap ID cards but maintain the database, which nobody has actually noticed. Nice one.

About the DNA database, she said: "One of the first things we will do is to ensure that all the people who have actually been convicted of a crime and are not present on it are actually on the DNA database."

"The last government did not do that. It focused on retaining the DNA data of people who were innocent."

Again, it sounds like what we want, but what does this mean? Since everybody convicted of a crime is automatically on the database, she must intend rounding up past criminals and putting them on the database. Does that mean a 50 year old man found guilty of stealing sweets when he was 14 will go on the database? Does it mean one mistake will have you on the database forever?

I am not against the DNA database, but I do think this is being used as political spin, saying what the politicians think we want to hear; if you are a criminal, you are on the database, if you aren't you won't be. What they should be saying is how they can use the technology fairly, more justly. For example, if your conviction is spent under the rehabilitation of offenders act, then your DNA should come off the database. This may well be the intention, but if so, say so.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said the coalition would go further than Labour's plan to save £20bn in the health service by efficiency savings over the next three years.

"Of course we do need to do that, and we may need to do more because we have increases in demand in the NHS and a need to improve the outcomes. Every penny that is saved by doing things better can be reinvested for the benefit of patients."

But patients will not benefit from the savings. There will be no reinvestment. Savings will be used to cut health service costs and consequently government funding.

So while it all looks shiny and new, scratch the surface and the foetid stained inner shows nothing much has changed and where there is change, it is not necessarily for the better.



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