101 uses for an Identity Card

Boris’s column in The Daily Telegraph focuses on government thinking on the universal imposition of ID cards. Boris has his own viewpoint on ID cards (windscreen ice wipers, emergency pen knife, Roman Baths accessory idea) including, more seriously, the threatened survival of our civil liberties.

All this in the column tomorrow

62 thoughts on “101 uses for an Identity Card”

  1. Let’s compile our own list of ‘101 uses for an Identity Card’!

    1. To split lines of cocaine.
    2. Deadly weapon when razor blades are glued along the edges.
    3. Fire fuel.
    4. Levelling a table/chair/etc. with a wonky leg.
    5. Propping a door open, between the door frame.
    6. Food, when stranded in the wilderness.
    7. Your address, for the b***tard who has just stolen your wallet and keys.

    Anyone else?

  2. Aaron,

    excellent wonky leg idea (that made me smile – so often that wonky table leg sets me squirming)- ID cards may not be such a bad move after all

  3. Boris on ID Cards

    Apparently, Boris will publish an article in The Telegraph tomorrow about ID Cards. In the article he will talk about their many uses, such as ice scraper and emergency penknife. Gotta like the guy!…

  4. In some ways ID cards are great and if they were voluntary I’d be willing to pay a few quid for one.

    However, when the state says that you have to carry one (and not only that pay for the priviledge) I start muttering under my breath about the rights of free born Britons not to have to identify themselves to every Tom, Dick and Harry. I guess I’m just one of those old right wing reactionaries who Blair and his mob detest, with old fashioned ideas on individual liberty and the role of the state.

  5. What we really need to know is what problem are the government actually trying to solve with the introduction of ID cards?
    I don’t think terrorism is the reason, a ‘card-carrying'(haha) terrorist will have a fake card anyway.It is probably the illegal immigrants they are trying to catch out.

  6. Hey Aaron:

    8) As a unique key identifier in the massive government database of each resident’s personal info (oh, wait, this was supposed to be fun, wasn’t it). Oops!

    9) As a jemmy to force simple door locks

    10) Glued to stick, as flyswatter

    11) Digging tool for fairly small holes

    12) Emergency spatula / polyfilla leveller

    13) Musical instrument (much like jews’ harp)

    14) Contraceptive device (place between lady’s knees)

    15) Miniature photo album, with one page, and one photo, of you, looking rubbish

    16) Standard screwdriver for not-very-tight screws

    17) Yet another item to lose to prove to others just how ineffectual and disorganised you are, thus preventing overly high expectations of you

    18) Raft (for very small creatures)

    19) Gum removal device for shoes

    20) Magically deletes racism/xenophobia from nearest police officer by its very presence

  7. I look forward to putting my future ID card in the microwave where it belongs, and as a further precaution, hitting it with extreme force with a 2lb lump hammer. Just to be on the safe side.

  8. I will lose my identity card within five minutes, as I can’t even hold onto an umbrella for that amount of time. Or it will be stolen – like countless mobile phones I’ve own, my passport, debit cards, and my favourite lipstick.
    I don’t really like the idea of having myself catalogued like that, but if its one of the only realistic ways of preventing a terrorist attack then maybe people should make some concessions. If I’m not held accountable for the above happening.

  9. My, my, “our civil liberties”. I never thought I’d see the Tories using the rhetoric of the National Council For Civil Liberties.

    Aside, I believe they call themselves “Liberty now, but, as we all know, the real Liberty is a store in regent Street:


    An Englishmen’s traditional freedom under the Common Law, yes. But I’ve never thought “civil liberties” meant quite the same thing. 🙂

    I look forward to reading it on the train. Boris is always good entertainment value. I only hope he has as good a grasp of the various different issues as Bruce Schneier:


    For example, if an ID has an RFID chip in it, doesn’t that offer an opportunity to malefactors?


    IOW, I hope it’s not just another publicity stunt.

  10. Let’s see, an ID card can be used as a book mark, as a scratchier to reach fiddly parts of the back, as a nail cleaner, a small fan when it gets hot, apart from these things, I cannot see the use of them. Spain has ID but the terrorist attack happened the same, it’s only another way to get money from the public and control us better. Probably it will make it easier to open an account at a bank without searching for utility bills an other “proof” that one exists…

  11. I’m liking Boris’s comparison of the threat of terrorism now with the threat of terrorism by the IRA. There is no discernible difference in the level of threat – but there is suddenly a whole load of difference in the Government’s intrusive response.

  12. The point of the ID card is blatantly nothing to do with preventing terrorists, because funnily enough terrorists can get ID cards too. Most of the September 11th gang were travelling on their own IDs, and some were using real drivers licences that had been issued in fictional names. Mohammed Atta, who led the attacks, even had a gold frequent-flyer card.

  13. ID cards will do exactly what they are being introduced to do, Identify each and every one of us. Most of the goons complaining will already have their names tattoo’d on their body somewhere, why the hullabaloo?
    Give me one quick, and I don’t mind paying.
    Within 6 months we’ll not know we have them, storm in a teacup and not worthy of a political airing.
    Come on Boris, get your head cleared from the last few weeks and write about something either important or funny.

  14. Paul – I think the article today was both important and funny. Everyone has their own opinion, of course…

  15. Personally, as some of you may have guessed, I’ll be using them to tap my ciggies on to compress the tip to make them light better.

    Of course calling them ID cards is a rather nice misdirection, sure they’ll be used to identify people, but the main purpose of the card is to provide an excuse for that central database holding fingerprints (easily faked), facial pictures (which go out of date fast) and retinal scans (which, unless we’re expecting the police, the banks, the doctors surgery and anyone else who needs to check your ID to have installed is useless).

  16. BTW is anyone else amused by the google ads beside the article on the Telegraph site? Right now I’m seeing

    God loves you
    How to know that God loves you

    OK, well, setting religon aside I’d love to see the keywords they are buying

    Students creating peace
    Proven programs for world peace. Maharishi University of Mgmt., USA

    Slightly more amusing, an American university advertising that they can provide proven programs for peace. Perhaps they should offer their services free to the UN, US government and the NI secretary.

    But this …. this is stunning

    Discount World Peace
    New & used selection. aff World Peace for sale.

    World Peace for sale.

    Do we pay in oil?

    (I have a screen capture I’ll upload when I get home!)

  17. Melissa, I got your e-mail thanks 😀
    The mail server won’t let me reply to it though, I keep getting a failure message…[Ed: so sorry Peter, now re-sent, must’ve been a blip in my typing]

  18. World Peace for Sale?

    The Google ads next to Boris Johnson’s latest column on the Daily Telegraph site make some fairly interesting reading – have a look at this screen-capture! How much is ‘World Peace’ going for on eBay, then? A quick search finds…

  19. “Paul – I think the article today was both important and funny. Everyone has their own opinion, of course…

    Posted by: Mark at November 25, 2004 11:04 AM”

    Eeeh Mark, were you trying to be a smarty pants there my lad.

    I have this recollection of 1999 when the world was ending due to the Y2K problem, or a joke I saw once, with a man with a board draped over his shoulders proclaiming the world will end in 1980 only to resurface in 1981 with a board saying the world will end in 1982.
    The fear of identity cards while hiding behind the misconception of lack of freedom and liberty is irrational.
    Best advice I would give is make room in your wallet by disposing of one of your credit cards, you’ve got a lot more to fear from your flexible friend than you have from an ID card.

    Hi Barry, nice to see you found a use for yours already, although not a very environmentaly friendly one, I wonder if the new cards will establish a difference between smokers and non smokers, that would make sense, all you cheeky puffers trying to sneak into clean air establishments can be politely refused entry after having your shiny card scrutinized.
    Life in Britain is improving by the day.

    Cheers all.

  20. 21. ‘Ciggie’ stubber. (Thanks, Barry.) 😉
    22. Filler for the empty slot on your on-/itv-Digital box.
    23. To test your office shredder for the ability to cut through laminated card.
    24. Drawing straight lines.
    25. Lousy present.
    26. Source of entertainment from the hilariously awful photo.
    27. Butter knife.
    28. Soft cheese knife (ie Philadelphia).
    29. Jam spreader.
    28. Peanut butter spreader.
    29. Icing spreader.
    30. Polyfiller spreader.
    31. Cement spreader.
    32. Nit-checker.
    33. To fill the gap between two tables as you lay your train set.
    34. Something to leave to your least-favourite relative in your will.

  21. Boris on ID cards.

    Boris Johnson has written a great article in the Telegraph, Ask to see my ID card and I’ll eat it.

    Whilst they will probably make fantastic ice-scrappers, and cake knives, he points out that by 2012, when the cards will probably be compulsory, the…

  22. I’m looking forward to ID Cards. That way I get to tell Blunk-o, Hain(ous) and Bliar where to stick them!

    I don’t need a bit of card to tell me who I am, and I don’t need the Home Office’s permission to walk the streets unmolested or use facilities my taxes have already paid for. That is final.

  23. The most interesting part of Boris’ article is how he too has found it impossible to get ordinary people to recognise, and then react to the enormity of Blunkett’s grab for power and control, coupled with this Government’s contempt for individual rights. I’ve tried humour in a little parable that might strike some chords with the wandering of Wolverhampton. The BBC kindly holds it online here at http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/getwriting/A3326988. I hope you enjoy it.


  24. Please will someone address the main point for me: Will I commit a criminal offence if I walk round without carrying it on me?

    I don’t mind being forced to buy one; it’s simply another tax, I’ll consider it part of inflation. I’ve already *GOT* an ID card, it’s a maroon booklet and I have to produce it every time I go abroad. It has my photo in as well; very nice I look!

    No, I want to know if I’ll be made a criminal because I leave my wallet behind when I go out. Creeping ‘petty criminalisation’ is my concern. No MP seems to address this point. Not even Boris in today’s DT article, sorry.

  25. Re: Andrew’s question. There is as yet no definitive answer. Initially the concept of an UK ID card was introduced as an “entitlement card” for those claiming state benefits. Then it was widened to included asylum seekers. Then (although not compulsory to have one) it was proposed that you would be fined if you failed to respond within 24 hours to a request from an authorised person to produce your ID card (honestly, you couldn’t make this up). Now according to the Gracious (Queen’s) Speech, it is to be made compulsory to have a card, though the rules on its presentation on demand are still to be defined. Don’t worry though, for you know what will happen, and the UK will soon echo to the cry of “Papers” and the click as the safety catch comes off. Russell

  26. Boris’ Article

    Boris’ Article is available online. It’s called ‘Ask to see my ID card and I’ll eat it’. (although this opens him up the next time he sits next to Paul Merton!) But I tell you this. If I am ever…

  27. Boris on ID Cards

    As for the article alongside which the “interesting” ads reside, it’s possibly one of Boris’ best. It’s great to see him back on form. You can read it on the Telegraph website, but I thought I’d jot down a few…

  28. Lori, yes “state benefits” will include NHS treatment, proving eligibility for your pension, possibly even voter registration (particularly if postal voting or online voting becomes the norm).

    Aaron, thanks for the nice comment about the story.

  29. Dredged from various newsgroups, a catchy slogan for the anti-ID movement.

    “Real men have nothing to prove. Say NO to ID”

  30. I wonder what effect the (very serious) DWP system crash will have on the ID card debate? The government has proved, yet again, its utter incompetence in running IT systems. This mess will, no doubt, make the grand claims in the Queen’s Speech look a bit less likely. So, let’s all gloat!

  31. The company responsible for tha DWP crash are also preparing themselves to take on the national idenity database and ID card project (see link below). This inevitable waste of our money should be stopped.

    I too totally reject the concept of a compulsory ID card. One concern is that all my eggs will be in one basket and one dodgy government IT system. Currenly if there’s a screw-up I only loose either my medical records, my NI contribution record, my passport, my driving licience, my police record etc. With the ID card and it’s associated database I could stand to loose / or have them all hijacked in one go.

    As it is I was very disapointed to be forced into having a photo driving licience by my Liberal local council in Cambridge, in order to apply for a parking permit (I had to change the address on the licence, which requires getting a new one) – we’re being rapidly sensitised to the idea of requiring photo ID.

    It also introduces charges, I could have kept my paper licence until I’m 70 for free, now every ten years I have the hassle and expence of renewing it.

    So now I’m going to have my Driving licience, passport and ID card, one of which will need renewing every three years or so at exorbitant cost, and risk as I’ve got to send important documents through the post to unreliable government agencies… (But then weren’t we promised that by next year all interaction with government will be possible online?!)

    I wonder if Boris has a photo driving licience?? I suspect it’s something that hasn’t personally affected him or the many MPs older then him – who I imagine are people who don’t change address to often.

  32. Failed Win XP Upgrade Wipes Out UK Government Agency

    The BBC and the Register report that the UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions attempted to upgrade seven PCs from Windows 2000 to Windows XP, and ended up with BSODs on over 60,000 machines. I wonder if the National Health Service is regret…

  33. I’ve just had a look at Shaun Woodward’s weblog. I’m sad to say he repeats verbatim the fuzzy, flimsy messianic rhetoric of the cabinet on ID cards. This is a shame – considering how he was supposed to have quit the Tories in protest at Section 28. So to sum up, SW will make a stand for civil rights, but only if Tony has cleared it first. It’s not just that audience of Tory Diehards, which Boris mentioned in his article, who need to get their priorities right!

  34. It’s nice to see a well-known MP has strong feelings against the ID cards. Certainly boosts Boris’ credibility in my eyes.

    Incidentally, it’s the only reason that I came across this site, as its been linked to from some of the tech forums (http://slashdot.org) where we’ve been discussing ID cards quite a lot recently.

    Keep fighting this, Boris!

  35. The UK Labcons government is controled by US desires.
    The US desire a high tech passport for “aliens”
    This desire is being met by the Labcons.
    When the machinery is set in place ID cards are easily put in place.
    We will fall in line with most of the Euro zone as they have ID cards.
    Lab have moved so far to the right that they are putting all cons good ideas into practice.
    Clever lot

  36. 35) Splint for a tortoise
    36) Emergency Frisbie
    37) Comedy Toasted Sandwich Filling
    38) Fish Tank Scraper
    39) Fake ID

  37. 101 Uses for ID Cards

    In The Daily Telegraph, Boris Johnson satirizes the Government’s complete inability to come up with any rational or realistic justification for their ID card scheme.

    I’ve already touched on the fact that these things are dangerously unsafe and …

  38. Mark, I wonder if Boris actually reads these pages. If he does I’m sure he’ll contact me with an offer to publish my “Holmes” piece in “The Spectator” and if he has any contacts in Geo. Martin, perhaps we could share the job. Payment in kind naturally. Can you play one by the way? He’ll also be able to provide his own justification I’m sure.

    But turning to the topic in hand, I can’t share your mystification. True “Conservatism” has always had a strong element of laissez-faire, and a focus on family, individual responsibility, and individual choice. If anyone actually bothered to read the now notorious “No such thing as society …” speech they would quickly agree with Margaret. Society is not “them”, or the Government, or some quango, or Doctors, or Lawyers, or Scientists. Society is not a cohesive group (that’s for marketing junkies) it’s individuals, it’s you and me, trying to shape the world in which we live.

    The Torys share some part of the “small government” mantle of the Liberals. Not “afore-ye-go”‘s left-wing, bossy, nannying, bullies, but true Liberals whose maxim could be characterised as “legislation only in the last resort”. Try getting any of the 650+ that sit in Westminster, or the god-knows how many in Brussels/Strasbourg, or the armies of civil servants and other placemen throughout to adopt such a policy. Boris excepted of course!

  39. So why not become a Liberal? As ever, membership of the Conservative Party has more to do with social conditioning than libertarian principles. Ditto the Labour Party of course.

    I admire your focus on individual responsibility and choice. But I should be careful of accusing the other lot of ‘nannying’ when you also insist on a focus on ‘family’. Where is it writ that family is the most appropriate foundation for an organised society?

    Possibly the bible. But then you get into even murkier libertarian waters…

    Fascinating debate, btw…

  40. PS for Russell:

    I do hope Boris DOES read these pages. If he doesn’t he damn well ought to. Putting your name to a Blog and then taking no notice of it is as stupid as the Beckhams publishing an autobiography they clearly haven’t read…

  41. Mark,

    Do you mean a “Liberal” or a “Liberal Democrat”. I was a paid-up member of the former, but left when John Pardoe lost out to David Steel, for it was clear that he was intent on selling Liberalism down the river. He did! Now the “Liberal Democrats” are the most illiberal, anti-democratic, interfering, bullying … I could go on … and I’m ashamed that they dare use the word “Liberal” in their title. My dilemma is what’s left? To accept Suppression, or support Rebellion, or Anarchy?

  42. Russell

    Ah well. You have the better of me then. I’ve never been a paid-up member of any political party. They all break your heart in the end. We should probably reform our ‘democratic’ system first, then see if it can support genuine freedom of thought.

    Meanwhile, I’m still baffled that you (and apparently Boris) appear to have accepted the Conservative Party as the cradle of liberty. I’ve lived among Conservatives all my life, and I’m sorry to report that the only liberty 90% of them understand is the freedom to look after Number 1.

    Maybe I misunderstood something. I’ve just never seen the Poll Tax, the destruction of the mining industry, the deregulation of the City of London, and the slavish support of ‘our boys’ overseas (irrespective of the legitimacy of the conflict) as evidence of original, rebellious, independent thought. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    I remain bewildered. Why the Conservatives??

    All the best


  43. Oh lord, Russell, but you’ve got me going today. I even found myself scurrying off to read that ‘no such thing as society’ interview. Interested to note that further on she says ‘It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour… There’s no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.’

    Couldn’t agree more, me old mate. No-one’s ENTITLED, by accident of birth or benefit. In context, Mrs T seemed to be thinking in particular about homeless people somehow expecting to be housed. I prefer to think about the CEOs of large companies who assume it’s their right to take all their bonuses despite overseeing appalling performance. Then I scan back to her notion that we must also ‘look after our neighbour’ and I find myself wondering which of these two types of neighbour needs the most looking after.

    I don’t agree with her on that one. There IS such a thing as society. That’s why we have governments in the first place – and someone who played the game of politics as wilfully as Mrs T should surely have understood that. The trick is to choose a government that inspires rather than stifles. But if you want it to work, you better make sure it inspires all the people – from one end of SOCIETY to the other.

    I’ve been around for ages, but I’ve yet to see any evidence of Conservative interest in inspiring the homeless (just by way of using Mrs Thatcher’s example, you understand). Unless you want to espouse that trickle-down nonsense they were so fond of in the 80s, of course.

    Oh dear. Perhaps I should be posting this to my own blog, rather than use up space on Boris’s. He’s gonna be mad at me…

  44. Mark, I think that you are labouring under a misapprehension. I am not (and never have been … shades of McCarthy here) a member of the Conservative Party. In my voting career I have voted Conservative (once) for a specific tactical reason.

    On the other hand, if we’re all to avoid “Blunkett’s Mark”, it is necessary to disseminate the argument as widely as possible. Politicians are not (in general) stupid, and our Boris is a lot cleverer than most, but they are used to being spoon-fed with the arguments, the conclusions, and the tricky questions to ask. A good soundbite goes down well too. However ultimately they all respond to the Whip. And they call that democracy!

    Anyway, my objective is to lobby, in whatever way I can, as a private individual and representative of no-one but myself, my MP, the Opposition Spokesmen (sorry Persons), the Data Protection Authority, and anyone else I can think of up to and including God, to stop the wretched Blunkett (and more importantly the Home Office which has pushed for such authoritarian powers for as long as I can remember), from having their way. Does it not strike you as surprising that, in response to “9/11” a whole raft of repressive legislation, including ID Cards, was ready for adoption. Next time there’s a revolution it won’t be the Aristos for the chop, it will be the Bureaus, and I’ll bring my knitting!

    Finally, I can’t let you get away with all the negative bits unchallenged. No, I don’t support the war, but if you are in politics and therefore in some way responsible for/answerable to the soldiers out there, you can’t kick them (or the Government that sent them there) where it hurts. Mining in the UK was in inevitable decline, we could have a long chat about the role of Government in subsidising failed industries, but I suspect that this is not the place, similarly regulation of the “City”. As a “wise virgin” I made provision for my old age, trimmed my wick and made sure that there was oil in my lamp. Then I lodged my lamp with Equitable Life. They were “regulated”! Finally the “Poll Tax”. Has the right policy ever been so badly sold, and implemented. You’ll find it hard to convince me that it’s right that my 93 year old Dad, paid (until the recent death of his wife’s brother also a pensioner living in the house) the same “community charge” as the family next door, a couple with three working children. Who was consuming the resources? The principle that all the users of a state provided service (and by the way there’s far too much of it) pay for it, which is what the poll tax tried to do, seems to me to be far more egalitarian.


    p.s You didn’t say whether you’d be able to play the “Martin”

  45. He’s going to be really mad at us, isn’t he!

    I’ll be as brief as I can…

    Sorry I jumped to conclusions. You’ll remember my original query re Conservative Party membership was directed to Boris. Seems a long time ago!

    Sorry, too, to hear about Equitable Life. But if regulated companies can make that kind of balls-up, I’m not sure deregulating helps any. Would love to discuss this in depth someday.

    Can’t agree about the Poll Tax. I entirely understand about your dad, and I’m not defending the rates, but two injustices don’t make a justice. It seems to me that with all their considerable intellectual powers, virtually any government could have come up with a fairer alternative than those two. You have to make some provision for people’s ability to pay or you’re ignoring Mrs T’s notion of looking after our neighbours.

    I took a cheap shot at the army. I admit it. Can’t blame them for the idiot policies of governments that send them into war. I think I meant something different – that it’s always the Conservatives who are quickest to bang the war drum when they’re given the chance. But on second thoughts I’m not even sure about that, now I remember Mr Blair and his pre-war spin. Perhaps it’s just governments operating on the mistaken principle that they need the odd war every now and then to ensure they get re-elected.

    Perhaps the mines were in terminal decline. And perhaps they were merely in recession, so that cheaper alternatives suddenly looked more appealing. History will judge that one – it’s too early for us to say. What I can’t forgive is the manner in which it was done: without any real consideration for the people who would be most hurt by the closures. That’s rather like the current legislation against fox-hunting, now I come to think of it, only on a smaller scale.

    I entirely agree with you on ID cards, Data Protection, and Mr Blunkett. You forgot to mention the unparalleled mess he made of the A-level system, by the way. As the father of two teenagers, that one’s personal.

    I’ve enjoyed this, but I better shut up now. I’m sure Boris is watching!

    PS: yes, I could play it. Texas songwriter standard. Please do not take this as any indication of an allegiance to one George W Bush.

  46. Mark,

    Tune in to Martin Simpson “Righteousness & Humidity” and I’ll forgive you everything. I’d better shut up too as this is close to advertising. R.

  47. That’s all right. I’ll check it out. I’m sure Martin Simpson would be tickled pink to be discussed on Boris Johnson’s website!

    Thanks Boris. We’ll shut up now…

  48. Even scarier, Lori:

    To keep track of your credit record. Thus limiting your ability to buy a house, build (or rebuild) a business, and even open a basic bank account – despite the fact that almost everything recorded in said credit record is in the gift of private financial institutions who are answerable to nobody and make their own rules about what constitutes a ‘bad’ record. (I’m getting angry as all hell about this now…)

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