“If you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear”

Such is the usual defence of people angling to commit serious liberty infringements, against the journalists and ‘lilly-livered liberals’ who have the temerity to question their intentions.

It’s an excellent defence mostly because it’s a thinly-veiled attack, and also because counter-arguments tend to involve phrases like ‘ad hominem’ and ‘specious,’ that aren’t as snappily memorable. With the result that people don’t know what they mean, either.

Which is why, of course, we’ve reached the stage of having an ostensibly left-wing government on the verge of invoking the parliament act to push through legislation that would force (OK, compel us to receive with our passports) identification cards that are, on the face of it, of stuff all use to anyone beyond whichever IT company wins the (lucrative) contract to implement the darned things.

We’ve reached this point because nobody understands the argument against, except – it seems – the Lords. You can read up on the whole mess care of the Guardian’s Special Report on ID Cards, but if you just want the core of the argument against, here’s my version:

I don’t like this sort of legislation precisely because I might, at some point in the future, have something to hide. Whatever that might be could, in principle, be of sufficient weight to bring down the government. This, ladies and gentlemen, is critical: we have to be able to collect information damaging to our political leaders, because otherwise, we’ll never get them out if they go off the rails in a big way.

It is the job of the people to watch the government, not the other way around. That isn’t terrorism, it’s democracy.

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