Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Your passport please

I was chatting with the other half on the phone yesterday about us packing things up here and moving over to New Zealand.

Migration is not an easy thing for a bloke starting his middle years to contemplate, particularly when he is from a close knit family. Mind you, the systematic demolition over recent years of the Britain I once knew, loved and felt deeply attached to makes the decision a whole lot easier to grapple with.

Anyway, we got to talking about passports and nationality and I mentioned that my passport expired in 2008.

And it was only at that moment that I realised, for the first time, that I wanted shot of the fucker.


British passports aren’t what they once were.

I still have an expired copy of one of the old style British passports knocking around the flat somewhere. Now those really were passports. Big blue and chunky, you held one of those babies in your hands and you felt like you had a serious piece of documentation in your palm, backed by the unstinting support of the Royal Navy, the SAS and the Queen herself.

They had to go. Our passports were made indistinguishable from those from such mighty democracies as Luxembourg and Belgium. Many British passport holders felt that they took just a wee bit of a status cut in the process. Some are still sore enough to maintain a healthy niche market in passport covers that make the insipid Euro version look like its illustrious predecessor.

On top of that, our government started dishing out British nationality free with Cornflakes. And that nationality has been dished out in a peculiar and inconsistent way. We behaved disgracefully by not granting full nationality to people in Hong Kong before the hand over to China, yet my local post office is frequented by a succession of people whose English is so bad or non-existent that the staff fill their application forms in for them. Buggered-up application forms completed by people who can’t read them have become such an issue that the Post Office introduced a paid-for correction service a few years ago.

I was having a beer with a South African friend last month and we got round to discussing visas, passports and the like and at one point, with a baffled look on his face, he said ‘I don’t get it. So many people want to get in here your country could have the pick of the crop, yet there doesn’t seem to be any real selection’


OK, so the British passport looks Belgian and I’m not even sure what British nationality means any more but that’s by the by. These are not the reasons why I want shot of the fucker.

It’s the ID card thing.

Our government is gearing up to make registration in a national biometric database compulsory for anyone renewing their passport from 2008.

That particular little morsel of legislation just got its rear-end kicked in the House of Lords this week but anyone who thinks it won’t get through eventually is kidding themself. The Government will simply invoke the magic Parliament Act that totally pisses over our supposed system of checks and balances.

And the passage of that law will say a lot about how fucked-up our supposed democracy has become.

All major parties in our elected chamber except the governing one opposed the law but it was still passed. That means MPs representing 40% of all eligible voters were defeated by a party that has seized an absolute majority of seats with just over 20%.

This is the nature of our non proportional voting system and it has worked historically because our second chamber, the House of Lords, is unelected and usually puts the brakes on any really insane or wicked legislation.

Presumably, that’s why the forces fronted by Blair have worked so hard at ‘reforming’ the House of Lords. ‘Reform’ as in chop its balls off. Buggering up the House of Lords whilst doing nothing to avoid minority rule in the elected chamber is a dead cert path to a form of dictatorship


So, here we are, in Britain in 2006 and the only people standing between that dictatorship and us are a handful of duffers and a few judges whose days of influence are numbered.


And the reform project will be completed just in time for all of us to be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed and numbered. Our lives will no longer be our own.

None of this is happening by accident. It is quite systematic and quite deliberate. And only a tiny minority of people have got the sense to be really freaked out by it.


Having said that there’s an interesting case in South London at the moment. An 18 year old girl was murdered in Croydon last year and the police have written to 4,000 men who fit a suspect profile asking them to submit voluntarily to DNA testing so that they can be excluded from the investigation.

The last time I heard, something like a couple of hundred people had turned up for screening. Do I think the other 3,500+ don’t care or have something to hide? Nope. Do I think they are scared of being stuck on a criminal database with God knows what unforeseen circumstances later on in their lives? Do I think they profoundly mistrust the police and the government?


What the fuck has happened to this country?

How can it be that Blair and New Labour project have brought things to a state where I, a 41-year-old totally British man, want to toss the document that evidences my Britishness into the toilet, or where people are frightened of assisting the investigation into an innocent teen's murder?

Not even the most insane jihadist could despise Blair and the vested interests behind him as much as I do.

He couldn’t even get close.


zenyenta said...

It's the coalition of the willing, I guess. You haven't lost your country alone. Your former colony over here doesn't recognize itself either. After the 2004 election, I really wanted to try Canada, but migration is possibly even harder in one's late middle years, without much money and with a lot of much loved family who have lives here. What's a real eye-opener is how fragile our respective institutions must have been, to have been taken apart so quickly.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone looked into the pros and cons of an Eire passport?

Pros ... can vote in UK, can get work in EU

Cons ????

Anyone know the easiest and fastest way to get one? (Apart from being Spike Milligan).

Ian said...

I've read in the Telegraph today that Britain is introducing a foolproof 'points system' for immigration from next year, the same as some other countries. 5 Points for a murder conviction, 3 points for aggravated assault and 2 for burglary, possession of any of the above will ensure you are at the head of the queue.

One of the benchmarks for dictatorship is of course, are you allowed to fly a kite ? Previously banned in Afghanistan and Pakistan, although in the latter case justifiably after 13 people were killed in a kite festival in 2004 and... 'Officials at a Lahore hospital said 42 children and 60 adults had been treated for kite-related injuries...'(BBC). Our government is more likely to ban kite flying to prevent pleasure, as in Taleban Afghanistan, watch out for the White Paper in the Commons shortly.

Daniel said...

The Worlds going mad:

Apprentice said...

Frances Stonor Saunders writing in the New Statesperson:

"The proposed ID Card will.. be connected to the National Identity Register, where all of your personal details will be stored. This will include the unique number that will be issued to you, your fingerprints, a scan of the back of your eye, and your photograph. Your name, address and date of birth will also obviously be stored there.

There will be spaces on this database for your religion, residence status, and many other private and personal facts about you. There is unlimited space for every other details of your life on the NIR database, which can be expanded by the Government with or without further Acts of Parliament.

Every place that sells alcohol or cigarettes, every post office, every
pharmacy, and every Bank will have an NIR Card Terminal, (very much like the Chip and Pin Readers that are everywhere now) into which your card can be 'swiped' to check your identity. Each time this happens, a record is made at the NIR of the time and place that the Card was presented. This means for example, that there will be a government record of every time you withdraw more than £99 at your branch of NatWest, who now demand ID for these transactions. Every time you have to prove that you are over 18, your card will be swiped, and a record made at the NIR. Restaurants and
off licenses will demand that your card is swiped so that each receipt
shows that they sold alcohol to someone over 18, and that this was proved by the access to the NIR, indemnifying them from prosecution.

Private businesses are going to be given access to the NIR Database. If
you want to apply for a job, you will have to present your card for a
swipe. If you want to apply for a London Underground Oyster Card, or a
supermarket loyalty card, or a driving license you will have to present your ID Card for a swipe. The same goes for getting a telephone line or a mobile phone or an internet account.

Oyster, DVLA, BT and Nectar (for example) all run very detailed databases of their own. They will be allowed access to the NIR, just as every other business will be. This means that each of these entities will be able to store your unique number in their database, and place all your travel, phone records, driving activities and detailed shopping habits under your unique NIR number. These databases, which can easily fit on a storage device the size of your hand, will be sold to third parties either legally or illegally. It will then be possible for a non-governmental entity to
create a detailed dossier of all your activities. Certainly, the
government will have clandestine access to all of them, meaning that they will have a complete record of all your movements, from how much and when you withdraw from your bank account to what medications you are taking, down to the level of what sort of bread you eat - all accessible via a single unique number in a Central database.