The biggest cheer that Brown got at the Labour Party Conference was when delegates thought he had announced that the ID scheme had been cancelled. He did not. He only repeated the same misleading things that every Home Secretary has said about the scheme since it was first mooted. But he did so with a flourish, as if announcing something new.
This seems to have fooled a lot of people to judge from newspaper reports and our own mailbag. All Brown said was that the scheme would be ‘voluntary’ to start and would not be compulsory for a while. As ever he focused public attention on the cards and said nothing about the database.
Remember that the Home Office’s idea of “voluntary” is probably different from yours. It means a scheme you cannot ever leave (unless it dies before you do) once you “agree” to be included. And it is a scheme that you will be compelled to “volunteer” for if you ever wish to apply for any official document “designated” by the Home Secretary, the first of which is planned to be a passport – from some point in 2011.