Wednesday, May 31, 2006

ID Card Rebel in remembered in Oxford Dictionary

In the 1950s, Britain was still in somewhat of a post-war funk, and ID cards that were introduced in wartime had been retained by the peacetime Labour government. Harry Willcock was a Liberal councilor from Leeds who was stopped for a motoring offence in London in December 1950. He refused to hand over his identity card to the police. His conviction for the motoring offence was upheld in the high court, but the judge remarked that the extension of the ID card bill had "tended to turn law-abiding subjects into lawbreakers, which was most undesirable, and the good relations between the police and the public would be likely to suffer".

Why is this relevant? Because in this country there is still the presumption that the relationship between citizen and state is one in which the state is the servant of the citizen, not vice versa. In times of national crisis, governments will often seek to alter that balance of power, and ID cards and registers are just one of the ways in which they seek to achieve that aim. Other measures recently have included bills that make possible ASBO's (anti-social behaviour orders, which use civil process to create personal, criminal laws) and some of the more outré provisions of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act.

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