New Labour’s database nation

Cory Doctorow is one of this country’s most valuable immigrants. But, as this scarifying essay reveals, he will be leaving if Brown’s ID Card scheme is implemented.

A few years later, I was living with my partner, and had fathered a British daughter (when I mentioned this to a UK immigration official at Heathrow, he sneeringly called her “half a British citizen”). We were planning a giant family wedding in Toronto when the news came down: the Home Secretary had unilaterally, on 24 hours’ notice, changed the rules for highly skilled migrants to require a university degree…

My partner and I scrambled. We got married. We applied for a spousal visa. A few weeks later, I presented myself in Croydon at the Home Office immigration centre to turn over my biometrics and have a visa glued into my Canadian passport. I got two years’ breathing room. My family could stay in Britain.

Then came last week’s announcement: effective immediately, spousal visa holders (and foreign students) would be issued mandatory, biometric radio-frequency ID papers that we will have to carry at all times. And I started to look over my shoulder…

Now, we immigrants are to be the beta testers for Britain’s sleepwalk into the surveillance society. We will have to carry internal passports and the press will say, “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to live here – it’s unseemly for a guest to complain about the terms of the hospitality.” But this beta test is not intended to stop with immigrants. Government freely admits that immigrants are only the first stage of a universal rollout of mandatory biometric RFID identity cards. What happens to us now will happen to you, next.

Not me, though. If the government of the day when I renew my visa in 2010 requires that I carry these papers as a condition of residence, the Doctorows will again leave their country and find a freer one. My wife – born here, raised here, with family here – is with me. We won’t raise our British daughter in the database nation. It’s not safe.”

I’ve never voted Tory in my life, but next time I will if this proposal isn’t dropped. And so, I hope, will most of the country.

Many thanks to Ray Corrigan for pointing me to Cory’s article, which I’d missed in all the guff about the banking crisis.