Blunkett, ID cards and others

Share


Blunkett cannot blame the press for exposing his private life

Blunkett cannot blame the press for exposing his private life

Sir: It is not surprising that David Sawtell should call for a "draconian privacy law" in the light of the Blunkett affair, but it is misguided (letter, 2 December). The fact remains that the media showed little interest in David Blunkett's private life until he and his "friends" chose to pursue his objectives through the press, and Kimberly Quinn's "friends" decided to do the same.

We have to remember that the exposure of the marital problems of Prince Charles and Princess Diana was the result of both parties choosing to pursue that private struggle in the public gaze, each seeking an advantage over the other by damaging their public standing, and a similar battle between the Blunkett party and the Quinns is taking place now.

The responsibility for that exposure lies with those parties, not with the media, and there can be no complaint that the press seek to publish as much detail of this dispute as they can find out, rather than only the details David Blunkett wanted them to publish. If he were to take a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission or to the courts under the Human Rights Act, my educated guess is that he would fail precisely because he, or his allies, placed the matter in the public domain.

As to whether he should resign, even if the inquiries clear him of any wrongdoing, there is still the question of the public perception of his credibility, and so his ability to "sell" the Government's policies to the people. Given the potential unpopularity of some of those policies - for example, the identity card scheme - I suspect it is that concern that will sink him in the end.

PHIL COLE
Lecturer in Media Ethics, Middlesex University, London

Identity cards are about political control

Sir: A couple of weeks ago I attended an anti-Iraq war rally in Oxford. The police were taking video and still pictures of all those attending. I was outraged. Why should anyone who is not committing a crime be photographed by the police when merely doing what a citizen is entitled to do - demonstrate peacefully against a policy they strongly disagree with? What was most disturbing about this episode was that no one protested.

How have the British people allowed a situation to arise where they are now treated as criminals or potential criminals? Will people who attend the likes of anti-Iraq war marches be designated criminals retrospectively at some time in the future?

Thinking about this reminded me of the Government's plan to impose identity cards on us - in the guise of protecting us against "terrorism". Of course, identity cards have little to do with fighting terrorism. They are about social and political control.

The police now have thousands of photographs and videos of people who have attended various rallies and marches - the poll tax, miners' strike, Countryside Alliance, animal rights, Fathers 4 Justice, anti-Iraq war. Introduce identity cards and the state can match the photos on the police computer with those on the ID system, identifying people who have been on political demonstrations and see immediately where they live, etc, while having a good idea about their political opinions. For instance, those on anti-Iraq war marches are likely to be hostile to US-dominated globalisation too. One could imagine that in the future, an authoritarian government, or perhaps one under the control of a larger authoritarian power, would easily be able to round up those they see as a threat.

What is very disturbing is how easy it is to introduce many of the trappings of a police state in a way that it is hardly noticed. I think identity cards are dangerous and should be opposed by anyone who values their freedom.

BRIAN ABBOTT
Oxford

Sir: In half a century on this planet I've managed to work in the private and public sectors with only a month's unemployment. I've committed no crime worse than a speeding ticket and been an active member of several community groups. I've also raised a child, celebrated a diamond wedding and gained a degree.

Hardly Nobel prize material and I'm not expecting an MBE, but why should that paragon of moral virtue Mr Blunkett want to criminalise me and fine me £2,500 simply for refusing to fill in an identity card application?

DAVE YOUNG
London

Sir: "Knowing your true identity and being able to demonstrate it is a positive plus," states Blunkett. Is he talking about DNA tests? No wait! O, I see: a plastic card demonstrates my sentient consciousness and identity, my actions, thoughts and nature. Or does it demonstrate that individuals are being moulded into robots?

MALGORZATA KITOWSKI
London E14

Sir: I was very disappointed by Paul Handley's discourse on identity cards under the heading "Faith and Reason" ("Identity cards are devious, expensive and misconceived", 27 November). As a child I was proud to possess an identity card during the war and felt that it gave me freedom - people could be certain of who I was. The text that comes to my mind is "The truth will set you free'" (John, chapter 3 verse 32).

The Rev JOHN B WILCOX
Redcar

Casualties of war

Sir: Deborah Orr writes (Opinion, 18 November) about the issues concerning soldiers returning from Iraq with mental health problems but is rather wide of the mark in a number of her allegations.

It would indeed be scandalous if nothing was being done by the Defence Medical Services to treat those suffering from combat related psychological injury either in the battlefield or on return, but that is just not the case. Sadly, however, by no means will all personnel suffering in this way seek medical help and there is, in the view of Combat Stress, an urgent need to tackle this issue, partly cultural but in its entirety really very complex.

It is also a sad fact that for some of those who return damaged in this way, the damage will be permanent and seriously debilitating. After service discharge these casualties of war will often find it very difficult to adjust to civilian life. We know because we see them - 600 new cases last year alone including Iraq war veterans - only 25 per cent managing to hold down a job. Without any doubt many will end up amongst the veterans who are rough-sleeping or homeless, if they are not already, and there are some in the prison population. How many we just do not know, but the ex-Service case-working organisations are working with the MoD and other government departments to tackle this problem as well.

Deborah also draws attention to our Scottish treatment centre, Hollybush House. Yes, we will face closure of this first-class specialist facility if we cannot find the £1.6m needed to bring the accommodation up to the national care standard, but we are absolutely determined to raise the funds we require. Our appeal is one third of the way there already. Does anyone want to help?

Commodore TOBY ELLIOTT
Chief Executive
Combat Stress
Leatherhead, Surrey

Big Dig will be dry

Sir: The article "Boston fears becoming 'New Atlantis' as Big Dig springs a leak" (20 November) mischaracterises the tunnel leaks in Boston's Big Dig project. All the experts agree that the Big Dig is structurally safe and sound. The project already meets industry norms for finished tunnels, even before completion.

The work to seal leaks and seeps will be done within months, not years. Water is entering the tunnels because they are still under construction and partially open to the weather - no revelation to engineers. Water flows down traffic ramps that are not yet covered, through manhole covers that are not yet sealed, and into other openings that will be closed when the tunnels are finished. In the meantime, the water is readily managed by drains and pumps.

All tunnels have some water leakage. Damp spots are being sealed, generally at contractor expense, to meet project specifications. The tunnels are safe now, and when the Big Dig is finished, they will perform better than industry norms and government guidelines.

MATT WILEY
Bechtel Corporation
Frederick, Maryland, USA

Ukrainian struggle

Sir: Just returned from Ukraine, I am surprised to see a discussion that focuses on Ukraine's "possible membership of Nato and the EU". BBC, Sky news and ITV keep calling the opposition "pro-Western", a dangerous terminology.

It is not what it is all about to the 100,000 ordinary people I saw protesting in the streets of Lviv. They are tired of corruption, lack of opportunity, racketeering, murder and oppression. People want a society that stands for a decent life and a future for their children. If he wins, Mr Yanukovich has promised dual- citizenship with Russia, where there is even less economic prosperity and freedom and more corruption than in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian struggle must be seen as the people's quest to create a democratic and fair state with equal opportunity for all and not as yet another target for US influence. We must avoid tickling Mr Putin under the nose with Ukraine's potential "membership of Nato" or orientation towards the West. The Ukrainians must get the chance to decide that for themselves, freely and fairly.

JORGEN FAXHOLM
London W6

Arab human rights

Sir: Ali Muhsen Hamid, Ambassador of the League of Arab States (letter, 30 November) asserts that his country, Yemen, has a ministry of human rights. My parents are also of Yemeni origin and know all too well of the systematic abuse of civil rights activists in the Yemen and the intimidation of the southern people by the tribal north's dictatorial regime, in a political system similar to Saddam Hussein's system of fear and bribery.

I suppose the term "human rights" is open to interpretation. Mr Hamid's interpretation of human rights may be acceptable (just) in the Arab world but to the vast majority of the British people it is unacceptable. I believe Charles Glass was speaking realistically when he said that "ministries of human rights do not figure in the Arab world".

YASSAR YAFAI
Smethwick,
West Midlands

Mast scares

Sir: Jay Griffiths (letter, 29 November) claims that on the basis of a single cluster of cases there is a causal link between the Tetra communication system and occurrences of motor neurone disease. It is in the nature of random events that sometimes clusters will occur, and folk are apt to jump to conclusions.

There are nearly a thousand Tetra masts scattered around the country. If this claim is correct, then at each of these sites there will be similar clusters of motor neurone disease. This should not be hard to ascertain.

The history of these kinds of scares usually shows that the original suspicions fail to replicate when proper studies are carried out. In the meantime folk should not lose any sleep.

CLIFF WOODCRAFT
Sheffield

Hope for a continent

Sir: My morning was immeasurably brightened by the picture of Ami and Alimata on your front page ("A picture of hope, and a symbol of relief in a blighted continent", 1 December). As someone who has visited Zambia, Tanzania and Zanazibar in the past three years, and seen so much to be positive about, I have longed for politicians, campaigning pop stars and editors to stop peddling their own agendas by going on about the misery of African people and the corruption in their governments. And yes, I contributed to your appeal on-line.

KIERAN DALY
Norton, Wiltshire

Named and shamed?

Sir: Mr Bratman, I wonder how many of your mothers over the forty years thought "silly old fart, who needs your opinion anyway" (letter, 1 December). Our three sons, now in their twenties and thirties, are named Emile Jude Boris, Leofwin Edgar and Maximilian Frederic. They are proud of their names, and feel that we gave them a great start in life. Best of luck to Phinnaeus and Hazel.

DIANA HOLBA
Aston, Hertfordshire

Lost for words

Sir: Your article on Iris Murdoch and Alzheimer's disease ("Reading between the lines", 1 December) is most disturbing for the many OAPs, like myself, who have increasing recourse to Roget's Thesaurus to find the word that they know exists but frustratingly eludes them. This problem commonly features in conversations between "crumblies" and is lightheartedly dismissed with "It affects us all". However, not "all" develop Alzheimer's disease. Perhaps your health correspondent could shed a little more light on this subject and, maybe, disperse some of the gloom that this article has cast.

FRANK FAHY
King's Somborne, Hampshire

Sir: Further to your piece about the medics' textual analysis of Jackson's Dilemma ("Reading between the lines", 1 December), as Iris Murdoch's then paperback publisher I once received a letter from a group of Japanese university students who were studying her work. They had just finished reading Murdoch's novel and had two questions which they hoped I could answer: Who was Jackson? And what was his dilemma?

TONY LACEY
Penguin Books, London WC2

Sickening truth

Sir: Marina Donald's account (letter, 1 December) of her Latvian grandmother's cheese was illuminating. Born in England to Polish parents, I was brought up with the Polish euphemism "to go to Riga", meaning to be sick. I have always wondered about the derivation of this odd phrase; after all Riga is such a beautiful city. Finally all is clear - it is the cheese!

MARINA FLETCHER
Much Hadham, Hertfordshire

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

Day In a Page

Read Next
IDF soldiers and vehicles in an image provided by campaign group Breaking the Silence  

'Any person you see – shoot to kill': The IDF doctrine which causes the death of innocent Palestinians

Ron Zaidel
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd give tax cuts to the rich, keep Trident, and get my football team wrong

Frankie Boyle
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before