Whichever way you look at it, this has been quite a week for substantial changes that will affect all of us in England. A triumvirate of issues with such far reaching significance one has to wonder what is next.
ID cards. First the dreaded cards, planned and proposed by NuLabour on a manifesto promise to make us safer. Not originally intended to be compulsory, they will be now, when you renew your passport….. ultimately we can be assured they will be mandatory. Personally, having lived in Hong Kong, pre and post ’97 for so long, I’m not just used to the card, I found it invaluable. Whether picking up recorded mail or entering and leaving the territory, they simply made life easier – and I’m cynical enough to think that if the powers that be want to have a file on you, they won’t need ID cards as a tool. The problem I see is that the bad guys will just get round the system, while the good people simply pay up and shut up, yet again. So, their effectiveness is questionable while the real costs remains elusive.
Smoking. Now here’s an issue that I fear will be as hard to enforce as that pariah of legislation, The Hunting Act. A total ban on smoking in public places will come into force in mid 2007. Similarly to the ID card, this goes far beyond the governments pre-election manifesto threat. Personally, as a typical former smoker, I am fervently against and really wish all my mates would pack it in. However, as with Mr FM, I am strongly opposed to people being dictated to in this way. Yes, yes, they will all die earlier and I’ll end up picking up some of the tab via my exhorbitant taxes, but that’s a choice I’d prefer to make and allow them to have. Of course the real issue is the relentless erosion of freedom of choice. Remember, from mid ’07 you won’t be able to smoke in your own private club. What next? Your home?
Chip and Pin. If the first two changes didn’t get you, then this last one surely will. From today retailers may refuse to accept your card without the use of ‘chip and pin’ when shopping. Once again, I’ve been a fan for years with the EPS system in Hong Kong (Switch here) simply due to convenience and I think it is a wonderful idea that most people, over time, would adopt. But making it compulsory is simply wrong: why not let the consumer decide and let weight of opinion drive welcome change, rather than imposition by government?
If you were in any doubt about this governments relentless desire to control our lives at every turn, surely you need no more proof?
Maybe this is just our generations Waterloo(s) and others had theirs and we are all over reacting. Or maybe it is simply society making good progress and, if done for the right reasons, that’s probably right.
Problem is, I don’t think so.