ID card ‘propaganda’ backfires as students revolt

By Trust Britain’s youth to be characteristically ungrateful. The Government goes to all the effort of making a website for 16 to 25- year-olds to express their views on identity cards, and all they get in return is a solid mixture of scorn, sneering and scepticism smattered across their fancy new forums.

In a bid to get the country’s youngsters on board the controversial scheme, the Home Office has launched MyLifeMyId.org, where 16 to 25 year olds “can have their say about identity issues in the UK.”

But anyone browsing the discussions on the site would be hard pushed to find a single positive comment, with contributors branding the controversial scheme as “creepy,” “dirty” and “illegal” and the website itself as an “online propaganda machine”.

One contributor writes: “I think it’s pretty disingenuous of the government to come out and say “hey, yo, cool dudes! If you sign up for our hip hoppin’ ID card scheme you’ll never have to carry a heavy s*** passport to prove your age to some wack bartender again” or however it is they think we talk.” Meanwhile, amcs1983 had this to say: “So far the stats look like 100% say no to ID cards. Time to lose these results in a train station…..”

Another is equally censorious: “A Note to Jacqui Smith”, which contained the advice: “George Orwell never intended 1984 to be a manual for society. You’re a smart woman, I’m sure you knew that but I thought you ought to be reminded.”

Complementing the MyLifeMyId website is a YouTube video featuring Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary. But rather curiously for a scheme that sets out to spark debate, the page indicates that “adding comments has been disabled for this video.”

Consequently, one intrepid YouTuber has re-uploaded the video to offer this facility. WillHowlett says: “Thought I’d reupload this piece of propaganda on behalf of Jacqui Smith but with the option to post comments and rate ON. You know, seeing as the video’s meant to be promoting discussion and everything.”

At the beginning of the year, when leaked documents revealed the Government’s proposals for the first stages of the rolling out of the contentious scheme, there was a ripple of discontent from a certain sector of the population. It was announced that the first ‘guinea-pigs’ for the project were to be students.

The National Union of Students (NUS) described the proposals as “extremely disappointing” and “morally reprehensible”. Ama Uzowuru, the NUS Vice President for welfare, said: “We would also be concerned for the safety of students’ personal information if they were forced to enter the ID card system.”

In March, the NUS expressed concerns that students would be in effect compelled to join the ID card scheme because they might not be able to gain access to key services — like the student loan system — without one.

The Government however is adamant that this will not be the case: “We will issue identity cards on a voluntary basis to young people from 2010, and there are no plans to make it necessary to hold an identity card to access any services,” a Home Office spokesman said.

“Young people who do not have an ID card will still be able to get student loans, and indeed no other public services will be denied just on the basis of whether they have an ID card.”

Nevertheless, the NUS say the Government may make it harder for students to claim loans and enrol at college without ID cards.

Although it is now evident that the overwhelming majority of comments on the website have lambasted the scheme, it is unclear what effect these views will have on its rollout in the run-up to 2010.

The Home Office’s spokesman was noticeably ambiguous on this question. “We want to know what people in this age group think of the National Identity Scheme, and their reactions to what services could be included with it,” he said. “The website will run for 12 weeks (until mid-October), and the feedback we get will be assessed, and the findings will help us shape how we roll-out the voluntary enrolment system for ID cards.”

However, one of the site’s users was less equivocal: “If they get a large negative reply [the Government will say that] ‘online figures do not necessarily represent the greater population’s opinion.’ If they get a large positive reply [the conclusion will be:] ‘We have received positive feedback from the population.’ Thats politics for ya!” he wrote.