To some people it may seem to be obsessive to analyse each word uttered by a politician, but when that politician is the controversial Home Secretary David Blunkett, a certain amount of kremlinology is required, to cut through the media spin and popularist playing to the mob, which this poweful politician indulges in. We want to know where next he is planning to shift the delicate balance between freedom and a police state, presumbaly with "good intentions".
Hence our interest in the interview he gave on the BBC Radio 4, Today Programme, on Saturday 13th November 2004.
The BBC no longer seem to be providing online transcripts (or even printed ones) of their flagship Today programme, presumably to cover their CaRears after the Hutton Inquiry and/or for cost reasons.
Here is an unskilled transcription (hat's off to professional stenographers who seem to be able to sort out the mess of interruptions and simultaneous voices) of the 11 minute interview with Home Secretary David Blunkett about ID Cards and the his counter spin against the "climate of fear" stuff that the BBC has been highlighting recently in series such as The Power of Nightmares
In order to understand all the oblique references and jargon in this inteview, you do have to be pretty clued up on UK political and legal issues, and also on the limitiations of technology, which most people (including the participants in this interview, at least with respect to technology) are not.
The segment can be heard, for a while, until it disappears into the archives, via Real Audio (the Beeb cut a special deal with RealMedia so that you can download a version of the RealMedia player from the BBC website which is not infected with advertising)
BBC Radio 4, Today Programme, Saturday 13th November 2004
JH: = John Humphrys, the presenter and chief interviewer of the Today programme.
DB: = Home Secretary David Blunkett
28 minutes to 9
Is the Government deliberately scaring us about the threat from terrorism, so that it can bring in increasingly draconian laws ? That's been suggested, but the Home Secretary David Blunkett is making a speech today to say that it is wrong. Mr Blunkett's on the line, good morning to you.
Good morning, nice to talk to you John.
It's certainly the case isn't it that er some of the things being proposed are pretty draconian ?
No they're not. They're sensible, pre-emptive measures. Pre-emptive in the sense that we live now in a rapidly changing world, where people's fears are greater, not just in terms of terrorism, but fear in their own neighbourhood and community, and we've been able to establish stability and security in terms of the economy, and people's economic family life, we need to be able to do that in their immediate environment, and internationally, and in dealing with terrorism.
That's a bit of an admission that you've failed, isn't it ? Put aside the terrorism, as you say, quite separately, fear is greater in their homes and communities, after nearly eight years in power.
It it's greater because of rapid economic and social change, including globalisation, it's greater
Yes, it's greater because we see things now, accross the world, because of instant, er, satellite. er, television, that we never did immediatly before. We have seven day week, twenty four hour, instant communication, all of this underpinned by a changing culture, a lack of respect, the inability of parents to parent properly, the binge drinking that is a phenomenon
JH: [same time]
You're confusing an awful lot of things there
DB: [same time]
over the la', over the last No No I'm merely..
We always have good conversations on a Saturday morning, so let me just
(continue ?) go on
Well people do not open their hearts, and minds, and hear messages, particularly Progressive messages"
The speech he is giving today is to the Labour party Progress "think tank"/magazine annual conference at TUC House
"if, underpinning that, subliminally, is a fear of what's happening around them, and if they're more insecure when they go out, and they walk on the street, if tthey fear, because of the eleventh of September, and its aftermath, what is happening in terms of the , er, the new forms of threat, from outside, then we have to provide that stability and security, if they're going to be abale to the messages about opening your hearts and minds to other,"
Was it Richard Nixon, or one of his team who said "If you have them by the short hairs, their hearts and minds will follow" ?
"about reducing the fear of difference, about being able to create a civilised and caring
and compassionate society
One one of the things that you want to do, obviously, is Identity Cards , and then the, er, National Identity Database, and, in many respects, some people believe anyway, the database is, is , far and away the most offensive thing, er, if they don't like this legislation.
What you're doing, is creating a whole pile of new offences, aren't you, including things like, refusal to, an obey, to obey an order, from You, failure to notify the authorities about a damaged Card, failure to notify the Secretary of State of any change in personal circumstances, a whole new raft of law, but we can now break, and face quite severe penalties
Well of course, all all of those apply to, to the Driving Licence,"
No they do not all apply to the current Driving Licence - you do not risk getting fined if your driving licence is accidentally damaged or if the computer systems designed to read it fail to do so, for whatever reason, totally out of your control, which is the case with the Government's ID Card proposals.
You do not get fined for not registering for a Driving Licence, but the plan is to make the biometric registration process compulsory, even if carrying an ID Card at all times per se is not..
"and the difference between what we're doing in the future, and what we have in the present, is that there will actually be a verifyable identity, rather than someone being able to steal, and multiply your identity so, instead of a muddled system which can be , er, easily, er, flawed, and can be easily duplicated, we're creating something where we'll know who's in the country,"
So how exactly will this enable you be able to tell if Osama bin Laden is in the UK or not ??
"who's entitled to draw down on, what are the only free services of their type in the world, including the NHS, er, we'll be able to ensure that those who are here, can work legitimately, legally, pay taxes,"
Why do you need an ID card to pay taxes ? The Inland Revenue manages pretty well without one.
"and we'll be able to ensure that the Security and Organised Crime and Policing Agencies can use this sensitively, because we're going to pass, in the Bill, all the necessary security measures, er, Oversight measures, with the Commissioner, that we would expect in a free society, far more than in anywhere else in the world, and far more than you have with your Loyalty Card, where yes, er sh, shops, retailers know, where you've been, what you've shopped, what you've spent, we, we'll never know that, and nor should we."
The Inland Revenue have, in the past, grabbed Loyalty Card records from supermarkets to help in their investigations into possible tax frauds. The "safeguards" published in the Draft ID Card Bill, are totally inadequate
mm, but, the problem with those comparisons is , the Driving Licence, in the first place, you need a Driving Licence in order to drive, if you choose not to drive, you don't have to have one. There are perfectly good reasons for having a driving licence, obviously. You need to have an ID Card in order to exist, in order to be.
No, you need a biometric ID Card, with your unique bio, er, biometric"
No! "biometrics" are imprecise digital copies - they are NOT "unique"
"on the database, in order to be able to"
No you do not NEED a biometric database, you could just have them solely on the SmartCard, with a Digital Signature against forgery.
"to establish your true identity"
No, you have to "establish your true identity" through your biographical footprint of other documents in the first place to register and enrol onto such a system. Your "true identity" can be stolen at this point with traditionally forged documents, if the criminal registers before you do, which is quite likely given the queue of 60 million people which the Government seems to be intent on registering.
"and to, sti, sto, to stop other people stealing it. The whole point
Managed without it in the past
The whole point of these measures, is not only greater Security and Entitlement"
David Blunkett never explains exactly how his ID card scheme will provide greater security.
The extra cost and bureacracy REDUCES my Entitlement to services that I already pay for, it does not increase it.
"but actually, also, to ensure that we link this with all that we're doing on Organised Crime, what we've been doing on Anti-Social Behavior,"
How many UNIDENTIFIED persistent offenders or nuisance neighbours have been or are ever likely to be served with an ASBO ? How many FALSE IDENTITEIES have they or will they use under the ASBO system ? Zero
Will the virtually unlimited ASBO bail conditions be used to force peple to carry ID Cards if so ordered, or to designate that people challenged in Dispersal Zones should have to identify themselves on the street with ID Cards ?
"what the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are doing in terms of Global Security, and what Gordon Brown has been able to establish in leading us into the most secure and stable economy that we've had in the last century.
The the the basic charge against you, has come from people like Charles Kennedy, is that you've created a climate of fear, that, um, you can pass various forms of draconian legislation. And it isn't only politicians attacking you here, is it, it , it's many QCs, um, who worry about what you're doing to our system of justice. you want to change all sorts of things, you want to chane the burden of proof, talking about terrorism trials, and all that sort of thing, you want to change the burden of proof, you want to contradict some of the Cardinal Principles, of Criminal Justice, that's the charge against you, isn't it ?"
Is John Humphrys making "charges against" the Home Secretary or the Government or the Labour Party ?]
No, I just want to protect Society from those who would take away our liberty and freedom, by using democracy to destroy it"
Who protects Society or Us from David Blunkett or his sucessors ?
"and, er, I shall be saying today, as you heard on your programme earlier on, in terms of , er, the, the Netherlands, that if we're going to protect our liberty and freedom, we've got to distinguish, between, between being tolerant of people's views and values, and intolerant of those who would actually destroy them from within, in other words, and I challenge Charles Clarke on this
Was this a Freudian slip ? Charles Clarke is a Labour Cabinet collegue, who presumably David Blunkett thinks is his rival for the "well, if not Gordon Brown, then perhaps I could be the "compromise" candidate with senior Cabinet experience for the job of Prime Minister when Tony Blair retires.
Charles Kennedy. I doubt you challenge Charles Clarke on this.
Charl, Charl, I, I challenge Charles Kennedy on this. We've actually got to be able to distinguish , er, an open, liberal society, from Libertarianism, where Anything Goes, and where Selfishness and Individualism, are some, somehow presented, as though that is somehow Liberalism"
How will the leader of the the Liberal Democratic party Charles Kennedy view David Blunkett's definition of Liberalism ?
How will the Samizdata bloggers etc. view his definition of Lbertarianism ?
"and, er, um, Mark Oaten"
Mark Oaten is the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman.
Note how there is no mention of David Davis or the officiasl Opposition spokesman or the Conservatve Party's fence sitting on the issue of ID Cards.
"is quoted as being against ID cards, this morning,"
Another quotation to find for our collection. Strangely, there does not seem to be anything online from Mark Oaten dated "this morning", perhaps David Blunkett is keeping tabs on his political opponents (politcal intelligence and spin, obviously, rather than abuse of the Security Services)
"but he voted for it, in just less than a year ago in the Commons "
Are politicians not allowed to change their minds once the horrible detail of the Government's ID Database schemes became more apparent ?
"Now we've got to have a sensible debate about these matters"
Really, when and where ? Behind closed doors to special interest stakeholders at think tanks conferences charging over £100 a head entrance fee, like the nu Labour leaning Institute of Public Policy Research ID Card event this Wednesday 17th at the Royal Society along with speakers such as Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner
The cross party umbrella group which is coordinating opposition to the ID Card Bill plans NO2ID are calling for volunteers for a photo opportunity and peaceful demonstration to confront David Blunkett who will probably arrive in Carlton House Terrace, around 9.30am.
"if we're not to degenerate into circumstances where a Government would take Draconian and Oppresive action"
Is this a reference to the potential use of Civil Contingencies Bill Part 2 Emergency Powers which the Government is currently brining onto the statute books ??
because there would have been an incident, that would have literally undermined the sensible debate that you and I are having this morning"
Debate ??? Hardly !! The Home Office managed to reject all the suggestions in the Home Affairs Committee report, and even their own opinion polling shows that most people do not understand what a "biometric identifier" is, so how can they have an informed debate on the pros, cons, risks or the cost benefit of the Government's compulsory centralised biometric database plans ?
"and I have with Barristers, and I have with Judges, who don't come forward, with alternatives to what we are doing."
That is exactly what the Home Secretary and the huge Home Office bureaucracy are paid to do on our behalf.
But you see it isn't just domestic politicians here making these, charges, may I remind you. you'll know it of course, Alvaro Gil-Robles, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights",
Alvaro Gil-Robles, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights has a website
"he talks about us taking steps that overstep the limits on the Pretext of the Fight Against Terror.
Yes, I met him, on Thursday, he says the same about my measures on Anti-Social Behavior and last night I attended two Community Meetings, in which people were asking for even greater power. and were rejoicing in the powers we had given the Police, so, he has a particular view, but we have a view from a situation where we want to prevent and protect our people, from any incident that would change the political climate"
So if ASBOs are popular with local lynch mobs, then Human Rights Commissioners can be ignored ?
"and if I wanted, and the Prime Minsiter wanted, to actually get engaged now, with a climate of fear , we'd create a Cabinet minister, as the Tories, are require, are requesting, who would be a Homeland Security Secretary or Tsar"
Is this an attack on the Bush Administration's panic measures ?
"who would have by their very nature, and their survival politically, to appear on television and radio virtually every day, and I could do it, put the Fear of God Up People"
Just like David Blunkett then.
"[indistinct] we're doing the opposite
But you're doing more than that in a sense, if you're changing, if you're challenging the Basic Principles of Justice, you're doing more than that.
But, but I'm not, I'm seeking a way through a situation, which three years ago faced us with international terrorists, who have been adjudged, through the Court of Suprerior Record, and the Appeal Court to have been at terrorists, actually threatening threatening our livelyhood"
"actually threatening our livelyhood" ?
This is interesting since neither the foreign detainees in Belmarsh nor their lawyers, have been told exactly what the actual terrorism allegations against them are.
Are these just petty credit card fraudsters who support obnoxious foreign jihadi charities etc ?
Perhaps David Blunkett really meant "our way of life" rather than "our livelyhood "
N.B. no charges of counterfeiting, or fraud seem to have been brought against these people, who are not exactly Osama bin Laden's closest co-conspirators or terrorist masterminds
"but in circumstances where to reveal the Security Information, which was International, would have put not only Ours, but Other Security Services at risk".
At risk of being exposed of having used torture, directly or indirectly via compliant police states ?
"now the reason I mention that, is because we couldn't remove those people from our country because, we were adhereing to Human Rights, because there, they would have been put to death or torture. What we are now seeking, is a way out of that situation, and we're waiting for the House of Lords Judgement in terms of the Derogation, that's the withdrawal
from a particular part of the European Convention"
The Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001, rushed through without proper debate , except, for this controversial Part 4, which effectively suppressed all debate on the other controversial bits e.g. Data Retention or Information Sharing etc.
This involved technically declaring a State of Emergency, and "derogating" from the prohibition against detention without trial provisions of the European Declaration of Human Rights as incorporated in the Human Rights Act 1998
can I ask you one more question ? Are we safer now, as a result of the war on Iraq ?
Note the BBC weasel words "war in Iraq" not the "war on Saddam Hussein's evil regime"
We're safer, in the sense, that we have pre-empted, actions that would have been taken , we're safer once we 'ave actually secured the stability of Iraq for the democratic elections, because if Iraq degenerated, now, into the situation that Afghanistan was faced. under the Taleban,"
Why is the Taleban still NOT a proscribed terrorist group ?
"where they hosted, the terrorist camps, the training camps, the ability to go from Afghanistan, across the world to commit as they did, on the eleventh, er, er, ah, as they did in East Africa, those terrible crimes, ah, er, and then attacked the World Trade Center
Well they didn't , er, do it, that had nothing to do with Iraquis
No, no, no, but I'm making the point that, de, degenerate into chaos, the, the situation would be replicated in Iraq, which is why I believe very strongly indeed, that we now have to settle this once and for all, and we have to take, with the Americans, whatever tough action is necessary, because the people who are destroying the chance of Iraqui peace and democracy, are almost universally those who are organising
Alright then, you don't think that we are sowing dragon's teeth with what we are doing there ?"
Ah!, finally a reference to the Classical Greek Myths and Legends
No I d', I believe , well, we've done it,"
Is that a yes or a no ?
"and what we've got to carry it through, and you and I had a conversation on the 4th of April, in th emiddle of the war, when I said thatit was justified in terms of avoiding , it, er, Saddam hussein, once again calling the bluff of the world and beingthe kingpin in the region, if we want peace in the Middle East, we have to settle Iraq, make a peaceful and democratic Iraq, a beacon, which will then help us, and help the Americans to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians to the table.
David Blunkett, many thanks
Obviously David Blunkett cherishes his Today programme interviews, and he has been accused of announcing Government policy this way before announcing it in Parliament. Hopefully this trancript will be of service to him and various political speech writers and researchers in the future. Will this version end up in the Electronic Rebuttal Engines used by the various political parties ?