This Week In The News: Clinton Should Step Aside; Government Backtracks on ID Cards

March 14, 2008 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

The race for the Democratic nomination moved into a new phase last week with Hillary Clinton taking the Ohio primary and winning more votes in Texas – though possibly not more delegates.

This means that it’s virtually assured Clinton and Barack Obama will spend the next few months developing their own new political game theory.

Will one or the other pull out in order to enhance their party’s chances of reclaiming the White House or will both stay in the contest, plotting and scheming all way to the Denver convention – or even the courtrooms beyond it – on the basis that other is bound to throw in the towel for the good of the team?

It’s clear to anyone with any sense that Clinton should drop out. I say that as someone who started the primaries as the sole member of the lobby group Kucinistas for Clinton – I was supporting Dennis Kucinich to the extent that it meant anything but believed that Clinton was the best-placed “mainstream” candidate to beat the Republicans.

I’m happy to admit that this initial hunch was completely wrong. Of the two centrist candidates, Clinton’s run a surprisingly shambolic campaign and Obama’s run a surprisingly good one.

Now, there’s no doubt that Obama is the most likely candidate to defeat John McCain in November.

But you don’t generally end up being a serious candidate for high office if you’re the kind of person who can accept that the best course of action is to step aside and let someone else get the gig. Even if the someone else in question has a policy platform that’s, ultimately, very similar to your own.

Having put up with 30 years of spousal philandering in pursuit of political power, it’ll take a lot more than the possibility of handing the Republicans the presidency to convince Clinton give up on what, realistically, is her only big chance to take the top job.

The Democrats failed to kick out Boy George in 2004 partly because they didn’t manage to find one plausible candidate. It’s possible that they’ll lose to McCain this year because they’re cursed with having two.

The government changed tack on ID cards this week.

It has changed the policy but there has been a definite shift from “if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to fear” to “wouldn’t it be so much easier if you didn’t have to fill in all those forms.”

It’s a change of tack that suggests that the Irn Broon may not be quite the numbskull that he’s spent the last six months convincing us that he is.

In theory, I certainly would find it a lot easier if all the wide range of identity checks that I need to get done in my personal and professional life could be replaced by the presentation of one ID card.

Whatever my ideological position on who should and shouldn’t hold data on whom, the reality is that loads of private and public-sector organisations hold loads of information on me already.

What I want, as a citizen, is for the method by which the state holds data on me to be as positively useful to me and as unlikely to be misused by the state as possible.

The problem is that, on a practical operational level, the words “massive central database” fill me with dread.

Even if you believe that they have broadly positive intentions, there’s a big question mark over whether this government, or any government, is capable of maintaining an information system of the scale proposed without cocking it up.

I’d like it to be easier for me to stroll into a bank and open a new bank account in my name, but I don’t really want it to be easier for someone else to walk into a bank and open a bank account in my name.

And, beyond the question of the state’s ability to prevent our data falling into the wrong hands – obviously a fairly big issue in itself – there are the questions about the underlying politics.

To what extent are Irn Broon and his cronies aiming to use ID cards to stifle legitimate political dissent, invade our privacy and restrict the provision of benefits and services to people who need them most?

There could be acceptable answers to these questions, but they’re better that the current “don’t worry, trust us, everything’s going to be all right.”

This article first appeared in the Morning Star newspaper.

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This post was written by David Floyd

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