Can we block ID cards?

The most fundamental issue for the survival of liberty in the UK is the defeat of the Government's plan for identity cards. From that point of view the election marks an important breakthrough. With a majority of 160 the Government could not be defeated in the Commons. With a majority of 66 the situation changes dramatically. If 34 Labour MPs vote against the bill, or 67 abstain, or some combination amounting to the same thing, either the bill itself of key elements could be defeated. A "wrecking" amendment, sponsored by Conservatives, Liberal Democrats or Labour rebels could succeed. And if the bill does pass the Commons by a narrow margin, the Commons could not be relied on to overturn amendments the Opposition could introduce in the Lords. This core legislative plank is now under threat, but it is far from defeated.

The Conservatives are divided and are committed to voting against only the current proposals. An amended version of the bill might attract at least some Conservative support. The Lib Dems oppose the bill in principle, but could be won round by Blair spinning it as a European harmonisation measure, or even introducing it via the European Council of Ministers. While replacing a national identity card scheme with a European one would ensure Conservative opposition, the Liberal Democrats react to the word "harmonisation" the way Homer Simpson reacts to "pizza": they drool and ask for more.

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