Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/527/3975
ID cards: No to students being used as guinea pigs!
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith recently announced plans for ID cards to be introduced on a 'voluntary' basis for certain groups, including students. The use of students as a testing ground is hardly surprising considering the lack of fight from the National Union of Students'(NUS) leadership against other New Labour attacks, such as top-up fees.
Steve Sweeney, Cambridge Socialist Students
Any sense of voluntarism dissipates when it becomes clear that students would need an ID card to access student loans and to open a bank account. Students would be faced with an erosion of their civil liberties and increased costs. It opens up what NUS vice president for welfare, Ama Uzowuru, describes as: "completely impractical. The student loan system is complicated enough as it is, without introducing yet another layer of bureaucracy to the process. Many students change address at least once a year and would be obliged to report such changes in their personal circumstances or face a £1,000 fine".
It is also the private sector who are to introduce the ID cards. They can't be trusted with our information; we have seen the debacle of the Home Office losing CDs containing personal information of child benefit recipients.
ID cards do not offer protection from 'terrorist attack' or make the country any safer. They did not prevent the Madrid bombings or the 9/11 attacks. The perpetrators of the London 7/7 attacks were all British and ID cards would not have prevented them.
Despite criticism of the plans from NUS leaders, there appears to be nothing concrete in the way of a campaign involving the mass body of students. For instance, outgoing NUS president Gemma Tumelty says she is: "extremely concerned at the government's plan to use young people and students as guinea pigs for their ID card scheme", but her only ideas to fight it are summed up when she says: "We look forward to engaging in the consultation on this issue, and will make sure the government is aware of students' concern".
This approach points to the sterility of the NUS in taking on the government. If the undemocratic 'Governance Review' is passed at this week's NUS conference then the union will become merely a charity that lobbies on behalf of its members. Lobbying a government that doesn't listen is not an effective way of mounting a campaign.
Successful campaigns require the involvement of rank and file students. Where large-scale action has been taken such as in France and in Greece, victories have been attained. Socialist Students has played a major role in grassroots campaigning, recently through the Campaign to Defeat Fees. In order to defeat ID cards, a strong, united campaign involving ordinary students is necessary. Socialist Students will be organising on campuses around the country to say: 'No to ID cards, no to fees. For free education for all.'
In The Socialist 2 April 2008:
Socialist Party campaigns
Workplace news and analysis
Marxist analysis: history
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party review