Today is an important day to say loud and clear: no national ID, no vaccine ID, no voter ID.
69 years ago today, on 21 February 1952, Winston Churchill’s government scrapped ID cards. Why? In his words, to “set the people free”.
Here’s a short story about how and why Britain rejected ID cards.
At the beginning of WWII, the National Registration Act 1939 was passed as an emergency measure. Every man, woman and child had to carry an ID card at all times. The main purposes were for evacuations, rationing and population statistics. 45 million paper cards were issued.
But like most emergency measures, ID cards didn’t go away after the war.
In 1950, Harry Willcock, a 54 year old London dry cleaner, was stopped by a police man who demanded to see his ID. He refused, telling him simply, “I am against this sort of thing.”
Mr Willcock’s seemingly small act of resistance inspired a movement.
Soon after, the British Housewives’ League took to Parliament to set fire to their ID cards. Their spirits dampened only by the rain, Beatrice Palmer was reportedly the only woman to successfully burn her registration card, lighting it in a coffee tin, whilst her fellow delegate Irene Lovelock had less luck using a frying pan.
Mr Willcock was prosecuted and the case reached the High Court in 1951, where he found sympathy from the judges. He was given an absolute discharge for his refusal to show his ID. He would be the last person to be prosecuted under the National Registration Act.
In the judgment, Lord Chief Justice Goddard said the 1939 Act was “never passed for the purposes for which it is now apparently being used” and that using the law in this way “tends to turn law-abiding subjects into lawbreakers (…) such action tends to make the people resentful of the acts of the police.”
These words have an eerie relevance to us today. Every word could be applied to the use of the Public Health Act 1984, under which anything from visiting our families to political leafleting is currently deemed a criminal act. History teaches us that emergency measures tend to extend in duration and purpose, often to the disadvantage of citizens.
Does anyone seriously think covid vaccine IDs would not similarly exceed their purpose?
The UK rejected ID cards again after, in the wake of 9/11, then Prime Minister Tony Blair told us we couldn’t possibly fight terrorism without them.
One Boris Johnson rallied against the plans, noting the inevitability of mission creep:
There is the loss of liberty, and the creepy reality that the state will use these cards – doubtless with the best possible intentions – to store all manner of detail about us, our habits, what benefits we may claim, and so on.
In fact, in 2004 Mr Johnson said if he was asked to show his ID, he would physically eat it. So what’s changed?
Again, it took the public’s commitment to freedom to overcome ID cards. NO2ID was launched, one of the most successful public campaigns of the decade, and the plans were eventually defeated.
Ever since, government proposals for ID cards have been periodically revived.
Today, the fight could be harder than ever.
Because it’s not only the 8 different government-funded projects for vaccine passports we’re up against. The Government is also quietly developing a ‘digital identity framework’ so that, for example, we can use facial recognition apps connected to government-approved identity systems to verify our age at the local pub.
It is also soon to introduce an “Electoral Integrity Bill” to require voter ID, despite only 1 ballot box fraud case in 2017 compared with 3.5 million Brits who have no photo ID.
It is only a matter of time before all these ID demands converge into a national ID system – that makes Mr Willcock’s fight against his paper ID card look quaint.
The fight against ID cards is about more than just databases – it’s about protecting the presumption of innocence and liberty, which is the basis of a free society. It’s about empowering citizens against overbearing authorities. We are more than just a number, and registration code, or worse, a vaccine risk score.
At this moment, the UK should be showing courage and leadership to build a freer future – to “set the people free”. Instead, with vaccine IDs and more, the government is offering us a future of more controls, not more freedom.
We’ve all got to do our bit to defend freedom at this perilous moment. We can win this fight again, but we can only do it together. Be a part of the story – join us today!