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http://www.opinion.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2006/03/27/do2701.xml&sSheet=/opinion/2006/03/27/ixopinion.html

Labour isn't wicked - but it's doing just what the Nazis did

By Danny Kruger

(Filed: 27/03/2006)

Imagine we had a really bad government. I mean morally bad, wicked: a government that wanted to do something terrible, like abduct children from their families or introduce euthanasia of disabled babies. It couldn't happen, right? We wouldn't let it, would we?

This Government isn't morally bad. For all its frequent cock-ups, our ministers are well-intentioned, trying to do right by their own lights. Just now they find themselves caught out in the secular equivalent of simony, the sale of offices and indulgences for cash.

But simony is the natural vice of politics: in the cant phrase, it goes with the territory, where power and money meet. Indeed, the purchase of contracts and peerages used to be part of the normal business of politics, in times when human relationships counted for more than abstract individual merit.

We may think this is wrong, but we cannot think it is new.

The real fault of this Government is not its shady dealings, the tennis parties at Michael Levy's house where "Tony" "drops in".

The proper crime, the actual innovation in turpitude, is happening in plain view - like Poe's purloined letter, it is there before us on the mantelpiece, in the laws that Labour is passing.

Tyranny is sidling in. It is entering with face averted, under cover of a host of laws whose ostensible purpose is the reverse of their actual effect.

The Human Rights Act, for instance, was presented as a means of defending the individual against oppression by the state. Similarly, the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, whose stealthy insinuation into British law the Government is conniving at, gives us all entitlements to social and economic "protection".

But these charters comprise sweeping generalisations whose confusion gives judges the power to create legal precedents ex nihilo; and though they may occasionally be used to frustrate the Government's wishes, their effect is to swell the remit and responsibilities of the state.

The old principles of equity and tort law, by which private individuals could accommodate their interests to each other in a natural and rational manner, is giving way to a system of arbitrary and artificial power.

The same inverted logic applies to the ID card scheme. The Home Office minister Andy Burnham, in a letter to the Observer yesterday, asserted that the cards are there "as a protection", to stop "identity theft".

Never mind that the system will use cheap chip-and-pin technology, which has already shown itself vulnerable to fraud. Ministers evidently believe our identities can be protected only if they are owned by ministers themselves.

For ID cards will not belong to us, but to the state: the Home Secretary will be able to revoke any individual's card at any moment, by the touch of a Whitehall button, rendering him or her a non-person, cut off from all the transactions in which freedom consists.

It is not exaggeration to say that the National Identity Register will give the government both knowledge of, and control over, your life. A photo of your face, your fingerprints and a scan of the back of your eye will be recorded, as well as 49 separate pieces of information, including your residence and your religion.

Every outpost of the state, and every outlet that operates under licence from the state (including shops selling cigarettes and alcohol), will have access to the register.

You will be required to acquire and carry a card proving your identity. The scheme will be compulsory, by the sly device of making us get one when we renew our passports: people will be banned from travelling abroad unless they register.

But even within Britain, it will soon be impossible to live a normal life without an ID card. Labour's horrible inversion of logic means that if something can be done, it will be done.

Shops and restaurants selling cigarettes and alcohol will find themselves required to demand ID to prove they have not sold to minors, and to log the sale. Banks will jump at the chance to tap into our doings, compiling exhaustive records of our spending habits that they will then sell on to other companies.

The alternatives will soon be submission to this corporate Leviathan, or setting up a barter economy on a Hebridean island.

And then there is the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, which is presented as a means of repealing red tape and therefore restricting the reach of the state.

But the Bill, quite simply, gives any minister of the Crown the power to "make provision amending, repealing or replacing any legislation", meaning "any public general Act", or indeed "any rule of law".

It cannot be used to impose taxation or create criminal offences bearing a prison term of more than two years, and there is also a cursory requirement for debate in committee.

But given that the Bill has been nodded through by pliant MPs - even the Conservatives let it by without a murmur, imposing only a one-line whip on the second reading - we cannot place much trust in the vigilance of our politicians.

For the final twist of the Bill's logic is that it will apply to itself: ministers may use its powers to remove its own limitations, and enable the government to make or repeal any law whatever.

The Regulatory Reform Bill is an Enabling Act, identical in spirit to the one the Nazis passed in 1933. On that occasion, Hitler promised that "the government will make use of these powers only insofar as they are essential for carrying out vitally necessary measures...

The number of cases in which an internal necessity exists for having recourse to such a law is a limited one." Our Government says much the same about the legislation it is passing today.

But our concern should not be with today or tomorrow, but with the day after tomorrow, when different, nastier politicians might be in power, and the habits of decency and common sense have been even further eroded.

We have already seen how officious policemen have used legislation designed to deal with terrorists to arrest protesters armed with nothing more lethal than placards.

Perhaps I was wrong when I said our Government isn't morally bad - that it wouldn't abduct children or enforce euthanasia of disabled babies.

Already there is legislation going through Parliament to set up state nurseries - "children's centres" - for under-fives. And a Royal College is actively campaigning to let babies born under 25 weeks die, rather than receive costly intensive care.

Both ideas are bad enough. But it is only a small step - a twist of logic of the sort this Government is adept at, and which its laws will make perfectly possible - to make state nursing compulsory, and extend infanticide to babies born with defects.

"Surely some revelation is at hand." Yeats's rough beast is moving its slow thighs, slouching towards Bethlehem to be born.