Technology in Tony Blair's Party Conference speech

 by Martin Belam, 28 September 2004

Tomorrow's newspaper headlines will be full of protest, Iraq, and hunting when they discuss Tony Blair's keynote speech to the 2004 Labour Party Conference. Naturally it was the references to technology that pricked up my ears - and there were two in his section on "ten things a future Labour third term can do for Britain's hard-working families". At number seven:

"ending the digital divide by bringing broadband technology to every home in Britain that wants it by 2008"

That isn't tantamount to promising free broadband for everyone, but it clearly has implications for the way that BT is currently rolling out broadband to its' exchanges. Coming just after Ofcom settled on 2012 as the date for analogue TV switch-off completion, it looks like the government are pinning their hopes on getting the country to go digital via their computers before their television.

More worrying was point number nine:

"We will introduce identity cards and electronic registration of all who cross our borders."

So that's it then - the thin edge of the electronic ID wedge - and all the easier for the public to swallow as it is a measure against the asylum seekers the right-wing press has done so much to demonise in our society. We don't need ID cards, and we don't need to carry them around with us. Until, of course, it dawns on the press that asylum seekers are getting away with whatever it is they are currently supposed to be getting away with because they are using stolen identities that belong to people who aren't required to carry ID because their identity hasn't 'crossed our borders'. At which point it is mere months before we are all enrolled in a compulsory ID scheme for our own good. Despite there being little evidence that a nationwide ID Card scheme can achieve anything except fuel a black market economy in fake ID Cards.

Prior to my heart sinking over the ID Card issue, a highlight, as an avowed congestion charge fan was the Prime Minister's praise of the Mayor of London - part of his speech guaranteed to play equally to those who remain on the left of the Labour party, and those to whom Red Ken is still very much the scourge of our great city:

"And remember when to be in favour of gay rights was to be a loony leftie, race relations was political correctness, and Red Ken frightened people even as brave as your own leadership?

Now the parties compete for the gay vote, unite against the BNP and Ken has led and won the debate on congestion charging and community policing."

I'll leave the last word to someone from the BBC News Have Your Say site. In amongst the regulation balance of pro-Tony and anti-Blair comments on the speech from our audience was a gem of succinctness:

His speech should have only 2 words: I resign.
Rakesh, London, UK

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