Monday, November 21, 2005

Compare and Contrast

How interesting. How absolutely fascinating.

I was fulsome in my praise for Neil Harding in my post this morning largely because of the valuable service rendered in the pursuit of reason:
He has conducted the discussions in such a manner as to allow the issues to be thrashed out properly. This is sterling work and, sadly, a rare occurence in politics. What is even more notable and infinitely precious is that he has faced up to the force of argument arrayed against him and chosen the path of reason over dogma. He has been convinced to change his mind.
Complex issues require complex arguments, detailed analysis and, most of all, time. It takes time properly to argue an issue - the ID card battle chez Harding took almost a month to reach a conclusion - time which is not (and cannot be) afforded in any MSM outlet. Furthermore, complex arguments and detailed analysis tend not to play to the lowest common denominator and are hardly ratings winners. So it is therefore unremarkable that political debate in the MSM is too constrained to allow for anything but cheap shots.

On this note, you don't get much cheaper than the behaviour of the Immigration Minister, Mr McNulty, which prompted this letter from the author of the LSE's report on the cost of implementing ID cards:
Sir - What is going on with this so-called "debate" on ID cards? While appearing on the BBC's Hardtalk last week, immigration minister Tony McNulty claimed that, at a recent meeting in the House of Lords, the LSE had "admitted" that its estimate of the cost of ID cards was "hopelessly wrong". We made no such statement, and no one who attended that meeting could possibly make that inference.

This is typical of how debate over ID cards has degenerated into grand-standing and misrepresentation. With some minor adjustments, we stand by the figures we published in our June report. The reason our calculations differ from those of the Home Office is that we focused on the cost of implementing the scheme across government, while the Home Office estimated merely its own departmental costs.
Where to begin? Who is to blame? How can the race to the bottom be halted? It's enough to make you wish for a benign dictatorship...

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