A Routemaster WHEN I heard that John Hutton, the Work and Pensions Secretar y,
was installing lie detectors in his department, I was filled with dread for our Government. How can any New Labour minister survive in the presence of a device which establishes whether or not they are telling the truth? Mercifully, and I know you'll be as relieved as I was, it turns out that the new-style lie detectors are only going to be used on benefit claimants. For the politicians, we'll have to stick with the old-fashioned analogue verification technology already in use (John Humphrys).
Joking apart, I really am filled with dread plus a new but growing feeling, contempt at our Government's latest brutal demonstration that we are all suspects now. Liedetectors for all (don't imagine it will stop with benefit claimants) are part of a quite fundamental change
Routemaster rollicking in our relationship with the state, summed up best by ID cards. How glad I was to read over the weekend that the Government expects 15 million people to rebel.
We used to be presumed innocent until proved guilty, truthful until proven otherwise. Soon, we'll be presumed to be lying until we can produce a piece of plastic to show we're who we claim. In a deeply painful irony, our honesty as citizens is being called into question by some of the most blatant and proven liars ever to hold ministerial office.
It's not as if there's even a real problem to be tackled. No one has yet explained what ID cards are for. And as for benefit fraud, it has already fallen by nearly two-thirds, to just [pounds sterling]700 million a year, 0.2 per cent of the Government budget.
There's also a very important subsidiary theme at work with both lie-detection and ID cards: New Labour's naive reverence for technology, its touching belief that computers and machines hold the answers to our problems.
Anyone who actually uses computers in other words, everyone knows just how fallible they really are. But Tony Blair and his top ministers are probably the last people in Britain who've never touched a keyboard in anger.
Anyone younger than them will have grown up with IT. Everyone else of Blair's age has had to learn how to use it. But Blair is senior enough, and busy enough, to have other people to write his documents and fire off his emails.
Maybe he still secretly thinks of technology in the terms favoured by Tomorrow's World in the Seventies.
In fact, and I'm sorry to break this to the PM, there is clear evidence that lie detectors simply do not work. Fourteen out of the 15 main academic studies which have examined their effectiveness, in fact. …