Angela Epstein, the UK's first ID card holder

By Angela Epstein, December 3, 2009
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Angela Epstein with ID card Number 1

Angela Epstein with ID card Number 1

It was a historic moment for democracy, Manchester and for me. Yet the whole thing could have been scuppered by my Shabbat dinner.

Having been invited by the Home Office to be the first member of the public to receive a national identity card this week, I found myself being fingerprinted at Manchester`s passport offices as part of the process.

Yet despite the technology behind the controversial £4.7 billion scheme, the scanner couldn’t cope with a plaster on my finger. It was there to cover a burn sustained while making my roast potatoes on Friday night.

The interviewing officer appeared startled by the glitch (though it was soon resolved when I offered to remove the plaster), but otherwise the process to acquire one of these hotly contested cards ran relatively smoothly.

I had found myself first in line after having been a vocal supporter of ID cards in my weekly opinion column for the Manchester Evening News. It’s not an easy line to take (and may explain why only 1,386 of Manchester’s 2.5 million-strong population have applied for a card). I have been castigated for advocating a scheme regarded by many as an infringement of English civil liberties — even though it is voluntary. Others sneered that the cards are unworkable and that I was wasting my money since the Tories plan to drop them if they win the general election.

Most significantly, some ventured that as a Jew I must be all too familiar with the sinister wartime echoes of having to prove identity. Why didn’t my skin prickle at the very thought of carrying an ID card?

Personally, I cannot see what there is to lose — and there’s certainly everything to gain. An ID card is a portable, convenient way to prove your identity without having to carry something like a passport with you — which is murder to replace if you lose it.

And if it’s another weapon in the fight against identity fraud, illegal workers and terrorism, then that can only be for the good.

Anyway, the personal information the card surrenders is minimal: it holds my picture, name, date of birth, finger prints and signature. I probably give away more every time I swipe my supermarket loyalty card.

It certainly doesn’t state my religious persuasion (traditionally Orthodox — thus the roast potatoes) or my sexual inclination (married to an accountant, four children all by the same father — well, take a guess).

As a Mancunian, I’m proud my city has been chosen to launch the scheme. As Identities Minister Meg Hillier said, the place is buzzing. I think £30 is a small price to pay for something which unequivocally proves who you are. I don’t see anything to worry about . Just go carefully with the roast spuds.

    Last updated: 4:58pm, December 3 2009