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Alex Deane: Why I won't be completing the Census

Census By Alex Deane

I'm not going to fill out the Census form that I received yesterday. I thought that I would write a piece here to set out why.

During my happy time at the helm with Big Brother Watch, I became more and more concerned about the level of government's intrusiveness in this country. Whilst I am certain that things are heading in a better direction under the Coalition than they were before (I am particularly heartened by many aspects of the Freedom Bill), I'm afraid that the advent of the new government has not fixed all ills.

I have thought this for a long time about the Census, and I didn't stop thinking it when I left my full time work with BBW. The Guardian now carries an article about the issue, and my views are accurately reported there. 

My view is not unorthodox. Indeed, as I've explained on this site before, my view is precisely the one held by the Conservative Party before the election - that the Census in this form is "invasive and intrusive". I am not opposed to a head count per se. I understand the need to know how many people there are in the country in order to provide services.

But my local authority knows I'm here - I have to re-register for the City of London's electoral register every year. Beyond that simple need, I do more than question the need for this form: I think that this 32-page Census is wildly excessive. It's not a marginal question, not one that is in doubt - it is completely unacceptable in my view (again, for what it's worth, my view is no more than that held by my Party in oppositioin).

One's threatened with the law in relation to the Census, of course - just as our bullying bureaucracy likes to threaten us with punishment to ensure that we bow down to them over just about everything. But millions of people won't bother to complete the form without ramifications - three million didn't comply last time, and there were fewer than 100 prosecutions. I daresay that perhaps I'm putting myself in a different category by publicly setting out why I won't do it; we'll see.

I don't imagine that there's much to my not-very-grand gesture, I don't think of myself as some great martyr - at worst it will end in a Charles-Moore-and-the-licence-fee-esque, not-with-a-bang-but-a-whimper appearance in a drab Magistrates' Court some months down the line - but despite any irritation it might bring and despite my constant desire for an easy life, I just can't bring myself to put pen to that particular paper. There's something about the act of physically signing something that means completing this form, given what I believe and all that I've said, would be profoundly hypocritical and I can't and won't do it.

At the risk of seeming dreadfully pretentious - perhaps because I am being so - I have thought about this rather a lot. I have never broken the law before, so forgive me for overthinking it - there are certain parallels that come to mind. Why can't I bring myself to complete and sign this dreadful nonsense, even though there's no real harm that will come to me personally if I do, and the avoidance of potential pain is assured if I do? Because it symbolises all that's wrong with modern Britain, and I don't want to go along with it. Because it is my name. Because I cannot have another in my life.


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