Security vendor Entrust recently won a contract to supply secure email and digital signature technologies to Saudi Arabia, as part of the desert kingdom's national ID card project.

Once some colleagues and I had run through a few obvious jokes about burkas and what-have-you, we sat back and started discussing it more seriously.

While British ministers try to prove their hard-line credentials, and blithely parrot the line that IT and biometrics will solve all our identity problems, Saudi officials speak of PKI and strong authentication, and adopting a layered approach - using security as and when appropriate.

Could it be, we wondered, that Saudi Arabia - which is not exactly famed as a bastion of liberalism and free thought - will end up with a national ID system that is more practical and less intrusive than Britain's?

It does rather look that way. What a strange state of affairs, and what a sad legacy for Blair and Brown to leave behind them - an ID system more repressive than the one planned by an absolute monarchy whose female citizens cannot even drive their own cars.

Happy New Year, everyone...