Not "fucked", but "normal"

12 April 2005
In the openDemocracy blog oD Today, Anthony Barnett (founder of Charter 88 and openDemocracy) argues that that British political system is totally fucked.

But in at least one respect, the application of blunt rules regardless of sense by Britain’s civil service, it is very much business as usual.

Yesterday, openDemocracy received a draft of an introduction to the forthcoming climate debate by Professor Sir David King, the UK government’s chief scientific advisor.

The introduction is a model of clarity and good sense – ideal for the launch of the debate on 21 April

But, within hours of receiving the article, we are told that in no circumstances may we publish the piece until after the UK general election, on 5 May.

Civil servants, it seems, are supposed to go into “publishing purdah” in the run up to a general election in order to avoid any accusations of bias in the system.

The irony is that Sir David’s article is totally non controversial in the British political context. UK political parties - from the Conservatives to Plaid Cymru - are falling over each other to say they take the challenge of climate change even more seriously than the others.

Caspar Henderson

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

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