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Ties that bind

25 February 2005

Last night to the Iran Heritage Foundation for their seminar Children of the Revolution.  Participants included Christopher de Bellaigue and Ali Ansari. The event was chaired by openDemocracy contributor Rouzbeh Pirouz.

A good event - if you could get in, that is.

Because the event was held at the Royal Automobile Club, which requires men to wear ties.   And, this being the 21st century 'n all, a number of us turned up smartly dressed but sans cravate

The RAC keeps a menagerie of soon-to-be-ex-ties for precisely such occasions. But the ties ran out.

Imagine if you will, a thick scrum of males - the dodgey and the dignified - but all tieless, roiling through the RAC lobby as the club staff scraped around for neck attire.   There were no more ties!

I tried a line about ties being "incompatible with my cultural practices". The doorman gave me a look.

But the day was saved. New ties appeared. I was awarded a formica-plastic-yellow one - a nice contrast with my blue and red checked shirt.  The tie had what appeared to be bits of sick on it, but turned out on inspection to be part of the design.  Eh voila.

The irony is that in Iran ties are pretty much verbotten.  I hope to go there this summer, fun and games permitting.

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.


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