Snooker is real!

3 May 2005
It has been a wonderful sunny spring ‘bank holiday’, the strange term for a Monday that turns a weekend into an official three day break in the UK. It ended with millions of us glued to the snooker. This is another particular aspect of life on our islands. I have always found it odd and parochial for the Americans to talk about ‘The World Series’ in a sport that they are almost alone in playing to first-class standards. But we too have a ‘world championship’ in a sport few nations share. Today Shaun Murphy, 22 years old and a 150 to 1 outsider beat the still young 27 year old Matthew Stevens by 18 sessions to 16 in a gripping final, played out over two full days, to become world snooker champion. It was as if the general election had been turned off by the weather and an authentic competition of sustained nerve, strategy and quality. Televised in close up, with a hushed commentary, character and calculation are played out ball by ball. There is no artificial pumping of crowd enthusiasm. Restraint governs the intense focus of players and spectators. The championship lasts for over two weeks. In the first round where games last less than a day, the odd smattering of competitors from the Far East (including Australia) are eliminated by players from the British Isles (including Ireland). The final is played to the best of 35 sessions. Today’s went to the wire with 34. When it was all over, I channel hopped and there was Tony Blair defending himself over Iraq, pretending it was his decision. There was a tremendous lowering of energy, expectation and belief. The charade was unbearable. Sport has become the location of the real. Real names comments weclcome

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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