The Real Thing

8 July 2005
I had a call from Sam in the office warning me not to get the tube as there had been a power surge at Liverpool Street. Then a shout from my partner, "its the real thing". I had left my computer at the office! Unlike Bill Thompson (see below) I had to fall back to the steam age and watch television. I saw a police officer tell me he was in operational control of my city and everyone should stay where they are. The mobile phone connection went dead. It was terrible over the course of the morning to know that people were dying below ground. There was one advantage of watching TV. You could see how the broadcasters were eager to stir, seeking sensation, demanding to know about panic and alarm! Despite this, even when shaken and bleeding, eyewitnesses were careful and matter of fact. This morning, I went down to catch the tube. I missed a train. Saw it pulling out in front of me. Usually I curse at the prospect of a wait for the next one, as London Transport is not famous for its frequency and reliability. Today, as I saw the carriages pass, my heart filled and I smiled. There were full. Everyone was behaving - no, was choosing to behave - as normal. On the next train too. We were all there, the ugly and the attractive; the resigned and those with hope; even those with haliotosis - I was glad to see them all. A friend said when she walked out this morning she saw buses with more people on top than below. Deciding to go about your business as normal is not the same as everyday normal. It makes the everyday a small act of freedom. Fearless? No, it isn’t rhetorical or exaggerated. It isn’t war. It is simply choosing to live. And I did not have to wait too long for the next train either.

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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