Blair takes a spin by Copenhagen

Simon Zadek blogs from Copenhagen. Was Blair worth his carbon footprint yesterday?
Simon Zadek
14 December 2009

Mr Tony Blair led a high-level session yesterday on forests, which as we all now know provides up to fifth of global opportunities to 2020 for carbon mitigation. Blair is the unquestioned master of messaging, so I sat humbly seeking to read the tea leaves in his eloquent words. That said, there is an Obama-like complexity in his dialectics so that it can be a little tough to derive a straight line from the word to the meaning.

Framing his remarks, Mr Blair made clear that his role was to talk about policy, rather than science, economics or some other polemic. So with that in mind, i think what was he said, roughly speaking, was that ‘one needs to accept that this is tough, and that different folks have different views; that the science is agreed, but there are differing views; that there is common cause, but differing perspectives, and that there is lots that can be achieved in Copenhagen, and yet lots to do from next week‘.

Mr Blair’s erudite remarks were of course in large part correct, being a blend of axiomatic and tautological statements. But such accuracy does not serve what I trust was Mr Blair’s intended purpose, to strengthen the chances of an effective deal rather than prepare us and position key folks for a sadly inadequate deal. Yes, we are all challenged here in this compact Northern capital to get to a deal that works, that passes if you like the ‘laugh test of history‘. Yes, there will be weaknesses in whatever is agreed if anything is agreed. But no, we do not need pacifying at this or any stage by great politicians or fly-by pundits, however well meaning.

We need leadership that instills courage not acceptance, and clarity not obfuscation. We need leaders to call what we have by what it is, and to work hard to establish the bar below which spells disaster and to find ways to stay above it come what may.

So thank you Mr Blair for coming by, and I remain as always in awe at your style. But no thank you for your guidance today and please reconsider your messaging, aptly and uniquely communicated, when you pass by tomorrow.

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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