Home

England, a country of the mind

The tendency to press reality into a heritage mould traps England in political aspic, says David Hayes.
David Hayes
19 September 2011

A mix of orchestration and spontaneity gives much of English middle-class sociability its characteristic texture. Each season offers respite from the pressing obligations of everyday life in the form of a national event-cycle marinated in familiarity yet flexible enough to accommodate new arrivals and rituals which (again in very English fashion) gradually acquire the patina of timeless “heritage".

In the June–August summer months, and with many regional and local variations, this means school holidays, exam results and (now) gap years or adventure trips; the Wimbledon tennis championships, test cricket and (now) the start of premier-league soccer; the Royal Ascot and other horse-race meetings, and (now) pop-rock concerts in the gaps; the Proms classical concerts in London and (now) the Glastonbury music and Hay-on-Wye literary festivals. Once in a generation, there may even be a royal wedding - or an Olympic games.

Around such markers of comforting tradition, amid the captivating uncertainties of the weather, aided by the copious quantities of alcohol that are obligatory at every English social gathering, and against a backdrop of enjoyable “silly-season” trivia in the media, the rituals of spectatorship and participation (and, now, ubiquitous sponsorship) cluster: an enduring parade of the generations in what amounts to an extended reprieve from familiar routine.

But at regular intervals, at the outer edge, comes a commotion and… CRASH! A brick shatters the facade of this serene world and forces those inside to take cover. From their cowering position they glimpse the masked outsider responsible for the outrage, and shiver. Shaken, angry, a little chastened, they take stock of the damage and compete to condemn the intruder’s violent act. Then, as order is restored and confidence returns, the survivors start to peer cautiously into the gloom and to ask with a slightly embarrassed intensity: why did that happen, what is its message, and what must we do to avoid it recurring?

[To continue reading in Inside Story, click here -]

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.

Had enough of ‘alternative facts’? openDemocracy is different Join the conversation: get our weekly email

Comments

We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData