openDemocracyUK

Can you get worse than Woolas?

Labour MPs should not defend a racist liar because he is a colleague.
Stuart Weir
12 November 2010

Let's hear it for Harriet Harman!  Her instant and unequivocal renunciation of Phil Woolas, ex-MP, spoke for the decent Labour Party, one that voters might indeed trust, which I would like to see established under Ed Miliband.  The protests from a gang of unreconstructed Labour MPs that she is somehow pandering to the tabloid press while Woolas deserves the party's backing is a sign that Labour has someway to go.

Labour's parliamentary party has always, in my political lifetime, included a gang of right-wing thugs who regard themselves as 'pragmatists'. they mean by this that they will pursue what they see as the party's interests and the protection of their own seats and influence, undeflected by principle. (Blair has kind words for them in his memoir.) Woolas is a bully and one such 'pragmatist'. It was not by coincidence that he was given the immigration portfolio while Labour was in power.

His sin was not that he lied about his Lib Dem rival. As Gore Vidal has observed, be prepared to lie if you go into politics.  What he did was far worse. He lied to foment and exploit racial tensions to discredit his opponent.  The judges who ruled against him clearly found that he was guilty of unacceptable conduct on the facts of the case.  To argue that Harman should have kept quiet while his appeal was underway is worese than equivocation. The appeal can only be on the legal technicalities of their decision, not on their findings.  And on that score no one who is half-way decent could stand aside.

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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