Observations from the Compass conference

Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
20 March 2010

I went to the Compass 'What the hell do we do now?' conference on Thursday, aka 'Do you have a theory of change, please?' A lot of the discussions were inside the comfort zones of the left. But John Harris, a Guardian regular, had a sense of the chasm that's now opened up between the public and the political class.

I went to the workshop on Culture led by Jeremy Gilbert. A discussion of NGOs and telling stories that touched people veered into an exchange about capitalism. Jeremy said that freedom is irredeemably collective, which struck me as stretching things. Jon Cruddas agreed that we need stories that are allegories for the state of society and how it can change. At the end of the afternoon John Harris was scathing about the socialism of stealth we've had to endure from New Labour. 'Never Again!', so far as he is concerned. Only he put it more wittily.

I've heard Labour Party members talk about the need for an alliance with the Lib Dems. But it has always been heavily tactical and party-centric. Harris was different and refreshing. He called for a pluralism in which Greens, Liberals and progressives of all kinds were the platform along with Labour. It was genuinely anti-tribalist. Neal Lawson summed up, we would reconvene after the election. The watchwords were: Endure, Organise, Recover.

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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