In the 'Nick' of time

Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
22 April 2010

Tomorrow, I hope oD will publish an overview on the electoral insurrection now seemingly underway in Britain. In it I say that "popular desire for real reform has lifted the Lib Dems onto its shoulders". One reason for this is that in the course of the first TV debate the party's leader became instantly know as "Nick". I was laughing about this with Jeremy Gilbert at the University of East London, where I'd been to speak at a colloquium on the meaning of the election (if you wish, you can listen to all three hours here). It's not always that this name tagging happens. Even with Blair, 'Tony' was an uncertain identification. Unlike 'Ken' or 'Boris' when you instantly know who is being referred to. Jeremy agreed. He remembered someone predicting that Kinnock would never win an election because he was never popularly known as Neil (whereas Thatcher was known as Maggie). Will the same rule apply to Brown, although he is sometimes referred to as Gordon, and to Cameron, who is never known as David? Go to it, Nick!

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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