President's questions

Watch a riveting and almost unprecedented exchange between President Obama and the congressional Republicans
Thomas Ash
1 February 2010

Whatever your opinion of Prime Minister's Questions, it at least provides an opportunity for the opposition parties to put the government on the spot and require its leader to defend his or her policies. Conversely, it allows the Prime Minister to respond to these criticisms, so that if they are themselves dishonest in some way they will be less effective than if they had simply been distributed through an uncritical media.

America, with its President separate from the legislature and often removed from the legislative process, has no such institution. John McCain promised to introduce one during the last presidential campaign. But for a taste of what it might look like, and how healthy it could be, I recommend that you watch this riveting and almost unprecedented exchange between President Obama and the congressional Republicans at the GOP Retreat in Baltimore on Friday:

(Points for discussion: is it simply my support for him that makes me think he came out better here? Is his concern about the effects gridlock and polarisation could have on America warranted? If this event became a regular institution, how would it change the character of American politics and of those who ran for President? How would Sarah Palin perform in such a setting?)

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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