openDemocracyUK

Washington Post on Henry Porter's novel

Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
4 February 2010

There's a great review of Henry's book just out in the Washington Post by Patrick Anderson. Here is a taster:

 

English journalist Henry Porter's "The Bell Ringers" (published in England last year as "The Dying Light") is one of many novels that have attempted to update "Nineteen Eighty-Four" -- and one of the more impressive. But while Orwell offered a worst-case scenario of what could happen 35 years in the future, Porter is writing about what, as he sees it, is already starting to happen. He declares in an afterword to his novel, "I have not made anything up: the law is all there, ready and waiting . . . a fact that very few people in Britain perhaps appreciate." He has in mind not only the reality of England's ubiquitous surveillance cameras, but laws making possible "the suspension of travel, seizing of property, forced evacuation, special courts and arbitrary detention and arrest." In Porter's fictional England, a cynical and ruthless -- but outwardly genial -- prime minister named John Temple is creating "an utterly new species of vindictive technological totalitarianism."...

 

... early action takes place in a rural community where people are being harassed for refusing to carry the new national ID card. They are the "bell ringers" -- people who do ring bells in church but also are secretly fighting to protect civil liberties. The prime minister, Temple, wants to call a new election to consolidate his power, but first he wants to crush the opposition. When an outbreak of red algae occurs in several reservoirs -- probably from natural causes -- Temple declares it a terrorist plot, suspends the constitution, and fills London with soldiers and detention camps. When one patriot insists that people won't tolerate mass arrests, another, more of a pessimist, says, "That's the pity of it . . . they'll think the government is protecting them. They'll be reassured." That, finally, is the question: Do people care?

This is a sophisticated, engrossing and important political thriller.... 

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.

Who is bankrolling Britain's democracy? Which groups shape the stories we see in the press; which voices are silenced, and why? Sign up here to find out.

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