Data funnelled from NHS to private companies will ruin your insurance

Listening to the radio yesterday, it wasn’t all that surprising to hear that the Conservatives were overlooking the selling of private data from NHS medical records to third parties. The Conservative government are aching to make money from any and all methods.

Not too long ago, I wrote about the issues that I had faced getting life insurance. A history of mental health issues means that I am unlikely candidate for life insurance and therefore, if I got hit by a bus tomorrow, I wouldn’t be able to help my partner pay for the house with anything other than the pittance in my savings account.

The reason why I bring up the mental health issue in regards to the selling of your medical data to third parties is because third parties can be advertising firms, betting companies, social media platforms, media companies and, of course, insurance companies. Advertising companies and betting firms are one thing – we can block these if we want to and not all of us are subjective when it comes to companies trying to sell us crap on the old interweb machine.

Insurance, however, has the ability to wreak havoc on our very lifestyles in a very real way. If a motor insurance company has your data and finds out that you have diabetes, they may reject your claim. Now, diabetes is already labelled on insurance questionnaires which already drives up premiums. But let’s say that the same insurance company also knows that you visited the hospital twice in the past six months because you had concerns regarding your insulin levels. You have just become a higher risk despite taking twice daily blood sugar checks and managing your diet. The insurance company doesn’t care. The data says you have visited hospital for concerns regarding your health. Your premium just went up. The car needed for work is suddenly unachievable because, on a tight budget, you cannot afford to drive to work.

Data was worth more in 2019 than oil. Your attention and how to gain it has an incredibly high price. Data regarding your health is a completely different ball-field. Algorithms can now predict your ailments before you know what they are yourself. If you have a loyalty card with Tesco and you suddenly have cravings for certain foods that are associated with pregnancy, the algorithms at Tesco can spot that trend and start advertising baby products. And then, bam. They know about it before you’ve even peed on a stick. You’re scratching your head and wondering why you are getting coupons or emails for reduced baby clothes…

Cambridge Analytica proudly promote themselves by claiming that they can sell things to social media users by using over 5000 pieces of information that they have acquired for every user whose data they examine. We know this to be possible. If insurance companies use this kind of algorithmic technology, it means that they could very well predict what ailments you may or may not have in the future depending on your medical records and those of your elders. You might never develop any hereditary diseases or illnesses but that doesn’t matter too much because the insurance companies are looking at probability, possibility, and risk. Health insurance, life insurance, travel insurance, car insurance, worker insurance – these are all now at risk and so is your very ability to purchase a new house, go on holiday or the opportunity to own a car.

“Politics of Envy”

As humans, we want. It’s in our nature. It could be something trivial, or it could be something vast and seemingly unachievable. For instance, I want to end the climate crisis and make sure that we stabilise the now fragile ecosystem. I don’t know if I want that because I can’t fathom a life without nature and an abundance of animal and plant life, or whether it is because, on a primal level, I fear for my own survival and that of my family.

But there is so much more than that. As someone who was raised in a working class family, I want a house. I want a roof over my head and a bed and car so that I can live my life in comfort. If I’m being honest with myself, that’s not all I want. As a working class person, I want the same kind of life that I see other people living. A wage that would not just buy me a car, but a car that is better for the environment than the grade of car that I can actually afford.

But I am being envious of those who have. Because I am someone who does not “have”. Why is expecting the same level of comfort or wanting more money to achieve fiscal security envious?

We are told that if we want to earn more, we should work harder and progress. That we should have a stronger work ethic. Maybe we should become entrepreneurs and make something new or get a skill that is in demand. This raises the question: why does the person who works all the hours under the sun just to get by earn less than someone who came up with an idea? After all, we are not all inventors. We don’t all spot some diamond in the rough that we can mine and make our riches. Many of us are just hard workers who turn up day after day to a job that we don’t care about but that brings in money to get us by. And we are told that we don’t have a good work ethic? That we lack dedication?

We are made to feel like we are not as deserving as someone who had a bright spark of an idea. What is worse is that “politics of envy” is not a term commonly used by people who have built a life for themselves from the ground up. It is used most by people who were born into wealth. People who have never known what it is to be working class and who have never had to worry about getting food on the table.

The very term “politics of envy” is in itself a clear indicator of the psychology of its users. It is to highlight a distinction between an “us” and “them.” The “us” have it, the “them” don’t. The phrase also drips with a disgusting level of contempt that the average worker. When this kind of phrase is used by someone within the upper echelons of society (someone like Jacob Rees-Mogg for instance) it has biblical and thus sinful connotations. Most disdainfully, it feels like a language of an authoritarian looking down at the lowest rungs of society.

Do you know Carole Cadwalladr?

I ask because Pulitzer Prize nominee and Guardian journalist, Carole Cadwalladr, is going through a pretty strange time right now and it amazes me that the story isn’t more widespread. Especially considering just how intrinsically it ties into our modern political structure, and just where this little island of ours is heading.

But what makes me bring up Carole Cadlwalladr? Well, Cadwalladr’s house may very well be repossessed. And why? Because she is currently in court against Brexit-barking-bulldog cum “entrepreneur” of questionable (perhaps illegal) background – Aaron Banks.

The charge? Banks is claiming that Cadwalladr made libellous and defamatory remarks about Banks’s actions throughout as part of the Leave campaign during the 2016 Brexit referendum. The remarks claimed that Banks had been part of a conspiracy using questionable money to fund a Cambridge Analytica scheme which aimed to win votes for Brexit. They did this by plying people with tailor-made advertisements to Leave the European Union.

Cambridge Analytica has long since shut down but, in its prime, the company boasted that it could sway the average voter by using targeted advertisements. Do you want to sing God Save the Queen? Europe want to ban the UK’s national anthems. You like guns? The Democrats want to take your guns away. Vote Trump. It was that kind of targeted campaigning that made the difference in votes both within the Brexit referendum and within the US presidential election of the same year.

Cambridge Analytica gained access to social media user data through Facebook who, as we now know in large part thanks to Carole Cadwalladr’s reporting, sells data to third parties. (Interesting aside – the selling of data generated more income last year than the sale of fossil fuels. This is the first time that this has ever happened.) With the data provided by Facebook, Cambridge Analytica claimed that they could sway voters by studying the 5,000 data points that they had on each social media user.

Where does Aaron Banks fit into this? Well, Carole claimed that Banks was, in fact, breaking campaign spending rules in order to promote the Leave vote. The wider implications mean that the decision to leave the European Union was, in fact, illegal. This claim besmirched Aaron Banks’s reputation. Unlike the United States, where libel laws are far more relaxed, Cadwalladr is being taken to court and could potentially lose her house as a result of hefty litigation fines.

Libel lawyers are rife in London and it is the work of these firms that stop the publication the names of those people believed to be harbouring offshore bank accounts. Aaron Banks is utilising these services to make Cadwalladr suffer, despite that she was only doing her job and duty as a journalist in making sure that those people who work in shadowy ways are exposed and that the courts are able to properly administer justice.

A tweet from Carole Cadwalladr (22/10/2020)

Cadwalladr has made a world of difference when it comes to investigating Facebook and their profiteering from the selling of user data. As far as we can tell, Cambridge Analytica tried, and perhaps succeeded, in manipulating voters to sway them a certain way. With that in mind, are we seeing justice provided in the Banks V Cadwalladr (not the real name) case, or are we seeing a man’s wealth succeed in blurring the lines of the truth and potentially ruining a journalist’s life?

Lack of preparedness for Covid-19

Much of the UK breathed a sigh of relief when Rishi Sunak claimed payouts for business and that employees would be given 80% of their wage whilst on furlough. However, despite being the Chancellor of the party “for business”, they offered not much shy of a middle finger to the self-employed.

The problems are myriad and systemic and, despite Boris Johnson standing outside No.10 and clapping for the NHS, have been created by the very government now trying its best to make a show of appreciation to the public services and other key workers.

According to the latest Private Eye (1520), the UK came 2nd in the Global Health Security Index which ranked countries according to their ‘”capability to prevent and mitigate epidemics and pandemics.”‘ So what went wrong? Why is it that a country that came 2nd in such an index had such a sluggish response to the Covid-19 emergency?

For the most part, it was Boris Johnson attempting to keep the country open for business. Secondly, the NHS was ill-equipped to deal with such issues due to outsourcing. This was the process by which different sections of the NHS’s prime functions were disbanded between private companies. Thirdly, and this is still under debate, the government’s stance against the European Union may have stood in the way.

Communications regarding the government stance have also been slow in coming largely due to the fact that the Central Office for Information (the office responsible for communicating to the country at times of war and emergency, was slashed and eventually dissolved completely in 2011 as a result of austerity measures. It was an easy choice because it was seen as an invention and tool of the “nanny state”.

Instead, communications come through third party agencies and were therefore slow to be put together. Boris Johnson has also had to rely on the BBC coverage of daily briefings, that very same organisation that he is trying to break up and throw to the wolves.

As climate change alters our landscape, we are expected to suffer at the hands of new and old diseases. Malaria, new strains of Coronavirus, you name it. That raises the question of just what are we going to do the next time around if another pandemic were to happen?

Hopefully, we won’t have Boris Johnson or his supporting cabinet who seem to think that lying would make for good policy when it comes to talking about PPE, death tolls and testing kits. We should also reverse any privatisation of NHS services and we should look more at publicly-funded emergency systems whether it is a designated communications network or pre-fab buildings ready to be up and running in a few days time. What is for certain – we need to stop focusing on media spin and how politicians look as opposed to what they are actually doing.

Journalists aren’t the only ones to blame for our lack of faith in the media

There are some shoddy journalists out there. People sitting at desks rehashing actual stories but adding their own spin and coming up with click-bait headlines. We see it all the time on our social media feeds in random articles that pop up somewhere no matter what we’re looking at online.

But, there is also good journalism, and this needs to be recognized.

A recent poll by Sky showed that faith in journalists is at an all time low. “I don’t trust the media” is a common phrase I hear on the talk radio shows to which I’m addicted and this is reflected in the Sky poll. It’s also something I hear a lot in conversations at work and among friends.

If that was really the case, we wouldn’t buy newspapers, we wouldn’t share the articles with which we agree and we would be completely uninformed about the world around us if we didn’t at least take notice of the headlines. We do trust the media, we just don’t trust the media that disagrees with us and our worldviews. Knowing this, newspapers kindle that prejudicial flame.

Think of journalists that you don’t trust. It’s hard to bring up a list of names. Now think of a journalist you do trust. It’s also very hard. Now, think of a newspaper you like, and a newspaper you don’t like. It is much easier. It is much easier because we don’t like the institution. In America, it is much easier. Donald Trump repeatedly slams the New York Times and the Washington Post but frequently tweets about his satisfaction with Fox. People who distrust Trump would therefore likely side with the New York Times and the Washington Post and vice versa.

Many will struggle to do this. Now think of a newspaper or news station you don’t trust. That is much easier. Now, think of why you like one newspaper. And then think of why you hate another. Why?

Newspapers and news stations are bias. The Guardian’s coverage of antisemitism borders on negligence. The Telegraph’s pandering to Tory ideals is pure sycophancy. The Daily Mail’s previous owner, Paul Dacre, ran along the same lines and the paper pumped out who-knows how many hit pieces on anyone even remotely leaning toward Remain or Labour.

Yes, they lean and they pump their agenda. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t also uncover truths that the powers that be would rather remain in the dark. Buzzfeed is a prime example. The organisation started off as one of the most avid producers of click-bait pieces, but it also generated one of the most illuminating pieces of long-form journalism on Russia’s interference on in UK politics, and political assassinations on UK soil.

We are bias. Since Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, the western world has become polarized. You are a Leaver, or a Remainer. You are a “never-Trumper” or you are a MAGA maniac. Now is the time we need to stop listening to populist figures of leaders of the opposition, and start looking once again at the stories in the news. Go one step further and buy a paper or listen to a news station you don’t usually agree with. Buy a different paper every day.

If you don’t trust the establishment, don’t listen to the establishment. Listen and read everything else. Don’t just question what doesn’t agree with you. Instead, question everything and expand your horizons.

It is exactly because of Trump and Boris Johnson’s current veto of publications into his briefings that journalism, (the decent, scouring through information, digging through dirt and coming up with stories) has become so much richer. Trump waged war on the media. You can either roll over, or you can fight back with new and improved tactics. That is what much of the media has done. And that is what we should also do.

We need to be less distracted, and more attuned. We need to talk to people and read the opinions of people with whom we do not traditionally agree. Because somewhere between the two versions of events is some kind of truth, and sometimes, whether we like it or not, that truth might lean more one way than the other.

We need to trust more in the journalists, and less in the leaders. It is journalists that hold people to account. It is investigative journalism that has uncovered human trafficking rings, fraud, the MP expense scandal, the Panama Papers, Richard Branson’s tax evasions…the list is endless. Papers get it wrong, but they get so much more right. With the obvious exception of The Express. That paper is just pure trash.

The Lie of the “Northern Powerhouse”

The Northern Powerhouse brings to mind the coal burning days of old. Of industry and progression. Of manufacturing and textiles and everything in between. It was a concept developed by the coalition government (2010-2015) to try and boost entrepreneurial endeavours and transform the north into a hub of industrial and innovative excellence.

But was there ever any real determination to make sure that the plan became a reality, and that government would stick to its vision of a brighter and stronger future for the north?

An article released in today’s Guardian claims that “almost half of new jobs in England in the last decade were in London and the south-east, despite only a third of the population living in that region”. In the last decade, 1.8 million jobs were created in London and the south-east whilst only 0.6 million jobs were created in Yorkshire and the north-west.

The north-east has fared worse than most regions with a mere 1% of the total number England’s job increases. The area also has the lowest average disposable income.

The north has been let down by the governing politicians of the last decade and the term rendering the phrase “northern powerhouse” little more than a term to throw about when doing the election rounds. It placates by offering a vision, but the reality is that there is very little substance in it.

It is not only ruling governments which have let down the north. Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the party historically known for championing the working people of the northern territories, has often been hailed as more of a “metropolitan socialist”, focusing his energy in the capital.

Is it so surprising then to see the “red wall” of the north being dissolved by suspiciously highly-funded Conservatives?

But will the Tories boost the north as Boris Johnson seeks to “level up” the country, or will they fall short like the governments before them? The closure of multiple automotive manufacturing plants in the face of Brexit and the general downturn of trade expected as a result of leaving the European Union predict a slowing of the economy and therefore not much hope for drastic change.

Phrase dissection: “Politics of envy”

Anyone reading the news nowadays would be remiss not to have noticed the surge in populism over the past few years. 2016 especially saw a seismic shift that only few people with their ear to the ground were able to predict.

With the rise of populism came a rise in factionalism and tribalism.

Socialism, democracy, capitalism, republicanism and liberalism pulled out the stops, jumped online, onto the pages of opinion pieces and the pages of newspapers and started swinging.

With competing ideologies came a rise in word-warfare and phrase-flinging.

Politics of envy

This is actually a phrase that’s been used for years by high earners, Tories taking swipes at other parties, and people of a certain class who disagree with liberal, democratic or socialist thinking.

If workers and/or unions believe that employees should have better wages, a place in boardrooms or at least a stronger voice in the workplace, they are deemed to be suffering from envy. Even people who think that higher earners should pay more tax are also often thrown under the “politics of envy” banner.

So, anyone on a lower rung of the socio-economic ladder who wishes to get ahead or go further in life.

But the phrase itself needs some dissecting.

Those people who are very well off have a tendency to protect themselves, their companies, and their profit margins. Businesses progress by making sure that they repeatedly turn a profit. This is because they have a duty to give their shareholders a healthy return on their investment.

But companies are only as good as their employees. If a construction company such as Persimmon Homes generates a multimillion pound profit, is it because of the person who started the company or because of the crews who worked through all weathers to build homes?

Work is the biggest killer outside of natural death. Workplace accidents. Slips, trips and falls. Muscular-skeletal injuries. People breathe noxious and hazardous substances. Later in life people will experience back problems, breathing difficulties, cancer through exposure. A vast array of problems from a lifetime of arduous work.

There is a romanticism about “an honest day’s labour.” Earning an “honest living.” There is truth in this. Working laborious jobs and seeing a job completed comes with an immense amount of satisfaction. But that satisfaction of a job well done should come with a wage that mirrors the worker’s toils. But those toils have a heavy toll on the body and, often without financial security through sustainable wages, on the mind.

On the other hand, higher earners have a longer life expectancy and are far less likely to suffer from those physical detriments that are incurred through physical labour.

Is it therefore politics of envy to want more money for your efforts or to want a certain quality of life? Or is it just politics of what is fair? After all, people sacrifice themselves.


“Politics of envy” is a phrase used to dismiss any kind of socialist thought, even that kind of socialist thought to which most people adhere. Like wanting a free NHS. Like wanting the more wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes or perhaps wanting to redistribute wealth.


Is it fair to claim that ordinary people looking for true representation within the political system are suffering from politics of envy when modern day politics is controlled by the dispersion and directing of capital?


So is it really politics of envy? And even if it is, how does that compare against those who partake in the politics of greed?

Cut disc

I have suffered from Sciatica for a year and a bit now. In most cases, Sciatica disappears after a few months. In this case it kept on for 14 months, until yesterday.

I had an operation called a discectomy in which part of the disc pushing onto the nerve was cut back, allowing my Sciatic nerve some breathing space.

I am now sofa-bound. Every time I get up and walk around it feels like my midriff is going to just snap and I’ll end up doubled over, my eyes looking between my feet.

The anaesthetic was amazing. Some clear liquid and an oxygen mask before the white liquid, the main barbiturate solution, pumped in.

‘Do you feel a bit light-headed?’

I nod and the next thing I know I’m waking up in another room. The surgeon tells me something that I think is meant to be important but I have no idea what it is. Why do they have to tell you how it went when you’re out of it? For all I know I could have been left paralysed but missed the memo.

I was given an egg sandwich and a cup of tea. I chilled and listened to the radio. It was a pretty easy recovery, until I got home and the pain meds wore off.

A new nuclear power struggle

On 8th August, the inhabitants of Moscow were surprised when their televisions flicked from their standard programmes to a blue screen with a single star. It was a weather warning telling the people to find shelter. It then disappeared leaving people wondering just what had happened. At the same time in Severodvinsk, a small town in the North-West not far from the Finnish border was exposed to gamma radiation 3x higher than is permissible for human health after an explosion at the nearby Nyonoksa top-secret testing facility.

The explosion at Nyonoksa facility killed several including nuclear scientists. Russian weather service, Rosgidromet, recorded levels of radiation 16x higher than normal levels within the vicinity of Nyonoksa. In true Cold War style, residents were quick to stockpile iodine, known to stop the Thyroid from absorbing radiation. The explosion killed several including nuclear scientists working on the project.

After more correspondence it was finally let on that the explosion was down to the failure of an “isotope” power source. Russia was testing the infamous Storm Petrel missile at the Nyonoksa site. The Storm Petrel missile – called Skyfall by NATO – was unveiled by Russian president Vladimir Putin at the State of the Union address in 2018 and boasts a propulsion system powered by a miniature nuclear reactor which gives a potential flight time that could be measured in days, weeks or even months.

Having extended range plus cruise-missile capabilities – meaning that it can change direction, move around objects and evade interception – would mean that the missile would be harder to detect and defend against.

Another new and chilling piece of kit that Russia are working on – Poseidon – is an autonomous drone submarine which is programmed to unleash nuclear warheads on key enemy locations on the US west coast should Russia “go dark.”

Due to a series of agreements, Russia and America have not tested nuclear devices for twenty years. However, Russia have breached the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. Donald Trump responded by removing America from the pact. The New Start agreement which ensures Russia and the US have a limit on how many intercontinental nuclear missiles they can produce, runs out in 2021 and may not be renewed, thus giving America and Russia free reign to progress their arsenals and potentially make another power grab.

The US has been stepping up spending in nuclear warfare infrastructure with former President Barack Obama developing a $1.2tn plan to “maintain US air, sea and land-based nuclear weapons.” Donald Trump has gone much further putting an additional $500bn including $17bn for the production of a “low-yield” tactical nuclear weapon, essentially a mini-nuke that can be used on the battlefront.

It is rumoured that some factions within the Pentagon and within the defence contractor sector believe that Russia’s move away from agreements is a step in the right direction.

America’s nuclear defence capabilities are ageing and therefore, like many wars before, this will drive innovation and strengthen America’s standing.

Tensions are rising not only between the US and Russia (who between them hold little over 90% of the world’s nuclear arsenal) but with China, Iran and North Korea all flexing their muscles, we could be looking at the age of a new Cold War with new frontiers.

The point by point scaling up of nuclear armaments is not the only evidence of a new Cold War. Russia and China flexed their muscles during the Brexit and Presidential election campaigns with industrial scale levels of spreading disinformation. Seeing their success during these campaigns, Vladimir Putin is pushing further. At what cost?

Is the Queen going to be dragged into Brexit?

It is almost written in stone that Boris Johnson is set to be the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Boris has claimed to be dedicated to the Brexit cause countless times and his campaign to become the next PM rests solely on his ability to convince the people and the Conservatives that he is willing to keep a No Deal Brexit on the table.

The choice to keep a No Deal Brexit comes as a bid to secure support from the Euro-sceptic European Research Group (ERG) which is headed by Jacob Rees-Mogg – who has endorsed Boris Johnson – as well as support from other Conservative leave-leaning Conservative members. Boris Johnson has said that he would prorogue if negotiations were not secured which would provide the U.K with some kind of deal.

Proroguing is essentially the act of suspending parliament in order for the acting Prime Minister to pass a bill without contest.

By offering this result if negotiations are not successful, Boris Johnson is effectively appealing to both sides of the Conservative voters; those who want a soft Brexit and those who would prefer a No Deal scenario.

Proroguing is a means of circumnavigating parliament who are entitled to exercise their rights (and sovereignty) to vote on the outcomes of bills. This is no longer the case as Boris Johnson has claimed that he is not against proroguing. However, if this were to occur, the only way that Mr Johnson would be able to push through a No Deal, is if the Queen herself allowed it to happen.

This scenario does raise some concerns.

Proroguing would pull the Queen into matters of state which is against the notion of impartiality that the British monarchy is demanded to uphold by government.
If the Queen is asked by government to speak for the country and she denies the right to a No Deal Brexit, we are not only back to square one, but there will also be resentment from staunch Leavers and Euro-sceptics toward the Queen and the monarchist system.

The right to exercise one’s own power, to uphold sovereignty and to run with the empirical history of Britain’s past were crux issues of the 2016 referendum. If the Queen exercises her power and moves against No Deal, will the people decide that they no longer want the monarchy or will they accept the Queen’s decision to exercise her power, a cause for which the Leave vote was cast?

If, on the other-hand, the Queen moves in favour of No Deal, the U.K will be looking at a (already proven) decline in trade, transport and services as major service providers have already sought sanctuary on mainland Europe to continue to offer their trades to the rest of the trading bloc. Staunch Remainers would also be dismayed and morale and national spirit would undoubtedly hit rock bottom.