Monday, 26 June 2017

There's nothing wrong 'women's sport'; it's just different

Yesterday I was one of the smattering of fans who actually paid to go to Leicestershire’s Grace Road cricket ground to watch the opening group game of the ICC Women’s World Cup.

One ‘Cricketeer’ volunteer muttered to me ‘You must be one of the few that has paid’. If you take away passholders, parents of children who were guards of honour and members of the gospel choir arranged as entertainment during breaks in play he was probably right.

‘I wouldn’t be here except for the fact I received a discount as a Leicestershire member’ was my reply.

It’s a shame because Pakistan v South Africa was an excellent game. But it certainly wasn’t the same standard as a Leicestershire County Championship game, let alone any team plying their trade towards the top of the professional leagues.

I loved every minute of yesterday’s game, it’s just that it was undoubtedly Women’s Cricket. The physicality between journeymen professionals and those at the top of the women’s game could not compare. The women playing on a much smaller pitch, obstructed annoyingly for those at the ground by a fence placed for sponsors but preventing any supporter seeing a four being scored, was testimony to the difference. Women’s Cricket is women’s cricket; something to be supported and enjoyed but very different from the male variant. The same can be said of women’s tennis or women’s soccer.

The whole point is calling a game ‘Women’s’ is no bad thing.

In virtually every sport women play on a literally different playing field. Not lesser just different.
Clearly I am not a woman and my generalisations are just as sweeping as those of Matt Butler in his iNews piece ‘One day women’s sport will be known as ‘sport’’ but a couple of weeks ago my wife, in her youth a keen sportswoman, was invited to take part in a Prosecco cricket match.

For the first time in years she said ‘Yes’ to sport. She loved the fact that the game could be enjoyed with the promise of a swig of Italian fizz every now and then. She loved the competitiveness but not the testosterone fuelled sort associated with the male game.  She was more than happy to being playing the woman’s game.

And isn’t that the point? Calling a sport Women’s Cricket is no more demeaning than watching colt’s rugby or wheelchair tennis. It is a different variant of the sport. Nothing more, nothing less.


Next Sunday I will be back at Grace Road watching the South African women face off against the West Indies. I won’t be expecting to see the same style of game I might when Leicestershire play against Durham the next time the County Championship rolls up at Grace Road. It won’t have the big sixes putting car windscreens at risk, but I have no doubt it will be a top level example of what it is. Women’s cricket. 

Wombles and a way back? Thringstone Miners Welfare - my Community Voice column

At my mother’s house, tucked away somewhere at the back of a drawer, there is an old black and white photograph of another age.

The picture, protected by a cheap plastic frame and decades of being shut away, shows no signs of fading. It’s an image which will stay with me forever.

Even in monochrome you can see the photograph is of a scorching summer day and there I am, just four or five years of age, stood proudly with cherubic cheeks glowing dressed as a Pearly King. Next to me stands a small girl just a year or two younger dressed as a gypsy, the 1970’s were undoubtedly far less culturally sensitive than they are now.

And alongside us? A giant Womble. Even after all of these years I can still vividly remember the day that I met Orinoco, I think, that slothful protagonist amongst the litter picking residents of Wimbledon Common.

Things didn’t get much more exciting for an infant schoolboy growing up in the East Midlands in those days; and to make things even better a week later the photograph appeared in The Coalville Times, I was famous too!

That photograph was taken when I won first prize in the fancy dress competition at Thringstone Miners Welfare Gala. In those days the annual Gala always, in my mind at least, held at the peak of a seemingly endless summer was a big deal.

Gala day would see a parade throughout the village; brass and marching bands, decorated floats and, of course, the ubiquitous Gala Queen and her princesses aboard a horse-drawn carriage (or much more likely a pony and trap).

The Gala itself would be held on the Homestead Road football pitch at the Miners Welfare. Teams of burly young men, most now pensioners, would display their machismo in the Tug of War whilst their wives and girlfriends would enjoy a Cinzano and Babycham in the sunshine as children enjoyed the stalls and sideshows.

We don’t have events like the Gala anymore, isn’t that a shame?

The Thringstone Miners Welfare Centre has for many years been a part of village life, I even had my ‘surprise’ 18th birthday party there, but like most of us over the years it started to deteriorate.

In 2011, in a partnership with Riverside Housing Association and the North West Leicestershire District Council, a brand new centre was opened to serve the village and its residents.

These days the centre is the home of a playgroup and mother and toddler group as well as being home of Thringstone Miners Welfare Football Club, historically a Leicestershire Senior League team that has had mixed fortunes on the pitch in recent years.

Earlier this year I was asked if I would like to help the centre out by becoming the Chairman of their Trustees. I jumped at the chance, this place was a part of my growing up, a hugely important part of our village.

A few years ago as a Councillor I asked for the Miners Welfare to become a polling station at election time, it was an ideal facility with disabled access and a private car park. I’m sure many of you reading this will have cast your vote there very recently. If you have you will know what a great community asset the centre is.

Over the coming years I would love to see the centre used far more by members of our community. There’s even plans to develop training facilities that will allow more young people to get involved in the sport and maybe help return the club to a higher level on the field.


Keep an eye out for developments and opportunities at Thringstone Miners Welfare, wouldn’t it be great to see it once more as the fulcrum of our community? I can’t promise any Wombles though. 

Are we about to return to the extrme? My Coalville Times column

A few days ago I was sat at home when my telephone pinged to tell me I had a message. As happens most days it was from those nice people at Facebook reminding me of posts that I had entered on that day in years gone past.

On this particular day my reminder told me of a discussion I had back in 2009 on the day after the County Council elections. I was dismayed, as were the many people who had responded to my post, that voters in the Coalville division had just returned a member of the British National Party as their representative at County Hall.

My actual words, something which I now find regrettable and silly but included here for the sake of completeness, were ‘We’re a town full of racists’.

I abhorred virtually everything that the BNP stood for and undoubtedly many of their policies were racist but, looking back, my less mature self was startling in the simplistic view that it took.

Of course Coalville isn’t full of racists. What we were after years of economic decline was a town that felt it had been left behind by the political establishment, whose people were unlistened to and for whom many had found an outlet in a politics of dissatisfaction echoing the better days of years past.

If Coalville had, as my original slur implied, been full of racists it goes without saying that the BNP would be still occupying council seats now; as it was it took just one term of office for local people to see them for what they were.

But moving away from an extremist party didn’t automatically mean that people in this area felt any more connected to politics in general. This area, entirely understandably, continued to have strong voices for anti-establishment politics whether through UKIP as a party or BREXIT as a concept.
In an election all any of us ever do is lend a political party our vote. No politician has a right to expect support from one term to the next, it is incumbent on all of them to earn those invaluable crosses on our ballot papers every single time.

As I stood at the parliamentary election count in the early hours of last Friday morning it struck me how for the first time in my memory a significant majority of us had chosen to lend our votes not to parties of dissent but to one of the two historic parties of power.

Up and down the country, in vast numbers, voters had returned to that binary decision of Labour or Conservative and have entrusted the political establishment not to let them down.

The difficulty now for both parties will be in trying to earn the future support of such broad churches of views or will issues important to people right here in this district will once again be forgotten?

Last year the overwhelming majority of voters in North West Leicestershire who took part in the EU referendum voted to Leave.

What will happen if now through political necessity BREXIT is watered down? Will those who stridently argued for it simply say ‘OK’ or will they, once again, feel like they are not listened to?
We are all only just getting over this General Election so predictions about what might come in five years, or potentially five months, may be a little hasty but what happens if and when voters feel ignored once more?

Will we see a resurgence of UKIP? Or, far worse, whatever guise extremists have chosen to take by that time?

Our politicians have been given the most complex scenario ever imposed by the British public; a scenario of delivering their most difficult diplomatic mission ever with no real mandate from the electorate in how to achieve it.


Is it a mission which is now doomed for failure and all of the implications that entails?

Playing politics with the public's anger could lead to more disaster - my Catholic Universe column

As I have got older, I’m sure that this happens to us all, it strikes me that it is amazing how quickly that what we accept to be normal changes.

It was my birthday this week and I am still only in my mid, some would say early, forties yet my youth seems a different world away. I can remember a time when I was old enough to be at work but nevertheless a time of phone boxes, A to Z’s, not having to worry about average speed cameras but having to worry about carrying cash to pay for parking and vending machines.

Even just a decade ago the world was very different.

It struck me this week how in just a few short years the way that we see the world has altered massively. Let me explain.

Back in the summer of 2011 my wife and I booked a summer holiday for our family; we were going to take the children to a campsite we had visited a couple of times before in Holland. The place where we stayed was an idyllic location for an annual vacation: bike hire, fairground rides, pancakes; what more could you want? We were also, just six years ago pretty much cut off from the outside world.

Now clearly in 2011 we had by today’s standards fairly primitive ‘smart devices’ but what we didn’t have was connectivity. Our campsite didn’t have wi-fi; using the telephone network to transmit data would have been exorbitantly expensive. So for a week we simply lost touch with home; millions of holidaymakers in the past had done it, I’m sure many still do.

But it is only when you have been ‘off the grid’ for a period of time, as we were then, that you realise how much things can change whilst you are away.

We caught a late afternoon ferry back from Calais and started back from Dover in the early evening. As we driving around a free moving M25, and I had finally been given permission to put Radio 5 on, we heard for the first time that, amongst other places, we should avoid the Enfield area. Coincidentally Enfield was a place I knew relatively well from working there for a period of time and we were literally just at the turnoff for the town on the motorway.

We obviously drove on as instructed and wondered what had been happening since we were away.

You will no doubt recall in that period that we had been out of the country the Metropolitan Police under the auspices of Operation Trident, a major unit that had been created to tackle gun crime and gang activity in London’s Afro-Carribbean community, had shot dead a known gangster: Mark Duggan.

After a long hot summer, and in fairness a lifetime for the many feeling that they had been left behind by society, tensions rose and for around a week rioting sporadically flared up around the country.

I live in a quite, relatively privileged, part of the world and, I am certain, can in no way claim to know what it is to live inside the inner cities that flared up that late July and early August of 2011 but it seems to me that all of the ingredients are there for a recipe of civil disturbance this summer that Britain has not seen for years.

We have seen in the past week the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire. At the time of writing it is not clear how many souls have been lost as a result of that awful incident or the exact reasons for the cause of the fire but it is entirely possible to come to a conclusion that those residents who did manage to escape with their lives were part of a large proportion of inner city society who have felt left behind and unlistened to.

We do not know at this point if cladding, rumoured to have little other purpose than making a down at heel tower block look more appealing to upmarket neighbours, was a contributory factor to many deaths; we don’t know if sprinkler systems could have saved lives; and crucially we don’t know how many other similar towers are at risk. But we do know without hesitation that many residents had been warning of their concerns for months in advance and that they felt that their worries were not being adequately addressed by those in positions of power.

In many ways the death of Mark Duggan was a trigger for the anger of the left behind, it is entirely possible that the Grenfell Tower tragedy, or even a seemingly inconsequential incident that follows it, could act in the same way.

It seems to me that in actual fact the risks and the potential for civil unrest in this summer of 2017 are even greater.

We have just come out of an election period in which the country demonstrated perhaps clearer than ever that it is divided. Theresa May asked for a clear majority and what she ended up with was something far less whilst the Labour Party crowed about exceeding all expectations.

Let me be clear: Labour and Jeremy Corbyn had an outstanding election campaign but democracy spoke and Labour lost unambiguously.

But now we hear of the Shadow Chancellor calling for marches of a million or more to kick the Conservatives out of power; we hear Mr Corbyn positing the unprecedented requisitioning of private property as a response to a tragedy and we see many on the political left blatantly seeking to make capital from the loss of innocent lives.

Look no further than Labour MP Clive Lewis who in the wake of the tragedy incited who knows what with a tweet stating ‘Burn neoliberalism, not people’.

Given the events of the past week I hate to use the analogy, but our inner cities are a tinder box ready to burst into flame and there is a real argument that our politicians are just one step away from being the spark required.

It isn’t just our politicians though who need to be more considerate at this time.

Since my journey back from Holland all those years ago the way that we live our lives online has changed dramatically. For many of us, if not most, a significant proportion of our real lives are spent on social media in a virtual world.

That virtual world is a place where we can say what we want without real repercussions. Except it isn’t. The tropes that we share online, look no further than those awful websites The Canary and Skwawkbox, are full of mistruths, exaggerations and hugely biased versions of fact which any reasonable person would dissect within minutes.

Except we don’t. We accept lies as truth, nuance as an alien world, and far too many of us promulgate the message unhesitatingly.

We must stop. Because what we share does influence people and does manifest itself as actions in the real world.

There is every possibility that sharing rubbish without thinking to someone that we potentially don't even know could well be the trigger for the next outbreak of civil disobedience.

Our country is at a very difficult crossroads. A year ago we asked the Government to negotiate a withdrawal from the EU, two weeks ago we looked to hamstring that decision.

There is a possibility that extremists calling for a hard BREXIT could be every bit as dangerous as far left protesters inciting removal of the government.

And we in the middle have a choice. We can either continue clicking on ‘share’ to perpetuate myths and calling for the downfall of democracy or we can take a step back and think.

Never has there been a greater need for grown ups. We all must choose to be just that right now.
  


Wednesday, 31 May 2017

What are Labour's plans for faith schools? Christians need to know.

If you have ever been to a Labour Party meeting, an experience that I'm sure most of you reading this piece today have never enjoyed, you will know that many members on the far left of that party totally and utterly hate the Tories and everything that we stand for.

It’s a hatred that I really haven’t encountered since I joined Conservative Party. I’m sure that many Tories have no liking for Labour but the visceral contempt for our opposition is something I just haven’t encountered. But that really is a story for another day.

You see, from all of my years of going to Labour Party meetings, there is one other thing that jumps out as being despised as much, if not more, than the Tories amongst those same members.

They hate religion. They ridicule believers and save there highest contempt for Christians.

You will often find atheists, agnostics and humanists amongst the ranks of the far left and their greatest vitriol is held over for faith-based education.

Try mentioning faith schools at Labour Party meetings and wait for the howls that ‘there is no place for  religion in education’, you will see what I mean.

It’s for that reason as a practising Catholic and writer that I am more than a little worried in that remotest of possibilities,  a Labour Government next Friday morning.

Nowhere in the Labour manifesto does is mention faith schools.

What you will find however are causes for concern if you are a parent whose children attend one.

Their manifesto claims that ‘Labour will ensure that all schools are democratically accountable, including appropriate controls to see that they serve the public interest and their local communities.’

What does that mean? How do diocese fit into that structure of democratic accountability? Or, maybe they don’t?

The manifesto goes on ‘We will require joined-up admissions policies across local schools to enable councils to fulfil their responsibilities on child places, to simplify the admissions process for parents and to ensure that no child slips through the net.’

Will faith based criteria find its way into those ‘joined-up admissions policies’? Or, will that not be acceptable in a modern socialist Britain?

Of course I could be scare-mongering, but just think for a second.

We know that the last moderate Labour government changed admissions procedures to prevent a majority of places being allocated on the basis of religion in new faith schools. We know how that prevented Christian denominations from seeking to build new schools.

If that was a moderate Labour government then what will an ideologically pure one do?

You won’t find much about faith schools on Labour websites but cast you net a little wider into the hinterland of left wing politics and it becomes much more illuminating.

The Socialist Party, formerly Militant, are no fans of faith schools. In 2014 on their website the party questioned ‘whether faith schools should have any place in our school system at all’.

Around the same time the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) were posting on their website ‘End private, sectarian and religious schools. Quality education for all.’ Before going on to state it is christian schools of all denominations, with catholic schools at the forefront, that are the largest players in the sectarian delivery of education. Following the advice of the Jesuit priest Gracian – “Give me a child of seven and I’ll give you the man” – they aim to indoctrinate in a manner that will dominate their pupils for life, ensuring the ongoing power of their anachronistic institutions.’ 

Is it mere chance that Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, described himself as a Marxist? Is it a coincidence that both fringe parties in this General Election are campaigning for a Corbyn victory?

The truth is that disagreeing with faith schools is a perfectly laudable position. I disagree profoundly but other reasonable people would support such a stance.

The real worry is that with this Labour Party we simply don’t know what their intention is for the future of faith schools.

Practicing Christians, parents and grandparents have a right to know before they go to the ballot box next Thursday.


Monday, 29 May 2017

Tough but honest May wins over Corbyn's optimistic fantasy - my Catholic Universe column

For newspaper columnists General Elections are both a blessing and a curse. For once there is absolutely no difficulty in coming up with a topic on which to opine, the downside of course is that every other columnist has the same story staring them in the face too.

It can all lead to column metre after column metre of newspaper text all dedicated to the very same topic: how stultifying.

It is for this very reason, dear reader, that so far I have very consciously stayed away, in newsprint at least, from pontificating on the subject of the upcoming general election for so long.

But I can’t stay quiet any longer. It’s all just too much. Manifestos have been published; car crash interviews with representatives of all parties have gone viral online; and by now a fair few of you will have already returned your postal ballots after they started falling onto doormats over the past few days.

You see, about a week ago now I received a message asking me if I would like to be one of the panel guests on a regional variation of BBC One’s Sunday Politics show. As is usual with these sort of things I was briefed, in general, the direction that the debate would follow.

‘We’ll be talking about the manifestos,’ the producer of the show told me, before indicating to my immense relief that we would in all likelihood only have time to discuss the parties most likely to form a government.

As a result I can testify that I am in actual fact one of the minute proportion of voters in this country who has, you know, actually read the whole of two election manifestos.

Perhaps incorrectly I am assuming, dear reader, that you have not found yourself  in a position where going from back to front cover of these lengthy tomes has been a necessity so I shall try and summarise them for you very succinctly.

In 2017 there is two things that you notice about the Conservative and Labour election manifestos. They are both, thankfully, very easy to read. Unfortunately they are also both immensely boring.
It is fair to say that for the first time in my lifetime there is clear blue water between the offerings of the two main parties, however not just in policies but in tone.

Labour’s manifesto is one the likes of which I have never read before. There is, in actual fact, a great deal to like about the optimistic tone it is written in.

After two years it is generally known that I am no fan of Jeremy Corbyn but there is much to like about the manifesto his party has put forward.

In all seriousness who could not want free hospital parking, free school dinners, 10,000 more bobbies on the beat, free university education, billions upon billions put into health and schools, pay rises for public sector workers, a significantly increased minimum wage, increased paternity allowances and huge additional amounts being put into welfare payments?

It really isn’t a surprise when voters are asked whether they support such policies for the purpose of opinion polls that overwhelmingly they say ‘yes’.

The problem is that people do tend to say ‘yes’ to free things right up until the point that realise that very little is actually ever free and, indeed, nothing delivered by government actually ever is.

And that is where the optimism of the Labour manifesto stops. It is quite a dark concept that if you want to make things look free then you have find a bogeyman whose door the actual bill can be left at.

In their prospectus Labour have found three groups of dark figures who, they believe, the wider electorate will be willing to let them reap the true cost of their project from.

The ‘rich’ will find themselves paying more. If you are not quite sure whether you fall into that category just check if you are earning the same or less than an MP, if you are on the same then congratulations! Your income falls just short of the amount that can be earned before your tax rate increases significantly.

Businesses will find themselves subject to increased corporation tax. But at a time when many are considering whether Britain, given our withdrawal from the EU, is the best place to base themselves, and the hundreds of thousands of families who rely on them for employment, a Labour government is seeking to significantly increase their tax burden.

The final group who will be presented with the responsibility of meeting Labour’s spending commitments are, wait for it, you and I. Well, when I say ‘you and I’ obviously what Labour would like you to believe is that it will be the bankers through a ‘Robin Hood’ tax. The difficulty is that the billions potentially raised through such a tax directly impact on pension funds, the funds that you and I save for our retirement.

Whenever I go out canvassing in elections from time to time, or for that matter even at the pub or at church, I am used to hearing one thing about politicians: ‘they all lie’.

The Conservative manifesto really is an extraordinary piece of work. It highlights the challenges that the country is going to be facing over the coming years, not just BREXIT but equally major issues like the huge problem of how we tackle social care for older people, and actually tries to come up with workable solutions.

It places issues, like the withdrawal for most retired people of the winter fuel allowance, absolutely front and centre and risks alienating a voting group that has traditionally voted Tory, and why?

Because it seems Mrs May knows that it is the right thing to do.

Of course many elderly people need the winter fuel allowance payment, and they will still get it, but crucially many do not. We have to ask why then, when finances are exceptionally tight, are we paying it?

To my mind, and in fairness in the mind of many retired people that I talk too, we cannot. But it is a very brave politician that highlights a problem and tries to address it not in a way that garners the most votes but in an equitable, fair one.

It’s quite possible to argue all day long that you disagree with the contents of either manifesto but one fact is true. We hear that politicians are ‘all the same’ patently taking note of the gap between policies in the Labour and Tory manifestos, they are not.

In a few weeks we have a choice to make.

Do we want to vote for a party who has based it’s platform in the fantasy land of spending untold billions and a promise of it only affecting the rich? Or, do we want to support a party basing their admittedly more boring agenda, at a time when Britain is facing unprecedented change, in reality?

For me the answer isn’t difficult.


Monday, 22 May 2017

Cyber threat highlights why public sector must work with private firms - my Catholic Universe column

Fifteen years ago I was working for a local authority in the north of England. I managed that council’s Council Tax and Business Rates department and at the time our computer system was on the verge of becoming obsolete.

It transpired that prior to my arrival at the council our then suppliers had contacted the authority to give them contractual notice that at a certain date they would no longer be supporting the software and that either they could continue using it without support, and more importantly a lack of updates following legislative changes, or they could buy a new and in all likelihood far more expensive system.

To all intents and purposes upon my arrival the council had been sitting on this information for a number of months and I had no choice but to recommend that we go to the market to buy new software as a matter of urgency.

We soon discovered that there were three or four suppliers of this type of system in the market and that, for a district council, the packages were inordinately expensive running over a few years into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Nevertheless with changes to legislation on their way we had to have one.

After a short procurement period we chose our supplier and awaited our new system.

During the period of time between ordering our system and the go live date a strange thing happened to me. A representative of the computer supplier said to me one day “we really like the way you operate, why don’t you come and work for us?” With an attractive package on offer I found it very difficult to say “no”, so I didn’t.

After working my notice period a few months later I started work at the IT suppliers. I worked in the ‘services’ department and within a very short period of time I was told that my role was two fold. I had to help our customers, the council's that we worked with, to get their computer systems up and running. My second task was to sell “services”.

You might ask what “services” are, I certainly did, and the answer was very, very simple. Anything that wasn’t in the contract that the council had signed.

Local authorities, I was told, commonly would sign what they thought were comprehensive agreements when in actual fact everything that they received was very clearly stipulated in the legal contract.

I was a little shocked at this at first. Was this profiteering? Was this why, as I kept being told, the private sector should have no place in public services?

I asked a senior manager who made what must have been an oft-repeated argument to me: ‘Our customers get everything, everything their contract stipulates. It is not the responsibility of this company to handhold local councils nor is it our problem that as a whole the are tremendously awful at contract management.’ Of course that last quote isn’t a direct one but it is very much along the lines of what was said.

And, of course, that Executive was absolutely right. There are some things public bodies are outstandingly good at; looking after sick and vulnerable people, teaching our children, processing benefits to name but a few; but there are others where they, not to put too finer point on it, are inept.

After having some experience in the field I wouldn’t trust many public bodies with negotiating a contract, or managing a project, or running an IT system.

Simply put too many public sector administrators do all of those things in addition to their day jobs and there are people out there, most in the private sector, who can carry out those roles more effectively and efficiently in the long run saving taxpayer money.

The reason I raise all of this is the news last week of cyber attacks on the National Health Service.

Last week, around 48 NHS organisation's found that they had lost access to their computer systems as a result of them becoming infected by a piece of software known as ‘ransomware’.

Using flaws in systems criminals are effectively able to take over computers, encrypting the information stored on them. These cyber attackers will only release the data when a usually fairly modest ransom has been paid using an all but untraceable, but very real, online currency known as Bitcoin.

The effects on the National Health Service were significant. Some General Practices were unable to access patient records, automated fridges for dispensing blood shut themselves down and in one incident an MRI scanner stopped working with an anaesthetised child inside it.

The attack on the NHS was by no means isolated, it was reported to have affected companies including Nissan and Renault as well as German train operator Deutsche Bahn and global logistics giant FedEx. In total 99 countries were reported to be affected.  

But the attack had probably it's most notable, if not potentially most severe, impact on parts of our health service. We are still not absolutely clear whether patient records were put at risk or not.

It transpired that the attack had been made on computers running the long obsolete computer operating system Windows XP. You won’t have seen this operating system on a home computer in many years but still, on a relatively large scale and despite warnings from government, some NHS organisation's continue to use it.

There are a plethora of reasons why this may be the case. It could be that some applications still in widespread use don’t work well with later versions of the operating system; it could be that existing and often expensive hardware and medical equipment doesn’t support newer software; it could be because IT support is inadequate; and patently it might be that trusts have prioritised resources in other directions.

But whatever the reason patients have been jeopardised as a result of IT failings.

It is impossible for any government to mitigate all risk. No one can say with certainty that they could have prevented last week's cyber attacks.

Similarly it’s impossible for any government to be immune to criminality and events which take place outside of their control; look no further than the mooted ban on laptops and tablet devices on transatlantic flights which we are told, given terrorist advances in explosives, is an inevitability.

But we must keep sight of the fact that whether it’s the procurement of a computer system or cyber and terror attacks any government would be remiss in assuming that there is no benefit in working closely, even delegating authority to, the private sector.


Yes private companies are there to make a profit but they are our friends and our co-workers.

Sometimes they are better placed to have the skills that our public services rely on.