2013: ANPR, Scotland’s IT, NHS whistleblowers, ID cards… and Thatcher

My big journalism project this year was co-editing ‘Ring of steel’ for MATTER, on police use of ANPR, published in August. It is now available to read for free on Medium, where you can also read further commentary by me on the subject. In ‘Ring of steel’, writer James Bridle explored the subject widely, partly through drawing on the wealth of material released by Devon and Cornwall Police in its successful defence of secrecy over the location of its 45 automatic numberplate recognition cameras. The main points had first appeared in the Guardian news article I co-wrote in August 2012, but the MATTER article allowed the evidence to be explored fully.

Otherwise, I have chosen an eclectic range of subjects, all broadly linked by the theme of how Britain is run. I spoke to people in Assynt about how they own and run the majority of their (astonishingly beautiful) patch of the Scottish Highlands, and questioned how Scotland would untangle its government IT from the rest of the UK’s. I explored how charity evaluators are bringing rigour to how we donate (something I have blogged on recently), methods that are used by the likes of the Department for International Development in choosing which charities to fund. I talked to two NHS whistleblowers about the hard path they chose and its consequences; and wrote about the often-unpleasant consequences of being TUPE-d.

Aside from ANPR, I took a critical view of the privacy and practicality problems of compulsory smart meters, Britain’s ill-conceived e-Borders project and various branches of authority in the UK asking for ID, despite this government having abolished ID cards.

And talking of ID cards, 2013 saw me publishing my account of that strange episode in recent British political life, in Card declined: How Britain said no to ID cards, three times over. It’s available through Amazon Kindle for £2.99 and in print, through Amazon and some bookshops, for £5.99.

On this blog, the most popular items were about the NHS’s reorganisation last April. The top page in 2013 was this map of NHS England’s local area teams, along with mildly sarcastic commentary about their names. Leaving aside map-based posts, the most popular post of 2013 was ‘Margaret Thatcher, preserver of the NHS. Yes, really’:

While the privatisations she championed moved whole sectors of the economy from the public to the private sector, they hardly touched the health service. Even in England, the NHS remains free at the point of use for all the big things, is still mostly owned and run by the state and performs the vast majority of healthcare work. In Scotland and Wales, the qualifications in the last sentence were almost entirely removed after devolution, despite 18 years of government by Mrs Thatcher and John Major.

Margaret Thatcher’s NHS legacy is that she didn’t change it very much.

And with that festive thought… merry Christmas.