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A new direction for M&S?

[flashvideo filename=”http://sjhoward.co.uk/video/sandm.flv” title=”Spoof Advert” /]

If the voice sounds familiar, you might be interested to know that the venerable Lynn Parsons has featured on this site before – almost four years ago. Video courtesy of MBaker68.

This post was filed under: Video.

Jesus joke to go feature-length

You saw it here first – Javier Prato, the maker of this film (which first appeared on this site over a year ago) has been offered a multimillion pound deal to make a feature-length version. Really. He has. It’s true.

This post was filed under: Notes.

MTAS: Doctors want Hewitt to go

Patricia HewittThere’s a danger of this turning into the MTAS blog at the moment, but I can’t hide my incredulity at the complete and utter failure MTAS has been.

Now it emerges that Patricia Hewitt was told about the problems with MTAS security (covered here and here) by the British Orthopaedics Trainees Association a month ago, yet chose to do absolutely nothing about it. She knew that intimate details about doctors’ personal lives could be viewed by others, and even modified by them, and yet chose to take no action. If that doesn’t make her personally liable for prosecution under the Data Protection Act, I’m not sure what would.

Lord Hunt has confirmed today that the MTAS system is down, and he’s no idea when it will be back up. Until then, doctors will be missing interviews, because there is no mechanism in place to communicate the times and dates of these interviews to them. And he refuses to guarantee that the process of matching doctors to jobs will be completed by the August deadline. What he plans to do if it’s not is a mystery: Leave doctors without jobs and hospitals without doctors?

Patricia Hewitt has agreed to appear on Channel 4 News next week. Other than resigning live on air, I’m not sure what she can say or do to make up for this absolute shambles. Junior doctors have today voted for her to go, and I don’t know if she can survive the pressure long enough to go when Blair goes, as she inevitably will. It’s just a shame that won’t fix the problem.

This post was filed under: Health, News and Comment, Politics.

Professor Stephen Hawking in zero gravity

Prof Stephen Hawking

How wonderful it is to see one of the greatest scientific thinkers of our ages reaching one of his lifelong goals in spite of his disability. Truly inspirational.

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

MTAS: Unbelievably, it gets worse

Patricia HewittI thought we’d hit rock bottom yesterday. Once you’ve openly and illegally posted intimate details about applicants on the internet, I didn’t think there was anywhere else to go. I was wrong.

The failed system has been shut down. But now, thanks to an utterly contemptible lack of contingency planning, doctors don’t know if they’ve got interviews next week, or even where and when the interviews will be held.

MTAS was supposed to make NHS job applications more like the private sector. Do companies really try and attract people to work for them for the next thirty-five years by ignoring their past work-related experience, posting their intimate personal details all over the internet, and then not telling them when and where their interviews are? Is that how Mad Pat was appointed?

We no longer have anywhere near enough NHS dentists thanks to this government’s policies so people use other dentists from services online like Asecra. Soon, we won’t have any doctors either.

Latest Update 16:20: It’s now emerged that after a failure of the security of MTAS’s predecessor MDAP, the BMA was promised that the new system would be super-secure. Now we know that not even a password was needed to access thousands of people’s personal details. And I guess we also know the value of a government ‘promise’.

This post was filed under: Health, News and Comment, Politics.

MTAS: Breaks spirits, breaks doctors, breaks the law

Patricia HewittI’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said Mad Pat should resign. I’m starting to get a reputation. But she really is not fit for purpose. After presiding over a catalogue of failures, she’s still in post.

She thinks services for rare diseases should be scrapped, doctors and nurses who don’t wash their hands should go to prison, hospitals should treat animals alongside humans, that NHS debt doubling is a good thing, that the NHS has too many doctors and nurses, and that dirty sheets are the way forward. She’s presided over an absolutely catastrophic failure in reform of medical training, and yet still thinks the NHS has just enjoyed its best year ever. She’s even cut the most vital of services because it’s not a political priority.

And now, it’s revealed that not only was MTAS a failure in selecting the right people for the right jobs, it was also a total security shambles.

Thousands of medical students’ and junior doctors’ personal details – including mobile phone numbers, addresses, and even criminal records – were posted, unprotected, on the internet, for anyone to access. They’re even available on Google.

As if that wasn’t enough, highly sensitive personal data which was supposed to be stored anonymously and separately from personal data – things like sexuality and religion – have been posted on the internet alongside the applicants’ names.

When this was first reported to the NHS’s IT commission, they say ‘Ah, there’s not much we can do about that’. That’s when the doctors went to the media. Then Lord Hunt comes along and claims that these were posted by some malicious individual. That was not true. Then it was claimed that the details had only been visible on the web for a few hours. That was also not true. The system was so badly designed that this data was simply being stored online, without even simple password protection, and had been available to anyone with an internet connection and a titter of wit for at least three days, and almost certainly much, much longer.

But just in case that’s not terrible enough, it has emerged today that not only could such information be downloaded and seen by anyone with an internet connection, but it could also be edited. By anyone. Yep, anyone could get into any applicants online application and edit it to their heart’s content without so much as a password.

This is not only incredibly shoddy security, it’s also illegal. It’s quite clearly against the Data Protection Act, and legal experts are predicting that if any junior doctor decides to sue the government over this, then they’ve got a pretty decent chance of winning the case.

But heck, that’s not enough for this failure of a government.

The system which is currently being tested to hold patient records has managed to spew out the personal details of many consultants, including their home addresses and phone numbers. This is the super-secure system that is virtually impossible to hack, spewing out personal details onto the internet in a completely unprotected fashion.

Patricia Hewitt has presided over the introduction of a system which has destroyed confidence, made lives hell for junior doctors, and now broken the law. She’s been an unmitigated failure of a Health Secretary, and has done damage to the NHS that will take years to put right.

I don’t think I can ask her to resign again. The fact that she’s been through all this and not even considered tendering her resignation tells us everything we need to know about her, and everything we need to know about New Labour, and everything we need to know about political integrity. There’s none left.

This post was filed under: Health, News and Comment, Politics.

Morrisons’ rebranding exercise hurts my eyes

Old and New Morrisons Logos

Morrisons is rebranding. It should have rebranded about twenty years ago. Still, you might say, better late than never. Until you see the effort they’ve come up with.

They’ve managed to turn something ugly, dated, and memorable into something uglier, tackier, and instantly forgettable. It’s really quite an achievement. It’s a circle with the letter ‘M’, and ‘Morrisons’ written underneath. They’ve taken the first letter of their name, and stuck it in a circle. They’ve swapped black for a wishy-washy greeny colour. It looks like something a colour-blind medical student with no design skill might have designed in Paint.

I’m really struggling to find something positive to say about it. Erm… I don’t think I can find anything. But you know what would’ve looked better? This.

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

The medium is not the message

Blair on YouTubeThere’s been much comment recently about politicians reaching out to the ‘yoof’ vote through sites like YouTube, and Labour’s embarrassing efforts thereon. Why is it that politicians believe that they can reach a politically disaffected youth by doing old things via new media? The problem isn’t that teenagers don’t want to see a speech by Tony Blair on TV, it’s that they don’t want to see a speech by Tony Blair. Sticking it on YouTube doesn’t help.

It’s a lot like Blair’s idea to woo the MTV generation by appearing on, erm, MTV. That, too, was a bizarre idea. People watch MTV for The Osbournes, not for a party political broadcast. The medium is unimportant – if The Osbournes was broadcast via YouTube, it would be as popular as it was on MTV. A party political broadcast is as unappealing on YouTube as it is on the BBC. It isn’t the medium politicians are getting wrong, and trying to hijack a medium won’t get far.

The (relative) success of WebCameron comes from the fact that it does things differently. It allows users to post videos like this without complaint. It engages (albeit somewhat reluctantly) with the blogosphere’s proclivity for awkward questions. In short, it allows people to disagree, mock the site and the system, and hence engage in something resembling a two-way conversation (however staged and controlled it is in reality).

That’s why Labour, who are stuck in the Blairite era of tight media control can’t hack it. They fear nothing more than discussion, debate, and a news cycle with a life of it’s own. So they can’t engage with a youth currently obsessed by the idea of the democratisation of the media. Prepared speeches and crafted videos have no place and hold no interest for this youth, whether on YouTube, their iPod, or the BBC.

One of the great historical strengths of British politics has been the administration’s ability to do almost anything it likes for four or five years, after which they will be judged by the electorate. As the electorate becomes more connected, and the sharing of ideas takes hold, then we enter a new form of democracy, where politicians are judged constantly, and opinions are constantly formed and reformed.

And that’s the real message. People want to be heard, consulted, and involved – through any and all media. The political game has reached a tipping point, and however you disguise old-style politics, it just won’t cut it in the brave new world.

This post was filed under: Politics.

Cash for Honours file handed over

As I posted a little while ago, the police have completed their Cash for Honours investigation and handed over an extensive file to the Crown Prosecution Service, suggesting that they believe they have a case for their suspects to answer.

Interestingly, the Attorney General is pencilled in for Sunday Live this week. I imagine he’ll pull out now, but if he doesn’t, that interview will be fascinating. After all, in the perverse political system we have, it will be he who has the final say over whether his mates in the Labour Party will be facing prosecution.

And perhaps today’s announcement lends more weight to The First Post’s suggestion that Mr Blair will announce his ‘departure’ on 9th May from the Downing Street lawn. That’s already a very interesting article, if only because it uses very similar lexis to Downing Street – commentators always talk of Blair’s ‘resignation’, but Downing Street usually employ the euphemism ‘departure’ – and the latter is the language used in that ‘mole’ article.

Interesting developments.

This post was filed under: Miscellaneous.

FLASH: Cash for Honours file handed to CPS

FLASH: The police have handed the Cash-for-Honours Prosecution File to the CPS. Didn’t see that coming today!

This post was filed under: News and Comment, Notes, Politics.

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