The death of the data-hugging state?

How Tim Berners-Lee freed government data

In the week that it was reported the government has wasted £26bn on botched IT projects, it's reassuring at least to see one website that looks like money well spent.

Officially launched today, data.gov.uk is Gordon Brown's answer to Barack Obama's Data.gov, and was created with the help of the web pioneer Tim Berners-Lee. The site provides web users with access to public-sector data ranging from statistics on abandoned vehicles to the months of life lost due to alcohol use.

It's a far more radical project than it first appears. As Prospect's James Crabtree argues, the site marks a clear break with the closed, data-hugging state of the past. With the Tories promising to publish online every item of government spending over £25,000, it was essential for ministers to make data more accessible to the public.

In the most exciting development, the data has also been made available to commercial users, meaning we can expect thousands of new apps to be created. You can see a list of the 19 created so far here. There's also an ideas section listing proposals for future data research. Suggestions so far include "i-Need a Pee" -- a GPRS public toilet finder -- and "job discrimination in private and public sector" -- a league table of organisations that have faced employment tribunals for discrimination.

Sites like Data.gov have the potential to transform the relationship between citizen and state. We can expect the electorate, newly armed with data, to subject state spending to unprecedented scrutiny. In the digital age, there is nowhere for failing ministers to hide.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Jeremy Corbyn will stay on the Labour leadership ballot paper, judge rules

Labour donor Michael Foster had challenged the decision at the High Court.

The High Court has ruled that Jeremy Corbyn should be allowed to automatically run again for Labour leader after the decision of the party's National Executive Committee was challenged. 

Corbyn declared it a "waste of time" and an attempt to overturn the right of Labour members to choose their leader.

The decision ends the hope of some anti-Corbyn Labour members that he could be excluded from the contest altogether.

The legal challenge had been brought by Michael Foster, a Labour donor and former parliamentary candidate, who maintained he was simply seeking the views of experts.

But when the experts spoke, it was in Corbyn's favour. 

The ruling said: "Accordingly, the Judge accepted that the decision of the NEC was correct and that Mr Corbyn was entitled to be a candidate in the forthcoming election without the need for nominations."

This judgement was "wholly unaffected by political considerations", it added. 

Corbyn said: "I welcome the decision by the High Court to respect the democracy of the Labour Party.

"This has been a waste of time and resources when our party should be focused on holding the government to account.

"There should have been no question of the right of half a million Labour party members to choose their own leader being overturned. If anything, the aim should be to expand the number of voters in this election. I hope all candidates and supporters will reject any attempt to prolong this process, and that we can now proceed with the election in a comradely and respectful manner."

Iain McNicol, general secretary of the Labour Party, said: “We are delighted that the Court has upheld the authority and decision of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party. 

“We will continue with the leadership election as agreed by the NEC."

If Corbyn had been excluded, he would have had to seek the nomination of 51 MPs, which would have been difficult since just 40 voted against the no confidence motion in him. He would therefore have been effectively excluded from running. 

Owen Smith, the candidate backed by rebel MPs, told the BBC earlier he believed Corbyn should stay on the ballot paper. 

He said after the judgement: “I’m pleased the court has done the right thing and ruled that Jeremy should be on the ballot. This now puts to bed any questions about the process, so we can get on with discussing the issues that really matter."

The news was greeted with celebration by Corbyn supporters.