The coalition has performed a disgraceful U-turn on the Summary Care Record

Government backtracks on both Tory and Lib Dem policy on database of our medical data.

The government has announced that it will continue building the Summary Care Record database of our medical data.

The announcement contradicts the Tory position outlined last year: "A Conservative government would 'dismantle' central NHS IT infrastructure, halt and renegotiate NPfIT local service provider contracts and introduce interoperable local systems."

It also contradicts the Liberal Democrat position outlined this year, when Norman Lamb, then Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said: "The government needs to end its obsession with massive central databases. The NHS IT scheme has been a disastrous waste of money and the national programme should be abandoned."

This is a disgraceful U-turn. The coalition wants us to believe that it is serious about privacy and civil liberties -- this is its first test, and it has failed it.

The SCR is an unnecessary and intrusive piece of bureaucracy, as well as being wildly expensive. Doctors have managed without it until now. Our research has shown how vulnerable the NHS is to breaches of privacy. This will make things much worse.

Finally, I note that it was "announced" by brief written answer, without debate, on the day of the statement to the House on the Cumbrian shootings, so it didn't get picked up anywhere. A Jo Moore 9/11 situation writ large, but after weeks in power rather than New Labour's years in office by the time of Moore's disgrace. New government, old tricks. No change, and no shame.

Alex Deane is director of Big Brother Watch, a barrister, and a former chief of staff to David Cameron.

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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.