Ed Miliband's Mandelson

Stewart Wood is named a Labour peer and will become shadow minister without portfolio.

Of the new Labour peers, the two that stand out are Stewart Wood, the former Oxford don who currently who serves as Ed Miliband's chief strategist and Maurice Glasman, one of the leaders of London Citizens and the father of "Blue Labour".

Wood, in particular, will take on an expanded and more visible role within the party. He will now attend shadow cabinet and will act as shadow minister without portfolio, shadowing Sayeeda Warsi. Wood, who previously served as Gordon Brown's foreign affairs adviser, is also expected to work closely with Cabinet Office minister Liam Byrne on Labour's policy review. Labour List's Mark Ferguson reports that he will lead Miliband's "intellectual work and the development of his long-term political agenda." The size and scope of Wood's responsibilities will see him take on an almost Mandelson-like role as Miliband's chief consigliere.

One could see it as a reward for the years in which he endured Gordon Brown's temper tantrums.

Below is a full list of the new Labour peers.

* Dame Joan Bakewell DBE - writer and broadcaster
* Ray Collins - General Secretary of the Labour Party
* Maurice Glasman - Senior Lecturer in political theory at London Metropolitan University and for his work with London Citizens
* Jonathan Kestenbaum - businessman and Chief Executive of National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts
* Oona King - Head of Diversity at Channel 4 Television and former Labour MP; currently journalist and presenter
* Ruth Lister - Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at Loughbrough University
* Eluned Morgan - former Labour MEP representing Mid and West Wales; currently Honorary Distinguished Professor at Cardiff University and for her work on low carbon energy
* Sir Gulam Noon MBE - Chairman and Founder of Noon Products and of the Noon Foundation
* Stewart Wood - former Downing Street and HMT special adviser, lecturer at University of Oxford; previously Fellow of Magdalen College and co-founder of Nexus
* Bryony Worthington - career focusing on promoting environmental and social change

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Show Hide image

Calum Kerr on Governing the Digital Economy

With the publication of the UK Digital Strategy we’ve seen another instalment in the UK Government’s ongoing effort to emphasise its digital credentials.

As the SNP’s Digital Spokesperson, there are moves here that are clearly welcome, especially in the area of skills and a recognition of the need for large scale investment in fibre infrastructure.

But for a government that wants Britain to become the “leading country for people to use digital” it should be doing far more to lead on the field that underpins so much of a prosperous digital economy: personal data.

If you want a picture of how government should not approach personal data, just look at the Concentrix scandal.

Last year my constituency office, like countless others across the country, was inundated by cases from distressed Tax Credit claimants, who found their payments had been stopped for spurious reasons.

This scandal had its roots in the UK’s current patchwork approach to personal data. As a private contractor, Concentrix had bought data on a commercial basis and then used it to try and find undeclared partners living with claimants.

In one particularly absurd case, a woman who lived in housing provided by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation had to resort to using a foodbank during the appeals process in order to prove that she did not live with Joseph Rowntree: the Quaker philanthropist who died in 1925.

In total some 45,000 claimants were affected and 86 per cent of the resulting appeals saw the initial decision overturned.

This shows just how badly things can go wrong if the right regulatory regimes are not in place.

In part this problem is a structural one. Just as the corporate world has elevated IT to board level and is beginning to re-configure the interface between digital skills and the wider workforce, government needs to emulate practices that put technology and innovation right at the heart of the operation.

To fully leverage the benefits of tech in government and to get a world-class data regime in place, we need to establish a set of foundational values about data rights and citizenship.

Sitting on the committee of the Digital Economy Bill, I couldn’t help but notice how the elements relating to data sharing, including with private companies, were rushed through.

The lack of informed consent within the Bill will almost certainly have to be looked at again as the Government moves towards implementing the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.

This is an example of why we need democratic oversight and an open conversation, starting from first principles, about how a citizen’s data can be accessed.

Personally, I’d like Scotland and the UK to follow the example of the Republic of Estonia, by placing transparency and the rights of the citizen at the heart of the matter, so that anyone can access the data the government holds on them with ease.

This contrasts with the mentality exposed by the Concentrix scandal: all too often people who come into contact with the state are treated as service users or customers, rather than as citizens.

This paternalistic approach needs to change.  As we begin to move towards the transformative implementation of the internet of things and 5G, trust will be paramount.

Once we have that foundation, we can start to grapple with some of the most pressing and fascinating questions that the information age presents.

We’ll need that trust if we want smart cities that make urban living sustainable using big data, if the potential of AI is to be truly tapped into and if the benefits of digital healthcare are really going to be maximised.

Clearly getting accepted ethical codes of practice in place is of immense significance, but there’s a whole lot more that government could be doing to be proactive in this space.

Last month Denmark appointed the world’s first Digital Ambassador and I think there is a compelling case for an independent Department of Technology working across all government departments.

This kind of levelling-up really needs to be seen as a necessity, because one thing that we can all agree on is that that we’ve only just scratched the surface when it comes to developing the link between government and the data driven digital economy. 

In January, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and the New Statesman convened a discussion on this topic with parliamentarians from each of the three main political parties and other experts.  This article is one of a series from three of the MPs who took part, with an  introduction from James Johns of HPE, Labour MP, Angela Eagle’s view and Conservative MP, Matt Warman’s view

Calum Kerr is SNP Westminster Spokesperson for Digital