Tory party chair Grant Shapps campaigning in Rochester. Photo: Getty
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Which Tory MPs haven't campaigned in Rochester yet, and what does this tell us?

The chief whip, Michael Gove, names and shames the Tory MPs who haven't yet visited Rochester and Strood to campaign against a Ukip win.

The Conservative party is becoming increasingly strict about its campaigning in Rochester and Strood, ahead of the by-election on 20 November. Unnerved by the polls giving Ukip – whose candidate Mark Reckless used to be one of their own – the lead, the Prime Minister has instructed his MPs to visit the constituency "at least three times" before the polls close, with cabinet members and whips visiting at least five times.

The Telegraph reported this morning on the chief whip Michael Gove's tactic of sending out regular "Roll of Honour" emails to the parliamentary party, listing the number of times each MP has visited the seat, and naming and shaming those who have yet to travel to Medway to take on their former colleague.

I got hold of one of these emails, and the 108 MPs who are listed under "0 visits" sent around late yesterday morning (some of whom may well have been embarrassed into scampering to Kent today) makes interesting reading.

I won't publish all the names, but the list includes:
 

Cabinet members

Eleven ministers haven't yet made the trip, including cabinet members such as the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin. High-profile ministers on the list include business minister Matt Hancock, Treasury minister Andrea Leadsom and defence minister Anna Soubry, and almost all the health team. The new education minister Sam Gyimah is also on there, and he used to be David Cameron's PPS...
 

Those who have been identified as having a better chance running under the Ukip banner

Nigel Mills

Martin Vickers

David Nuttall

Chris Kelly

 

Those who have been rumoured as potential defectors

Peter Bone

Philip Hollobone – the most rebellious MP

George Eustice

Bill Cash

John Baron

Henry Smith

 

Rogues and eurosceptics

Nadine Dorries – has referred to Cameron and George Osborne as "two arrogant posh boys" and floated the notion of candidates running on joint Ukip-Conservative tickets

John Redwood – one of the most media-happy eurosceptic backbenchers

Adam Afriyie – once rumoured as a stalking horse for the Tory party leadership, and tabled a rebel amendment calling for the EU referendum to be brought forward to 2014

 

Although the absence of a number of ministers is probably more down to their time pressures than any political statement, 11 is a surprisingly high number considering the by-election is only a fortnight away.

More significant is the number of MPs either linked to eurosceptic views or more directly to having some alignment with Ukip's overall agenda who haven't been to campaign. This list is a telling insight into the general party's attitude to this by-election. The Tory line is that Reckless is not as popular a figure among constituents as their first defector, Douglas Carswell, is in Clacton. One cabinet minister told me at the party's conference that Reckless is a "complete dick". But it seems many of the party's MPs would prefer not to battle against him in his constituency – or rather, to battle against Ukip.

Reckless himself – although it is admittedly in his interest to do so – suggested to me that, if he wins, there could be more Tory defections ahead:

There are one or two Conservative MPs who I've had conversations with, and I spoke to a number of colleagues who are keeping matters under review; some will be looking very closely at me during the by-election, but whether anyone else will move, I don't know.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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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