Sunday, April 11, 2010

Labour Sinks to New Depths in Cancer Leaflet

I always thought this would develop into the dirtiest campaign ever, but I didn't think it would happen this quickly. The Sunday Times front page carries the story of how Labour have sent out 250,000 postcards to cancer sufferers warning them what might happen if those wicked Tories came to power.

LABOUR has become embroiled in a row about the use of personal data after sending cancer patients alarmist mailshots saying their lives could be at risk under a Conservative government.

Cards addressed to sufferers by name warn that a Labour guarantee to see a cancer specialist within two weeks would be scrapped by the Tories. Labour claims the Conservatives would also do away with the right to be treated within 18 weeks.

Cancer patients who received the personalised cards, sent with a message from a breast cancer survivor praising her treatment under Labour, said they were “disgusted and shocked”, and feared that the party may have had access to confidential health data.

Labour sources deny that the party has used any confidential information. However, the sources admit that, in line with other political parties, it uses socio-demographic research that is commercially and publicly available...

Labour has sent out 250,000 “cancer” postcards, each addressed to an individual, asking: “Are the Tories a change you can afford?”

Many of those receiving the cards have undergone cancer scans or treatment within the past five years.

- In the Labour constituency of Sherwood, Nottinghamshire, two of a group of eight women friends received the breast cancer card. They are the only two to have undergone cancer treatment. One of them, Phyllis Delik, 80, described it as “callous” and “despicable”. The second woman, Shirley Foreman, 58, who received the card a fortnight after undergoing surgery, said: “It is bad taste after what I have been through.”

- In the marginal east London constituency of Poplar and Limehouse, the card was sent to a 44-year-old television producer who had a potentially cancerous lump that turned out to be a cyst. She appeared to be the only person who received the mailshot among 50 neighbours. She said: “It’s crude and insensitive.”

- A card was sent to a woman who has died of breast cancer. Her 33-year-old husband was so upset that he sent a message to the Facebook page of Diane Dwelly, the woman whose case is featured in the mailshot, accusing her of being a pawn for the Labour party.

This weekend Dwelly, 48, from Rugby, admitted she had “probably been used by Labour”. She believed her photograph had been taken for use in a magazine for the National Health Service, not as part of Labour’s election campaign.

The cards are being distributed by Ravensworth, part of Tangent Communications, which has won accounts sending out mail for the Department of Health and Cancer Research UK.

Tangent claims that it specialises in “highly targeted marketing”.

The cancer cards are part of a wider postal campaign targeting various groups. Others are aimed at parents whose children attend Sure Start centres, pensioners and the owners of small businesses.

Labour has so far sent out 600,000 cards. It plans to distribute 4.5m during the election campaign.

Janet Arslan, 40, a graphic designer who also lives in the Sherwood constituency, said: “When I received the breast cancer card at first I thought it was from the hospital.

“I did not think Labour would be that crass to deliberately target a terminal cancer patient like me.”

Damian Bentley, managing director of Tangent, said: “Our company does a lot for the Labour party but I don’t work on that side of the business.”

He failed to respond to a list of questions on how the addresses of the cancer victims were obtained.

Emilie Oldknow, 29, the Labour candidate in Sherwood, worked for the NHS before she became the regional organiser of the East Midlands Labour party. She is the fiancĂ©e of Jonathan Ashworth, Gordon Brown’s deputy political secretary and a member of his “kitchen cabinet”.

Oldknow has denied all knowledge of the cards.

“I had not seen the mailshot before and it wasn’t sent out by my campaign,” she said...

Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, said: “For Labour’s campaign to deliberately distress or scare sufferers from breast cancer is shameful. Because we are going to increase the NHS budget in real terms and cut bureaucracy and waste, we will have the capacity to ensure that cancer patients are seen sooner than they are at the moment and to meet the quality standards that they expect.”

A Labour party spokesman said: “These leaflets highlight the Conservative party’s actual policies on cancer treatment. Cancer is a terrible condition and sadly all too prevalent in our society, which is why some of the 250,000 people we sent this message to are likely to have suffered from it.”

Full story HERE.

So, did Andy Burnham and Gordon Brown know about this despicable campaign, and how did they get the data? These are questions which I hope our colleagues in the MSM will be following up today.


Unknown said...

You have hit the nail on the head with your closing comment, how the hell did they identify those who had cancer?
Leaking of medical records for a supposed political point scoring exercise.

Johnny Norfolk said...

Labour are THE nasty party. They are only interested in power for the sake of it.Do you think David Cameron would ever sanction anything like this, as i dont.

Barnacle Bill said...

Bloody too right Iain, this stinks and looks like NuLabor have been abusing their ministerial positions/contacts for political ends.
I hope you shout it out loud every chance you get today on the MSM.

Cynic said...

And what did they know about the donor organ scandal?

Organs stolen form some dead patients and now organs cant be harvested form patients because no-one now knows who has agree to donate what. Patients will die while Labour sort it out. They have covered this up for over 3 years.

Why is the Health Minister still (even technically) in office?

dizzy said...

I can't believe how angry I am this morning Iain. Nearly cried at the thought that they actually did this.

Moriarty said...

"These are questions which I hope our colleagues in the MSM will be following up today."

Don't you have a platform on Sky this morning?

Anonymous said...

"These are questions which I hope our colleagues in the MSM will be following up today."

There's little hope of that, other than another dig at "Tory policy".

happyuk said...

Jesus Christ. So much much for patient confidentiality. How the hell did they obtain those records? Heads need to roll for this.

marksany said...

My wife received one of these. She is in a cancer screening program due to familial history of cancer deaths. she was very upset, then very angry. Any thought she might have had of voting Labour is now long gone.

Not only are they bastards, they are stupid bastards.

davidc said...

it seems all those previously expressed fears about abuse of a centralised nhs database may be right.

i also note that nowhere do uk survival rates from various cancers get boasted about - perhaps it is because in spite of increased nhs funding during the last 13 years,they are remain amongst the poorest in comparable counties

Moriarty said...

Well you got it in at the end! Well done. I can now switch over to Marr where Lord Kinnock is going to offer his advice about how to run a successful campaign.

Ray said...

These are the last dying struggles of a monster, a monster that is organised by the remnants of a party that was born in the marxist 70's built by Wilson, Jack Jones, The lately reverred(for some reason) Michael Foot, Kinnock etc etc. They now have 1 policy, "if we can't have it we shall break it".

Anonymous said...

Dirty stinking low crass deceitful and utterly disgraceful.

Filthy stinking Labour.

Its Labour who are denying Cancer drugs to English patients whilst those same English patients pay taxes that see Scotland and Wales subsidised to those places can get the drugs denied to England.

Filthy stinking Labour - and they are clearly obtaining names from the databases they created in government. Huh - anyone really think their ID database date would be safe?

as foir all the other wonderful policies these cards are meant to extol -- well its east to do whatever you want if you simply borrow money and have no intention of paying it back. We have a 90 billion structural deficit (a black hole as Labour liked to traduce Tory plans) - any fool can run a govt if he does not bother where the money comes from.

Anonymous said...

I work in Direct Marketing and it would be illegal (and IMPOSSIBLE) to identify data of people with or being treated for cancer. There are no NHS records which list such information nationally, let alone commercially available records.

This story is alarmist and likely misunderstands Direct Marketing practice. The data has probably been isolated to target groups of people fitting into a certain socioeconomic status group.

if you send out 250,000 postcards out about cancer, inevitably you will reach people with the disease if 1 in 3 suffers from cancer in their lifetime. If you selected data of only mailing to women aged 30-50, for instance, I hazard 60% of recipients would either have cancer or have an immediate friend with cancer.

javelin said...

This election is all about politics.

Very, very roughly It goes like this. The Government owes 1 trillion, and is borrowing money at 4%, which is 4 billion a year. It currectly spends £160 billion a year more than it taxes. In 2 years in will owe 1.3 trIllion. It has future obligations of 1 trillion to pay for public sector pensions. The public have 1 trillion in personal debt.

In the next couple of years the economy will not recover fast enough to pay this back and the debts will get bigger.

So any new Government needs to reduce spending by £160 billion to stop getting into debt then it needs to reduce spending by a futher £100 billion a year to pay back the existing debt. So roughly speaking we need to cut spending by £250 billion a year to get Government spending back under control. If this does not happen then the markets will step in and cause a crisis. Rates will go up to 7%.

The Tories don't want to talk about cuts because their internal polling tells them they might lose their majority. Instead they must wait until after the election until the markets cause a crisis. The Tories will then say Quel Surprise and make the necessary cuts and blame Labour.

Labour or course know as well these are the minimum cuts and don't want to tell the public this. Labour know the markets will punish them as well so seem quite happy to lose the election and set up for a win in 5 years time. Their line is to push the Tories to admit their cuts and to blame the recent banking crisis for the upcoming bond crisis.

Let's be clear there needs to be at least 300,000 public sector job cuts to stop a crisis and at least 500,000 to turn the economy around. Let's also be clear the Tories need a bond crisis to make the cuts, blame Labour for the cuts and win in 5 years time.

This will be a phoney campaign. It needs to be a phoney campaign for the sake of the country. There needs to be a bond crisis in the Autumn for the sake of the country.

Unknown said...

an urgent complaint needs to be made to the data commissioner asking how personal and sensitive data came into the hands of a political party, a complaint also needs to be made to the met on similar lines.
this is disgraceful and shameful.

Anthony said...

My wife (or I) have not (yet?) received such a postcard. We are (or maybe were) lifelong Labour supporters and voters, diverted recently from politics and all things by her two year tackling of an advanced cancer with, in our case,absolutely excellent NHS medical care. Our instincts are all anti-Tory and pro-labour values but ...

We surprised ourselves with the strength of our reaction to the story when we saw it first in the Sunday Times this morning. If our reaction is in any sense typical, Labour should want to explain and rebut or recant or something - or just apologise -very forcefully, very quickly.

And Cancer Research UK, who share the comms agency according to the story, will need to move fast to reassure donors like I and my family that they have not sold any data-base to Labour (or any political party).

Sally Roberts said...

I am trying to find the quote that comes to mind about the Left using any means possible including lies and disinformation to bring about their Revolution....
What Labour are doing here is vile - but they clearly believes that "the end justifies the means" (another good quote...)

Anonymous said...

Where are Jimmy and Despairing Liberal the duo of Gordo worshippers. BBC has left this out, instead produced the best bits of Kings Fund report whose so called professors wee part of NHS years ago and the fund is received by the govt. If Tories manifesto includes shrinking BBC so that licence fee is £50 a year , DC will get a poll boost. The Tories should keep on banging about these leaflets remind about the nasty party that Labour is.

Anthony said...

.... and also Blue2002, even if there has been no improper use of data in marketing terms, this is not a line of rhetoric and promotion for Labour which will endear itself to the 60% cancer-touched they, like you, could and probably will have estimated would receive it. What upset me and my (cancer-suffering) wife so much was the idea that Labour people would have consciously chosen to do this with such insensitivity and such use of scare tactics. What is worrying is that it is people in the middle of working for labour with commitment and zeal, who display such lack of insight and understanding. Since I started angrily commenting above and here, my previous labour voting wife has declared this to be the last nudge in pushing her to vote Lib Dem (never done before....) - this in a constituency that was lost by labour to Lib Dem in the last election in the seat but one ....

Paul Halsall said...

Lots of false wailing here as people seek to avoid the real point - the Tories will screw over oridnary people *because that is what they have always done in the past*.

Anonymous said...

@Anthony. Voting LibDem would bringing Labour again. Read what cable has been saying about NI increase. There appears to be a pact done for a Libdem-Lab coalition.

richard.blogger said...

Iain, the Conservatives are using the NHS as a political football too, get over it.

In the draft manifesto Cameron pledges that he wants to remove political interference, then a few lines down he says that he will override the decision of the experts about what drugs the NHS should use. That is hypocritical.

Only last week cameron did it again. He said that the money that the NHS would save from not paying employers NIC (note that this is not new money) he says that under him the NHS would spend it on cancer drugs that NICE says are not cost effective. Cameron should not be saying where that £200m should be spent, he should say that the doctors should say where it should be spent (and I bet they would not spend it on expensive cancer drugs).

Glass houses, Iain. Glass houses.

Jess The Dog said...

I find it very difficult to believe that socioeconomic profiling would accurately target people to this degree. National government demographic data ie. Census is aggregated to preserve anonymity of individual addressees. Something stinks about this and it seems like a potential breach of the data protection act that requires investigation. Also in very poor taste and potentially upsetting...what would Labour say if the Tories or Lib Dems mailed wounded veterans or bereaved families with a postcard saying 'blood on Brown's hands'?

Anonymous said...

Disgusting that Paul Halsall and richard blogger acting as Labour apologists. Well that was what expected of Brown after McBride was unmasked and he must be sitting somewhere in the bunker coming up with something equally disgusting. Making more cnacer drugs available as a policy is onething and scaring the cancer patients who are already suffering with direct leaflets is another. But for labourites it does not matter.

Anon said...

Where these actual postcards? As in message about cancer on one side and address of cancer patient on the other? Or where they inside envelopes?

@blue2002 where do you get your information from? No such lists? You are right it's illegal. But it's not impossible. After all the NHS need to be able to identify where they should be spending money, and on what. So if you look at the right dataset in the right way, you'll be able to identify down to specific types of cancers using existing databases. And it wouldn't be hard to connect them to the patients real names and addresses.

Anonymous said...

Halsall and richard.blogger at least enable us to understand how it was that Labour thought these cards were a good idea.

Anonymous said...

@Anthony: Yes I agree with you here. Although in marketing terms I think there's no improper data usage from this campaign, best practice (and what the cancer charities all do on sending out 'cold' marketing mailings) is to put on a disclaimer: 'If you have received this and have been recently diagnosed/are suffering from cancer, this has reached you by unfortunate co-incidence and we really apologize' - or something better written than that.

On the other posters - the NHS couldn't share data like this, it would be impossible and illegal - there's no systems for it.

However, marketing companies have lots of data sources to send out targetted mailings. Perhaps recipients signed up to cancer campaigns with their MP, gave money to cancer charities, or bought commerical services related to cancer and agreed their details could be sold on, and so on. If you don't opt out of data sharing with commercial organizations, marketing can get your footprint VERY easily and this, I think, is where these addresses came from.

Newmark said...

So, did Andy Burnham and Gordon Brown know about this despicable campaign, and how did they get the data? These are questions which I hope our colleagues in the MSM will be following up today.?

There is no mystery about how Labour got hold of the data and were able to send the postcards to named cancer sufferers.

As the Times article explains, Experian's Mosaic database, which is used by both Labour and the Conservatives, contains some details of conditions suffered by individual patients. The records are anonymised but they do include postcodes. Therefore, it is a simple matter to produce a listing of the postcodes of cancer sufferers and then, from the electoral rolls, a list of the named adults at each address covered by the individual postcodes. Postcards can then be sent to a named adult at each address. There are typically about 15 private addresses for each postcode. So the senders can be sure that at least one of those 15 people is a cancer sufferer. As Blue2002 has pointed out, given the incidence of cancer in the general population, then statistically the 'success' will be very much higher than 1 in 15.

Anonymous said...

Labour don't appear to be sorry for using the personal data of people with cancer in this way. The cancer-sufferers provided that data so they could receive the healthcare they required because of their cancer, not so it could be used for electioneering by a political party.

Angela said...

I received not one but TWO of these personally addressed cards whilst recovering from mega cancer surgery and still undergoing chemo (as I am now.

What infuriates me is that the Dianne Dwelly case mentioned is very rare - diagnosis in 2 weeks; back to work in 3. She was VERY lucky - I was put on an 8 week list for NHS ultrasound, and we went for a private diagnosis as we knew something was desperately wrong.

The cards come through the post without an envelope and are sent by TNT.

If anyone would like to see one, I can send a JPEG showing front and back.