Labour vs Conservatives - What Will Each Party Do for Technology, Science And Innovation?

With the general election rapidly approaching on June 8, the UK’s leading parties have shared their plans for the future. As a nerd and a futurist, three jump out at me - technology, science and innovation.

Now, I get it. There are plenty of important issues that deserve your attention to… You can’t go far on the Internet without reading about the bleak future of Brexit, the ill state of the NHS or our failing education system. But think about it - the future of not only our policies but the planet and its people will be dictated by scientific & technological advances.

Each party has a manifesto with policy promises that have undoubtedly been relentlessly scrutinised and carefully selected to put forward the perfect public pledge. So, I’ve dived into each of the main parties’ 100+ page documents and pulled out the NRM-related policies - covering tech, science, the environment and all things digital. When it comes to voting, make your own decision and make sure it’s an informed one.

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Labour Party

Jeremy Corbyn launched his party’s manifesto in Bradford on May 16th. You can check out the full thing here, but let’s dive into some specific points.

  1. Broadband upgrades - Flick to page 10 and you will see Labour’s pledge to deliver “universal superfast broadband” by 2022. They aim to improve 4G coverage across the country (warmly welcomed as studies have found we have one of the slowest data connections on the planet), and create an “uninterrupted” 5G network.
    “On day one we will instruct the National Infrastructure Commission to report on how to roll out ‘ultrafast’ (300Mbps) across the UK within the next decade.”
  2. Environment - This is a simple one. Labour says it will create a CleanAir Act to help reduce air pollution and ban the controversial Fracking process - focussing on favouring renewable energy methods instead.
  3. Better Britain for Startups - Turn to page 15, you’ll see how Labour plans to appoint a new ‘Digital Ambassador’ to attract startups to the UK and work with technology companies here.
  4. Science support - Labour plans to establish a ‘science innovation fund,’ working across industries to provide support for scientific fields of work.
  5. The cyber security age - Digital surveillance has become increasingly important to party manifestos. For Labour, they want these investigatory powers, so long as they are “both proportionate and necessary.” If they win the general election, Labour promises to “reintroduce effective judicial oversight,” which will act as an intermediary between the people’s freedom and authorities.

Conservative Party

Theresa May launched her manifesto two days later than Labour - on May 18th. The full manifesto is available here, but let’s get into the tech parts.

  1. Online safety - Head straight to page 79 for this point, as the Tories plan to add measures to stop children viewing violence, porn and other extreme online content. “We will continue to push the Internet companies to deliver on their commitments to develop technical tools to identify and remove terrorist propaganda, to help smaller companies build their capabilities and to provide support for civil society organisations to promote alternative and counter-narratives.” This taps into the Investigatory Powers Act (Snoopers Charter) this government signed into effect.
  2. Broadband and mobile coverage upgrades - Go back one page and you will see their commitment to give every home and business high-speed broadband by 2020. 5G tech will roll out by 2022 and there are promises of a 95% geographic coverage of the UK with this signal.
  3. Digital Charter - Conservatives pledge to create a new digital charter, committed to developing businesses and making the UK a safer place online. This is kind of vague, so can’t really say much beyond what is being pledged, which is “at least one” institute of technology and an “international legal framework” about how the internet should be regulated.
  4. Transport - Flick back to page 24 and you’ll see their commitment to making “almost every car and van” zero-emission by 2050, by investing £600 million. Part of this pledge also includes investing in more low-emission buses.
  5. Social Media - Under a Conservative government, people will be granted new rights to delete all information held about them on social media platforms, once they turn 18. This power will be granted by a Data Use and Ethics Commission (page 79), which will help enforce a new law to “introduce an industry-wide levy” of social media & tech companies, pushing them to pay to fight against what the Tories are calling “Internet harms.”

Now. I do not want this to be a biased piece - I will leave that to my own personal comment. But if one thing is more important than who you vote for, it’s that you vote. The majority audience to this blog is 18-24-year-olds, and while 75% of this age group voted to Remain in the Brexit vote, only 36% of this audience turned out to vote. 

Your voice is incredibly important, even if you don’t want to pick anyone, the electoral commission will take record of what is in their mind a “spoiled vote,” where you put a cross anywhere on the paper but the box. 

Need more incentive? BrewDog will give a free beer to anyone who votes - just show up to their bar with a picture of yourself outside the polling station.

Your vote matters. Do not miss this election. It is incredibly important.