Posted on 11/06/2019 by Michael Oliver
With news a whopping ten Tory MPs will vie to replace Theresa May, questions swirl about what each could bring to Number 10.
And with the UK’s tech sector buoyant amid a swell of Brexit uncertainty, the next Prime Minister will have an indelible effect on how the industry will develop.
So, what could Prime Minister Boris Johnson mean for the UK’s tech market? How would Dominic Rabb or Esther McVey keep the 0s and 1s ticking over?
We’ve combed the archives to get a sense on what each candidate could mean for the sector.
Let’s start with the assumed frontrunner—and, apparently, a fan of the tech sector. As Mayor of London, Johnson outlined a vision to make London the tech capital of the world.
“There is nowhere to rival London for tech firms to thrive and grow – we have the talent, the investors, and the entrepreneurial spirit. Our tech offer now spans the capital in its entirety, from Tottenham to Croydon and from Wembley to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park,” he said.
But with anything BoJo, the proof will be in the pudding.
The former Secretary of State received derision for supporting an “invisible Irish border” serviced by a yet-to-be-realised tech solution. She served as chair of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation’s Future of Jobs Commission, and you’d presume that means she understands how vital tech will be in the future of this country’s employment. She is on record saying the Government should work with the tech sector “to combat terrorism and cyber-crime and protect our young people, but protect fundamental rights and freedoms so that we unlock the potential of the internet.”
A Prime Minister Sajid Javid looks set to be more strident on tech firms than previous premiers. The Home Secretary has not shied away from asking tech giants to buck up their ideas and take greater measures to tackle online extremism and child sexual abuse on their platforms.
Javid’s Online Harms white paper, published in April, is the Home secretary’s plan to put an end to self-regulation on internet platforms by introducing an independent regulator.
He is also a proponent of the oft-questioned ‘technology solution’ to avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland.
Past history would suggest Javid would be more interventionist in how the tech sector operates in the UK, but appreciates the sector’s knack for creating jobs.
Raab, perhaps more than any other leadership contender, has made himself available to the tech sector. During his time as Brexit secretary, he has spoken at a number of tech events, extolling the virtues of post-Brexit Britain. “What you do matters, because you are so good at it. The tech sector is delivering jobs for the future,” he told a meeting of tech leaders in November 2018.
“We will be pursuing a global Brexit, an outward-looking Brexit and a tech Brexit.”
As Secretary for Education, Gove touched on bolstering primary and secondary school tech curriculums and making them more tech-savvy, having previously branded it “a mess”. But aside from taking swings at IT education, Gove has been fairly mute on the industry’s broader impact.
The former Leader of the House has said she will declare a “climate emergency” if she picks up the keys to Number 10. As part of that, she outlined a policy of bolstering “clean” technology.
“This is a massive opportunity to demonstrate that far from decarbonising being a loss of GDP, loss of jobs and so on and so on, actually the clean growth technology sector is fast growing, and it can be an opportunity for new jobs, new skills, a way to get young people energised to decarbonising our economy,” she said.
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has pinned his leadership credentials on his business savvy, making tech a mainstay of his stint as Health Secretary. His enthusiasm for the sector may bode for his premiership if he sets his sights on introducing other innovations in other areas.
Hunt has also said that the UK should “exercise a degree of caution” about Huawei and the influence of other Chinese tech companies.
The health portfolio came to Hancock following Hunt’s departure and he sought to carry on, promising the NHS would be the most tech-driven health system on the planet.
… but it didn’t quite pan out that way, with NHS digital leaders describing the tech revolution as “chaos”. Hancock’s enthusiasm and promises met headfirst with the fact the health service is chronically short of cash.
To put it one way, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We recognise the NHS has been a frustrating place to work for some of our most talented technologists.”
You might also remember him as the first MP to successfully launch an app, and then receive universal ridicule for it trying to suck up everyone’s data.
The surprise package of the leadership race – with his folksy social media clips – has been relatively quiet about tech. But during his time as Prisons Minister, he announced a £30m package including a £7 million investment in safety and security, including airport-security style scanners, improved searching techniques and phone-blocking technology.
In a recent clip, Stewart talked with LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman about how relevant Britain’s track-record in innovation is.
Not a lot is known about his tech policies, but he did work as an accountant for Intel until 2002. There is a large section of his website dedicated to using technology to improve the lives of people with disabilities, but that’s about the sum of it on the tech front.
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