Article written by Jeffrey Adams
I am writing to you from Brexit Island as a Scottish family living in Germany, having just confirmed our application to vote in this GE by proxy. We, along with all of you in the UK, are back to the polls.
We have followed the speeches, the TV debates, read the party manifestos, and heard the call to vote for May to strengthen her hand. There is a problem however, well many problems infact.
What, supposedly, are we voting to strengthen? May says she needs a strong hand to carry out her Brexit plan, yet it doesn’t matter to the EU whether May has a leadership majority of 7 or 87. May is the current PM and the EU would be negotiating with her, election or not.
The reality is Theresa May’s GE is a political manoeuver – an election to force critics in her party to toe the line and a bid to reduce the number of MPs in opposition, by scooping up former UKIP voters and Labour voters concerned Corbyn lacks the leadership skills. It’s also an attempt to double down on opposition north of the border.
A win for May will ensure 4 years of leadership before the full impact of Brexit unravels. An election later could result in voters switching from the Conservatives as the full damage of Brexit emerges.
This is politics and self interest in its bluntest form.
With so much at stake it was with interest I read the 84 pages of the Conservative manifesto, and with dismay I reread it. It read like a wish list. There are many wishes on this wish list and scarce evidence of plans to fund it given there is no intention to increase corporation tax. Instead it looks like the Conservatives plan to run the UK like a business, but countries are not businesses and that is just one reason their plan is flawed. Countries are places where people are born, grow up, are educated, work, get ill, grow old, and hand over to the next generation. Places where people live out their life story.
A Government that cuts funding to people as they pass through life’s stages, and upholds punishing policies as a cost cutting exercise, is not much of a Government.
Here in Germany we have seen how it‘s possible for Government to ask corporations and higher earners to pay a little more, and how everyone gets more back at the other side. But the Tory Party have no intention to ask those who can afford to give a little more, to do so.
There is a lot to feel concerned about in the Tory manifesto – things such as cutting school lunches south of the border, narrowing immigration rules that will affect thousands of families, and the “dementia tax” to name a few. Whilst all of that is important, and the press is rightly dissecting it, there is an area I felt compelled to write about: the Tory plans for a tech revolution.
A tech revolution decades after the US, Japan, and India (among others) have dominated tech? It will be a more a revolution of catch up. In its manifesto the Conservatives set out their self grandioso claims of setting global standards within a Digital Charter in the Conservative Manifesto:
“For hundreds of years the United Kingdom has determined the rules and formed the environment where new ideas and new technologies prosper…now we must do it again.”,
“ Our wealth and security as a nation is founded on our ability to shape the future not just for ourselves but the world”.
It seems May has not been briefed that the EU already has a digital charter – “The Charter of Digital Fundamental Rights of the European Union”.
The Conservatives are not breaking new ground.
With every word about tech we see a Government out of touch with the external world. Insular Westminster is planning its future- paces behind everyone else. If Westminster had been able to better engage with the EU it may have unearthed the areas where the world does want more of Britain. Since arriving in Germany we’ve seen how Brand Britain is a seller.
The continent love UK culture- pop music, fashion, movies, books, tourism, art – it’s all moreish stuff !
People want more James Bond, Harry Potter, the Royals. They want more holidays to towns with cobbled streets and sleepy country pubs, more Scottish castles, more classical music concerts, they are impressed with UK athletes, and are getting onboard with UK food and drink via celeb chefs like Jamie Oliver.
Entertainment shows like Britain’s Got Talent and shows like Spamalot have gone global. This is the Britain the outside world want. They want UK culture.
So why are the Conservatives so interested in reinventing the tech wheel?
At first glance I thought the Tory technology vision was just the daydreams of a dusty out of touch group, bedazzled by the shiny world of tech and seeking to cash in. Then someone emailed me an article unpacking their plan for a digital revolution. It outlines the internet restrictions the UK Government are planning.
Regulations the UK intend will enable the Government to decide what is said online and regulate the kind of news posted. We are talking about internet censorship.
The Tory party is finding ways to limit what we know. It started with journalists in Cornwall being shut away in a room, it’s continuing with refusals to attend televised debates, extending secrecy with strong opposition to EU plans to publish Brexit talk outcomes and going further again with internet censorship. When did this become Britain? With each step Westminster is creating its own insular world and Scotland will be shut off along with it.
The manifesto also claims these new steps in tech will attract companies to the UK. But a tech vision coupled with internet censorship is an odd pairing.
Will tech companies want to work within narrow frameworks and heavy regulation not present in other western countries ? Either May has little understanding of the industry or is intending to build state run media or she is doing both. Either way we should be paying attention.
All of this plan is disguised as a necessary step to clean up the net, a way to safeguard citizens and prevent terrorism. It’s all for our own good and protection we are told. Like they do in North Korea.
We have only lived in Germany a few years, but we lived the rest of our lives in Scotland. A few years on the continent has been long enough to see for ourselves the damage May is creating, but short enough to still be close to the challenges back in the UK. There is a temptation we sense, to stay with the Conservatives because in difficult times people pick simple messages. Messages like “Strong and Stable”, but more than ever, we need to be free to speak about what is going on in the UK, and why it is necessary to discuss alternatives to the current government.
This tech revolution is one area where people who value their right to live in a free country need to awaken to what is at stake.