Future Labour is a volunteer-powered platform, focussed on the future of work and the British economy within the fourth industrial revolution.

From digital skills in schools and reform of public services to the new civil liberties of personal data and privacy to the protection of workers in the “gig” economy.

Future Labour is focussed on the future of Britain and the future of the Labour Party in setting out a vision for an economy that works for all.

The Labour Market in a digital future: Providing the skills to protect employment

Technological progress is sweeping through the global economy, permeating through the ranks of the British workforce indiscriminately. We are often told that the robots are coming.

Whilst driverless trucks take over the roads in the place of delivery drivers, paralegals are being unseated by programed computer systems. Both white and blue-collar workers alike are under threat of being replaced by their automated counterparts.

It is natural for workers to feel threatened by technological progress. The Luddite movement of the early 19th Century, when Nottinghamshire workers destroyed the cotton mills that threatened their livelihoods, reveals the evolving nature of the relationship between work and technological progress. Of course workers’ concerns cannot be ignored, yet the future of the labour market under the fourth industrial revolution need not be so ominous, if managed by the right political party.

In the 1930s the economist John Maynard Keynes was actually optimistic about the future of work, foreseeing an emancipation of labour with the onset of a 15-hour working week. The World Economic Forum also projects a degree of optimism for the future. Whilst it does anticipate a significant decline in job sectors characterised by routine, such as telemarketing, it also predicts a surge of jobs in technical sectors such as architecture and engineering which are expected to provide 2 million more jobs worldwide by 2020.

What is more, many jobs are not expected to disappear entirely; rather the typical tasks required for certain jobs will be redefined. For example, besides giving legal consultations, it is expected to become typical for lawyers also to design systems that are able to give legal advice as part of their job description. This redefinition of work is often conceptualised as an increase in the flexibility and independence of working life, as provided for by digital technology. New employers such as Deliveroo are allowing workers to pick up work at the reach of their smartphone, connecting delivery drivers to their customers via a downloadable app. This aspect of work redefinition does, however, risk job insecurity, and thus requires sufficient regulation to avoid exploitation, an issue the incumbent Tory government has failed to respond to. With these momentous changes in the world of work, the focus for protecting employment thus needs to be on how new jobs can be attracted to the UK, and how workers can retain their jobs amidst a change in employers’ expectations.

It is clear that the Conservative response to this issue has been inadequate. In implementing a race to the bottom in working rights and regulations, the Conservatives have tried to make taking on labour as cheap as possible to attract investment in the UK economy, legislating, for example, to restrict the right to industrial action and refusing to regulate against the misuse of zero-hours contracts. Yet this approach has essentially failed to address the root of the problem; that modern workers require new skills to do new types of work. The disastrous results of this policy approach, is evident in the recent reports from the Office for National Statistics, which puts UK productivity bellow pre-crisis levels in 2007.

The World Economic Forum estimates that a third of skills that will be required by employers in 2020 are not considered crucial in jobs today. Soft social skills such as persuasion will be valued equally as highly as evermore-necessary technical skills, such as computer programming. Whilst the 2017 Conservative Manifesto pledged to provide new skills, announcing it would “establish new institutes of technology”, there is little substance behind the rhetoric. The previous Conservative government ruthlessly cut funding to Further Education Colleges, the pinnacle of British technical education, cutting their budgets by 14% in 2010-15 parliament. The current Conservative government is continuing its ignorance towards the needs of the UK education system, only recently agreeing grudgingly to lift the 1% cap on public sector pay, at a time when schools are struggling to recruit teachers, with a fall of 7% in teacher trainees being recorded in March of this year.

By contrast Labour’s well-known policy of investment-led growth provides an economically consistent approach to the problem of skills provision. Labour’s plan to invest £8.4 billion in UK education, creating a National Education Service, promises to provide the economy with the skills it requires to grow, giving British workers the chances they so desperately need. Not only will Labour provide the technical skills required by the economy, making Further Education courses free at the point of use, it will also address the disconnection between British education and the skills demanded by employers, commissioning annual reports from the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, to improve curriculum content. Furthermore, as highlighted in the recent Taylor review of Modern Employment Practices, government funding for lifelong learning is declining at time when employees are in desperate need of retraining. This is another area provided for in the Labour manifesto, which commits to introducing free lifelong learning to allow employees to upskill at any stage in their career.

It is overall clear that change in the world of work is imminent. The decline of sectors dominated by routine working patters, and the change in employers’ expectations, presents challenges. Yet, with new forms of work becoming available, and the rise of the technical sector, there are also opportunities. If Britain is to succeed in this new age of technology, it needs to invest in its people and provide them with the skills they need. This is something only the Labour Party is prepared to do.

David Robinson

Epsom and Ewell CLP

Bibliography

Social media: the election weapon of the underdog?

Jeremy Corbyn delivered a rousing maiden election speech in Croydon last Thursday, in which he portrayed himself as an anti-establishment figure – the persona of choice for today’s outsider candidates.

As Labour begin to scale this electoral mountain, it is clear that they must also adopt other election tactics used by recent electoral insurgents. I speak of course of digital marketing and harnessing the power of data analytics to reach those crucial swing voters.

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Community, Relationships and the Digital Future

The digitalisation of industry will doubtlessly bring many benefits to the UK economy. A study focusing on broadband penetration conducted by Booz & Company in 2012 showed that a 10% increase in digitalisation led to a 0.6% increase in GDP. The amount of jobs in sectors such as business services is expected to increase, together with a streamlining of procedures, making the economy more efficient and increasing GDP. These are of course benefits that a forward thinking Labour Party must embrace in the interests of the British economy.

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Digital Defence – The National Cyber Security Strategy

Chancellor Philip Hammond gave a speech at the Microsoft conference in October launching the National Cyber Security Strategy. He was clear that changing technology transforms our society and our economy dramatically. To illustrate this point, the Chancellor noted that in 1589 the British Inventor William Lee developed a knitting machine, and was denied a patent for it on the grounds that it would create unemployment. The Queen noted in her rejection of the patent that “It would assuredly bring them (her subjects) to ruin by depriving them of employment, thus making them beggars.”

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The data arms race: will Labour win?

We are living in the age of a “data” arms race. In the US “big data” was pioneered in the two Obama election campaigns. It is estimated the 2012 Obama campaign spent over $1 billion amassing and using data driven analytics. “Scraps” of data were centralised in order to understand voters. Through online transactions, supermarket purchases and social media posts a myriad of day to day online activity is logged, recorded and characteristics profiled. Via Facebook, Twitter or Reddit – if it is in the “public domain” it can be obtained. In the US political parties can now purchase data profiles of individuals in order to “target” them with campaign messages. Data can be harvested, and with the right software & resources, analysed to profile voters. This can allow political parties to create “bespoke” campaign messages, more effectively canvass and therefore GOTV (“Get out the Vote”).

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Scaling digital change for better public services — reflections on UK local government digital strategies

On the eve of the Barcelona Smart Cities Expo, where 600+ municipal authorities from across the world will gather to showcase the latest trends in the use of digital technologies and discuss the common challenges facing them in the future , it is timely to consider how UK local government is responding and planning for the digital revolution.

As Cabinet member for Finance, Technology & Growth at the London Borough of Camden and Chair of our new ICT Shared Service Board with Islington and Haringey, over the past few months I’ve been considering how digital transformation can be better progressed across local government — interviewing leaders of councils, cabinet members and councillors; chief information officers; chief executives and senior officers.

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Live from Miami: Challenge for the centre left is to stand up and lead.

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Future Labour’s Darren Jones, with Labour Party colleagues, campaigning in Florida for Hillary Clinton.

Europe will face new challenges following the election of Donald Trump, writes Darren Jones.

Donald Trump’s election spells the end of progressive politics, unless we stand up and redefine the centre left.

I’ve just returned to the UK after a week in Miami campaigning for Hillary Clinton. The result is clearly not what I was hoping for.

I’ve been involved in election campaigns continuously for about 12 years now. As a Labour Party campaigner you won’t be surprised to hear the jokes I’ve been receiving about taking up a new hobby: a decade of (largely) losing elections on the centre left of politics raises the question as to whether I should substitute my passion for gardening.

But, following my loss at the 2015 General Election (nationally and in my own campaign to become the Labour MP for my home seat of Bristol North West) and then Brexit and now the US Presidential election, I’ve come up with a theory.

In my view, the US election being so close with a Republican candidate as repugnant as Donald Trump spells a much longer term problem for the centre left of politics than it does just for the outcome of this Presidential election. And the parallels apply equally to UKIP and our impending Brexit too.

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Write for Future Labour

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Job Title: Contributing Writers (voluntary)
Working For: Future Labour
Location: Internet
Salary: None (part-time)

Job Details
www.futurelabour.org.uk/@_FutureLabour is a volunteer powered platform focussed on the future of work within the fourth industrial revolution. Future Labour aims to be the place to go for supporters of the Labour Party to read thought leadership on the future of the British digital economy, and the role that the politics of the left has to play.

Contributing Writers
Articles on the website are designed to inform readers through both an objective and subjective assessment. They need to be researched, considered and of high quality. The website will initially include features and commentary, but will later include detailed reports and policy reviews. Journalism experience is not vital but you must be passionate about the topic and writing.

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The Future of the Brexit Digital Economy

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In a welcome twist of events, the May government adopted Labour Party policy this week. Described as more “Balls than Osborne”, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that Conservative economic policy = fiscal discipline + investment for growth.

Whilst this positively Keynesian economic approach is welcome, two things need to happen.

Firstly, Government borrowing should stimulate economic growth through an active industrial policy focussed on the future digital economy. With hard Brexit now on a timer, Britain can’t afford to fall off the European Digital Single Market without a coherent vision of a Digital Britain.

And secondly, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell need to set out how Labour’s economic strategy will deliver on Jeremy’s promise of bringing the Keynesian economic approach of the 20th century into the 21st century.

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Future Labour at Labour Party Conference 2016

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Join Labour Digital as it re-launches as Future Labour at Labour Party Conference 2016.

Labour Digital is re-launching as Future Labour at Labour Party Conference 2016.

Come and join us at our fringe this Wednesday from 12:30 in Meeting Room 13 at the ACC (conference pass required).

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Digital Democracy Manifesto

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This morning Jeremy Corbyn launched his Digital Democracy Manifesto at Newspeak House, Shoreditch. Included within the manifesto is a commitment to deliver high speed broadband and mobile connectivity for every household, company and organisation in Britain; launching a public consultation with people and parties across the political spectrum to draw up a digital bill of rights; and increasing the opportunities available for both children and adults to learn how to write software and to build hardware.

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