Britain has spoken – and it overwhelmingly wants a Tory government. So heavy was Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour defeat, that such a loss hasn’t been registered by Britain’s biggest leftwing political party since 1935. Boris Johnson’s Conservatives have the most commanding majority since the days of Margaret Thatcher.
In what many are describing as a preview of the 2020 U.S. Presidential race, tech played an unprecedentedly large role in the British vote – and rarely in a good way. The Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising, a campaign group, claims at least 31 campaigns across party lines were dishonest or misleading, in what it described as a “fake news and disinformation general election.”
Labour was accused of using bots to target voters via dating app Tinder, while Mike Harris, CEO and founder of social media monitor 89Up told EuroNews that, “this election feels dirtier than previous elections.”
That may be bad news for democracy—especially considering an American poll in which social media is expected to play its biggest role to date—but elsewhere in Britain’s tech landscape there was cheer that Labour’s hard-left offer to the public was left very much on the table.
The Conservative Party was more proactive in courting the U.K.’s booming tech sector with a light regulatory and tax touch. “The U.K. has flourished as Europe’s biggest tech hub because it has both, along with world-class universities, top talent, and one of the world’s most supportive tax and regulatory environments,” FiveAI CEO Stan Boland told Computing.
The pound rallied upon news of the Tory win: evidence of the City of London’s longtime concerns about a protectionist, socialism-based economy under Momentum, the hard-left clique of politicians that has commandeered the party’s helm since 2017’s general election.
But with the Tory pledge to “get Brexit done” comes many other worries; namely that the untethering of Britain from its European neighbors could have dire consequences for the former’s economy. Johnson’s victory has prompted many Euroskeptic acolytes to eye January 31st as the date Britain will leave the European Union.
His massive majority may make that a possibility. But it could also leave the door open for the Tories to continue delaying until they broker a deal they are comfortable with – and no other party will have the power to stop them.
In October the National Institute of Economic and Social Research predicted that a Johnson-moulded Brexit would cost the U.K.’s economy as much as £70 billion ($93bn). Many tech companies already have contingencies in place to decamp to European cities like Paris and Frankfurt, should Britain’s economy tank. It remains to be seen whether this election will precipitate a depression in Europe’s tech capital.
Interest in British tech jobs has waned of late, as it has increased in other parts of Europe. The U.K.’s interest has dipped 3%, while the same in Belgium, Portugal and Sweden has leapt 76%, 45% and 42% respectively, according to jobsite Indeed.
“The slowdown in interest for UK tech jobs and the gains being made across Europe coincided with Brexit, suggesting the uncertainty about post-Brexit Britain could be eating into tech workers’ desire to work in the UK,” said Bill Richards, Indeed’s British MD. Johnson may have won last night’s battle resoundingly. But the war for the U.K.’s tech future remains to be fought.