My statement on the events of today 18th Feb 2019

 

 

 

(Click the picture to watch or read text below)

 

The instant emotion I felt, when I heard the news this morning that colleagues were leaving Labour, was deep sadness.

I’ve devoted my life to this party and I’m proud to serve it, I am hugely disappointed about what has happened. This is a sad day for all of us. 

I think our colleagues have come to a premature conclusion.

But this is a moment for regret and reflection not for a mood of anger or a tone of triumph.

There are those who are already celebrating the departure of colleagues with whom they disagree.

The tragedy of the hard left can be too easily tempted into the language of heresy and treachery.

Betrayal narratives and shouting insults at the departed might make some feel better briefly but it does nothing to address the reasons that good colleagues might want to leave.

I want to say something in particular about Luciana Berger. 

In my time in politics I have witnessed many changes but perhaps the most profound of recent times has been the growth of identity politics.

I am sad to say that a virulent form of identity politics has seized the Labour party which today took its first casualty.

I would like to place on record my complete respect for Luciana and my understanding of the decision to which she has been driven.

They say antisemitism is a light sleeper. This is certainly a wake up call for the Labour party.

We were slow to acknowledge we had a problem and even slower to deal with it.

Even a single incident of antisemitism in the Labour party shames us.

Now we have lost Luciana, one of our most dedicated and courageous MPs.

If someone like Luciana no longer believes there is a home for her in the Labour party then many other colleagues will be asking themselves how they can stay.

That’s why time is short for us. To confront the scale of the problem and meet the consequences. To keep others from leaving.

The identity of this party must be tolerant, multi-cultural, generous and welcoming.

To put it mildly, we need to be kinder and gentler.

I love this party. But sometimes I no longer recognise it.

That is why I do not regard those who have resigned today as traitors.

I fear they have left at a critical moment for the country when all our attention should be on solving the Brexit crisis. So I regard them as people who have drawn the wrong conclusion to a serious question. 

The historic task of the Labour party is to speak for those citizens who lack a voice. To offer them a stake in the future of the nation.

Last month in a speech to the Fabian society I said that we needed to develop a programme that will deliver both within and beyond our traditional Labour base. I said I fear that if we did not do that then someone else will. 

I confess I feared this day would come. And I fear now, that unless we change, we may see more days like this.

The departure of our colleagues poses a test for our party.

Do we respond with simple condemnation or do we try and reach out and extend beyond our comfort zone and prevent others from following? 

We know in our hearts we have been too slow to respond to the shaming scourge of antisemitism in our ranks.

Throughout our history this party has been patriotic and internationalist at the same time.

But is that a good description of what we are today? 

We face a government with no majority, no clarity and no leadership, badly failing on the issue of a generation: Brexit.

Yet we are losing members and now losing MPs. 

This country faces some troubling questions and we have yet to convince the nation that we have the answers.

Social democratic and democratic socialist traditions, which has always been the main stream of Labour’s political thought, is where we can find the answers to the current crisis.

That is why in the coming weeks and months I will be working with Labour MPs to develop policies within that tradition to address the challenges of the future

I believe the much-needed modernisation of this nation must come from there.

And that is why the Front Bench needs once again to reflect the balance of opinion in the Parliamentary Labour Party.

We need to broaden out so that all the members of our broad church feel welcome in our congregation.

It is only if we open out that this party can fulfil its purpose.

Labour was formed to give voice to the ordinary people of this nation. It can do so again but only if it stays together.

And it can only stay together if it stands for the whole country.

This noble aim brought us all into politics.

I believe in it every bit as much as I did on the day I first joined the Labour party in 1982.

 But I say candidly, that my fear is if we don’t do it, someone else will.

 

You can watch my statement here


Damn the Tory poachers

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Reasons to be angry

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Speech on fixing the distorted digital market

 

 

 

Hello thanks for having me today, and thanks to Progressive Centre UK, particularly Matthew Laza, for hosting this important event

 

There has always been propaganda, and spin in our politics. 

 

It is a side effect, albeit an unpleasant one, of an energetic liberal democracy. 

 

But what is happening today is different. 

 

In recent years we’ve seen the organised exploitation of digital media platforms by anti-democratic interests.

 

They are seeking to manipulate public views, to distort our political culture, and to divide our society. 

 

And the painful truth is, it’s working.

 

The Former Prime Minister Jim Callaghan once said that a lie can be halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on.

 

Today, falsehood travels 20 times faster than truth on Twitter.

 

Political ads on Facebook reach more people if you’re willing to include outrageous content because their algorithms are set to reward attention, even if it’s attention paid to lies or distortions.

 

And YouTube’s steady stream of recommended videos will take you from cats to conspiracy theories in a matter of minutes.

 

And all too often, we don’t even notice it's happening

 

 

I’m going to make two statements that may seem to contradict each other:

 

Firstly, the internet has enabled great, positive innovations in media and politics;

 

Secondly, both the people abusing digital platforms, and the companies that allow them to do so, are a threat to our democracy.

 

 

We have seen an illiberal populism sweeping the West.

 

It is fueled by declining public faith in democratic institutions but is amplified by the Internet.

 

Let's be clear, fundamentally, this is because Governments often fail to deliver on the core tenets of their social contracts:

 

Personal freedom,

Equality under the law,

And the chance to make a better future for our children.

 

Look no further than the people sleeping rough on our streets to see that the system isn’t working.

 

Frustration with the system is turning into a desire for destruction.

 

Chunks of the electorate hold views that are verifiably false.

 

Fact-checks do not sway opinions.

 

And trust in media is falling even further.

 

Our democracy depends on an open public sphere of fact-driven debate,

 

That base is cracked at its foundations.

 

This is not just a technology problem. 

 

It is a democracy problem, exacerbated by technology.

 

 

Section 1: Utopia/Dystopia

 

The BBC recently revealed that I was the first person use the phrase social media in the House of Commons.

 

That was back in 2008, when the world looked very different.

 

It was the year Android was launched;

 

The year a new music streaming app called Spotify was released;

 

The year Myspace was overtaken by Facebook.

 

I was among those that saw the Internet as a great democratising force in our politics. 

 

It offered new forms of organisation, innovation, and localism

 

Our optimism was ascendant.

 

In 2008, like many people, I looked forward to a tech utopia.

 

But a decade on, we find ourselves in digital dystopia.

 

New control technologies like tracking tools and micro-targeted advertising have cast a long shadow.

 

A little later, I’ll explain the how Pokemon Go is an unlikely example of this kind of development.

 

Parts of the internet have become havens for hate speech, platforms for extremism and election interference.

 

We now know that as many as 126 million Americans saw content posted by fake Russian backed pages on Facebook during the 2016 Presidential election

 

Competition has been replaced by corporate power.

 

Google has bought 215 business since 2000. Facebook has bought 69 businesses since 2007.

 

And those who understand how to use the power of the internet to mine data, manipulate political views, and even undermine democracies seem to be on the rise, as seen in the case of Cambridge Analytica which was exposed by the courageous journalism of Carole Cadwalladr

 

It’s easy to look back and think ourselves naive.

 

And it’s fair to say we underestimated the rapidity with which these problems would appear and how intensely they would impact on our politics.

 

But things did not have to end up this way.

 

And they do not have to stay this way.

 

Technology responds to the desires of its users, the structure of its market, and to the limits of the law.

 

These things can all be changed.

 

People created the internet, wrote the code that makes it work, designed and built Facebook and all the other services.

 

They can all be made differently – if we have the will to change them.

 

So I think our central task as policy leaders is to steer the power of technology back towards the public interest.

 

We can’t afford a laissez faire approach to regulation any longer.

 

Government has been dazzled by the scale of corporate profit for far too long, without questioning how much of that value reaches the bulk of the population.

 

We must rebalance the digital ecosystem towards the many, not the few.

 

To do this, we need to address the harms caused by the so-called attention economy.

 

The Internet remains an open space for speech and assembly. But that is not where the money is. 

 

The business model is simple:  track everything that everyone does online.

 

Then try to predict their wants, group them into target markets, and sell access to their attention to advertisers.

 

The more people click, read, and watch, the more money is made.

 

And here lies the danger for our democracy:

 

Now merchants are selling worldviews and ideologies as products – just look at Steve Bannon.

 

Conspiracy sells better than truth; and hate sells better than compassion.

 

So, digital platforms are ideally suited to propagandists peddling bigotry and division to the disillusioned.

 

I know Silicon Valley companies didn’t set out to undermine democracy.

 

But they didn’t stop it happening either, and they continue to profit from it.

 

Let me be clear: this has got to stop. 

 

And in these divided times of Brexit, what is uniting the different sides of the Houses of Parliament is the need to address this.

 

And unlike in other important national debates we’re having, Parties of both colours understand that we can’t recreate past eras, we don’t want to turn away from the internet and the benefits it offers.

 

And as we work to address these problems we must not lose sight of the fact that the power of technology offers enormous opportunity to humanity.

 

This is particularly important to the Labour Party, which at its best is forward-looking and forward thinking.

 

We know that change is inevitable, and with our notion of the empowering state, our challenge is to shape the change for the benefit of all.

 

So – what can be done?

 

Section 2: Action Plan

 

I see three phases to this process. 

 

First are the short term tasks to address the abuse of digital platforms. 

 

Then, we tackle a second set of challenges that reach deep into the structure of the online market.

 

Lastly, we establish a digital public sphere to rebuild people’s trust in democratic institutions.

 

Underpinning all three is a Duty of Care for technology companies that have a broad social impact,

 

The harms caused online need to be seen and treated as a public health concern.

 

I’m very pleasantly surprised to see that the Secretary of State for Health understands this and is taking a leadership position.

 

Companies must recognize and measure those harms and potential harms. 

 

They must be transparent about risks and take reasonable measures to address them, according to rules laid down by a competent, agile regulator and monitored by regular audits. 

 

This is how we handle other industries that offer great public benefit but also carry risks if left without oversight, from broadcasting to healthcare. 

 

Technology markets cannot be exempt.

 

Firstly, I’ll address those immediate concerns about harms caused to our citizens and our democracy by the abuse of digital platforms.

 

The rise in disinformation shows that the technologies underpinning the digital economy are too easily turned against us,

 

sowing division and bringing extremism from the margins to the mainstream.

 

This is a matter of national security.

 

What do I mean by that?

 

Organised disinformation can come from foreign agents who wish us ill.

 

But it’s also a matter of democratic integrity because disinformation undermines the quality of public debate.

 

It is dividing our society, it is damaging our faith in the media, and it is distorting electoral outcomes.

 

And it’s the vulnerable groups that are hit the hardest.

 

Consider the effects of disinformation on our older population.

 

Recent research from the US found that older people may not have the digital skills to distinguish fact from fiction online. Over-65s shared twice as many links to inaccurate news articles on Facebook than those in the second-oldest age group.

 

 

The DCMS Select Committee have led the way on this with their Fake News Inquiry, and I look forward to the imminent publication of their report.

 

Their Interim conclusions have: tech companies control what we see, by their very business model, and once content is seen, it is very difficult to disregard.

 

The public must have confidence that online attacks on our democracy will not be tolerated from any source, or in any form - be that cyber-attacks, hate speech, harassment or fraud.   

 

And when tech giants find that fake news has been spread on their platform they should let those exposed to it know – they should correct the record

 

Just like the internet touches all aspects of our lives, its misuse impacts all levels of society.

 

It is simply unacceptable that even with the multibillion pound market Facebook has in the UK, appearing before our Parliament was not a priority for Mark Zuckerberg.

 

Even my old friends Rupert and James Murdoch made themselves democratically accountable to our Parliament.

 

That’s why we must hold global tech platforms accountable with clear rules of the road, and align innovation with public welfare.

 

Policy 

 

To do this, we will introduce a set of Digital Democracy Guarantees:

 

So let me outline Labour's promises on security, transparency, and education.

 

We will take immediate steps to further protect our elections from the cyber-attacks and disinformation campaigns of criminal enterprises and foreign actors.

 

We will ensure that tech companies confirm that all online political advertisers targeting UK citizens are physically located in our country.

 

We will bolster transparency, too.

 

People have the right to know who is trying to influence their views, and how they are trying to do it.

 

Agents of disinformation amplify their lies through targeted digital adverts and social media bots.

 

So all automated accounts on digital platforms should be clearly labelled.

 

 

And political advertising will be made more transparent, so consumers are confident they know who placed the advert they are seeing, and understand the broad demographic criteria by which they were targeted.

 

Too many platforms choose ad sales over accuracy, clickbait over credibility.

 

So we need to establish improved online and media awareness across our education system and we will work with civil society groups to cultivate public knowledge about disinformation to support the next generation of voters.

 

And we will protect users from those who use digital media platforms to parade illegal material.

 

Labour would establish a new legal duty to remove illegal content, like hate speech, with a judge-led system of checks and balances. This will include fast-track appeals.

 

We will look to our friends in Germany and the judicial framework they have built.

 

The right to legitimate speech should be balanced against the need for legal protection.

 

Digital platforms should also enforce higher standards amongst their own user communities.

 

It is abhorrent that Britain First’s Facebook page remained active after posts were linked to multiple attacks;

 

I was shocked to learn that Facebook doesn’t recognise Stephen Yaxley-Lennon - Tommy Robinson - as the hate figure he is and kick him off their platform.

 

I was horrified to see how my SNP opponent, Stewart MacDonald, and his staff were targeted by Yaxley-Lennon’s intimidation tactics that was broadcast on Facebook Live

 

Parliament is united that we must not allow the online world to be a haven for hate.

 

New regulation must also put the protection of children at the forefront. That’s why Labour will ensure that companies have a legal duty of care in the services they provide to children.

 

I was heartened that the Government said yesterday that they want this too, but we need to ensure that the threshold for harm caused is not too high to offer meaningful protection, and breaches of the legal duty must be met by robust penalties.

 

Under the GDPR companies can be fined 4% of global turnover, or 20 million Euros, for data breaches.

 

If companies breach health and safety law in this country they are not only fined but forced to pay a victim surcharge to compensate those affected.

 

For the duty of care to be effective we need penalties that seriously affect companies’ bottom lines.

 

It is fitting that Safer Internet Day falls within Children’s Mental Health Week because the issues are inextricably linked.

 

According to Ofcom 8 in 10 of children between 5 and 7 year olds are online, along with almost all children between 8 and 11 years old.

 

Together, children make up a third of online users, and they are also some of the most vulnerable.

 

NHS research shows that children with mental health problems are more likely to use social media every day, and will do so for longer periods of time.

 

And time spent online can have tragic consequences.

 

By now the whole country knows the tragic story of Molly Russell.

 

Last month, her parents bravely said that exposure to harmful content about depression and suicide online, in their own words: “helped to kill her”.

 

And very sadly, Molly’s family is not alone.

 

Their tragedy is a consequence of an industry that too often chooses to profit from children, rather than protect them.

 

Just look at the children left by Facebook to rack up bills for thousands of dollars through games like Pet Ville and Happy Aquarium.

 

The Science and Technology Select Committee’s impressive recent report called for a comprehensive regulatory framework to protect children’s health as a matter of urgency.

 

They found that the current patchwork of initiatives does not offer our children the protection they need, leaving them vulnerable to content that is detrimental, and even dangerous, to their wellbeing.

 

I agree with them - our children need more than patchwork protection.

 

The Government urgently needs to announce an industry regulator with a strong Duty of Care with tough sanctions

 

Because while the Government drags its feet, reluctant to regulate a profitable industry, children are left vulnerable

  

It seems to me that the whole of the tech industry has forgotten that children are still children, online or off.

 

 

 

Phase 2 -- Data monopolies: 

 

Beyond these immediate changes, achieving long term progress means addressing the structural issues of the digital market.

 

At the centre of this crisis is an imbalance of power created by data monopolies and a distorted market.

 

Each year, businesses make billions by extracting and monetising personal data from each and every one of us.

 

And yes, they offer us a service in return,

 

But only worth a fraction of the fortune they gain.

 

This is Surveillance Capitalism.

 

I’ve been greatly influenced by the work of Professor Shoshana Zuboff.

 

I spent hours with small children playing Pokemon Go and wondering why it so often led us to McDonalds.

 

In her excellent book, Professor Zuboff says that Pokemon Go, a Google spin-off, created, as she says, behavioural futures markets so that business and corporations could profit from predicted behaviour.

 

 

This is one tiny albeit bizarre example of platforms catering to the business interests of a few at the expense of the many.

 

Just look at how YouTube profits from musicians’ work without fair remuneration.

 

YouTube pays creators just £0.00054p per stream.

 

They push back at me, and say they’re in a digital streaming market and this is about finding a negotiated price.

 

And I do understand their argument, but I think it’s undermined when you see the amount Google is spending on lobbyists in Brussels to undermine simple copyright reforms for the digital age.

 

No one can justify that last year, Amazon made £8.7 billion in Britain, and paid only £4.5 million in tax.

 

 

So empowering people to challenge these unethical powerful interests goes to the very heart of a Labour movement born from our trades unions.

 

We will use the tools of Government to shape the digital market and create meaningful structural change:

 

This will be a new social contract fit for the digital age.

 

Policy

 

The power dynamic between monopoly tech platforms and users has long been lopsided.

 

Users need more control over how their personal data is collected and monetised through a Digital Bill of Rights.

 

Customers should benefit from the value of the data they provide and the inferences made from it.

 

And in a market that offers little consumer choice, industry must reduce the barriers for moving between platforms,

 

Meaning greater portability of data across services, and not just the raw data, but the friendship networks, tags and other details that make it valuable.

 

As well as knowing when our data is traded, we should know when and how our data is subject to automated decisions;

 

So people should have a voice in whether algorithms serve as invisible editors, for example, curating what news we see, and have the ability to opt out.

 

They should know when their personal data is being used to affect the price they are being offered for goods or services.

 

And we will explore alternatives to companies keeping large databases and encourage research into personal data stores which would give us more control over our own data and how it is processed.

 

Of equal importance is the power dynamic between the companies themselves.

 

Consumers must have meaningful choices in how to find, send and receive information online.

 

One of Government’s central roles is to prevent the abuse of market power,

 

from facilitating competitive entry and product differentiation,

 

to regulating this new generation of  essential services so that public interest comes before private profits

 

Competition restrictions and oversight should be modernised to match the digital market.

 

Today, power is consolidated by large companies merging and acquiring smaller competitors,

 

So future competition reviews should consider whether companies are acquiring data and patents that enable monopolisation.

 

The scale of the largest companies is rightly the subject of scrutiny, with consumers and businesses all subject to the whim of a single overmighty platform provider.

 

We should take seriously the calls to break them up if it is in the public interest.

 

I don’t subscribe to the argument that they’re global companies that can’t be touched.

 

It’s certainly true that we have to work within existing international structures to regulate monopolies. But these companies also exist within UK markets, and are subject to UK law including competition regulation.

 

 

I said at the start of this speech that Governments are failing to deliver on the core of their social contracts.

 

This Government’s refusal to preempt the challenges presented by Machine learning and artificial intelligence is one such failure.

 

 

As datasets grow, so do machines’ abilities to learn and make decisions on their own.

 

And people are worried.

 

Over half of working people think AI will make it harder to earn a good life in years to come.

 

So how can we ensure technological advancements work for all of us, not against us?

 

Although the Government will estimate that 9 million jobs will be lost to automation, I can’t tell you today exactly which jobs will be lost due to the rise of the robots.

 

No one can do that accurately….Although the new Institute for the Future of Work is trying

 

It’s essential that school curricula help create a resilient workforce with the creativity and emotional intelligence to adapt to the jobs of the future.

 

And artificial intelligence and machine learning should be subject to ethical oversight to ensure an appropriate balance of power,

 

Particularly in relation to design bias, discriminatory outcomes, and algorithmic fairness.

 

Last year, Amazon’s AI recruitment machines were filtering out female candidates’ job applications.

 

Machines were learning the company’s own internal bias.

 

Algorithmic processes need greater oversight and even regular audits, akin to health and safety, to help prevent these patterns repeating.

 

 

This new social contract would reach deep into digital market structures,

 

Helping to equalise the relationships between consumers and corporations,

 

Between smaller and larger companies,

 

And balancing future innovation with social justice.

 

I want to build public interest into technology business models.

 

Because when the public are seen as meaningful market partners, industry is incentivised to share more of its many benefits.

 

 

Phase 3: Digital Public Sphere.

 

 

With that guiding principle, we can begin to build a digital public sphere.

 

This would be an online space that supports civil society, where people can feel safe, where people won’t be surveilled, and if they are advertised to, they are advertised to transparently.

 

I envisage this as a place where people can go for services from our great national collections to local authority services.

 

Jeremy Corbyn addressed these issues head-on last summer, when he spoke about building a free and democratic media for the digital age.

 

And he’s right that without radical thinking, our public spaces and debates will be taken up by unaccountable tech giants and trust in the media will further suffer. 

 

So we need to be bold and ambitious in a changing media landscape.

 

To counter the damage done by disinformation, and to safeguard our democracy.

 

To provide a safe space for young people online, and a source of trusted information for those less confident using the internet,

 

And to create a place where reasonable debate and discussion can take place without trolls and extremists seeking to damage and undermine people.

 

One area that a digital public sphere can support is quality journalism that holds the powerful to account

 

The digital economy has displaced much of traditional journalism.

 

136 local and regional papers have closed in just six years.

 

And there are 6,000 fewer full-time positions in the industry than in 2007.

 

Of course, digital platforms differ fundamentally from print:

 

Unlike the limits of the page, online advertising space is infinite.

 

And the profits go to the advertising platforms themselves rather than the providers of news and other content that appear on them

 

This has undercut the profit model of print journalism irreversibly.

 

But even as the fortunes of commercial media have declined, the public’s need for their services has surged.

 

A digital public sphere will provide a space for journalism in the public interest.

 

But in order to do this the public policy response must be rigorous and open minded

 

We could give charitable status to some local, investigative and public interest journalism,

 

Allowing outlets to use grants, donations, and tax exemptions to fund the brilliant work they do.

 

Initiatives like a British Digital Corporation which Jeremy outlined last summer, could serve as a crucial access point to publicly held data, could bring technological advancement and the public good into lockstep once again.

 

The ongoing Cairncross Review, and the Government’s response to it, should commit to creating a digital public sphere, and engage in the creative policy thinking needed to achieve this.

 

 

To conclude, as a society we stand at an inflection point.

 

We need an ambitious public policy response to steer technological development back towards serving the wellbeing of our democracy.

 

I’ve spoken today about what we need to do now

 

One - Deal with harms, hate and fake news with an enforceable duty of care.

 

Two -  Fix a distorted online market caused by data monopolists and tech acquisitions. This requires a regulator to stop the lobbyists and lawyers jumping through the cracks in law and the gaps in our knowledge.

 

Three – Encourage and shape a digital public sphere where citizens can absorb credible news and information safe in the knowledge they will not be surveilled or targeted with ads when they do.

 

 

There are no single or fast solutions. 

 

Only a combination of policies -- all of which are necessary for a self-governing democracy and none of which are sufficient alone.

 

But this much is clear. 

 

We cannot allow our society to be held hostage to a marketplace of data monopolists who extract far more than they return, and whose business model undermines the integrity of our democracy.

 

Social justice and the public interest must be built into our market structures. We need:

 

More protection from those that wish to do us harm,

 

More choice and control over our own lives online,

 

More opportunities to benefit from the wonders technology has to offer.

 

That is the mark of a fair society that only Labour can deliver.

 

And if we get this right, the results could be spectacular.


Sid Vicious, a beer shampoo, and a phone call with mum...

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Speech to the Advertising Association

 . 

 

It’s a pleasure to be here with you today to contribute to your conference on trust, trade and transformation.

People often ask me why I chose to become an MP. The honest answer, the truthful answer, the answer you can trust, the answer I rarely give, is that I wasn’t very good at anything else.

One of the things I wasn’t very good at was advertising. For a very brief period in the late 1980s, I was a junior account executive in a small Chelsea-based agency that operated on the margins of creativity and the seedy world of direct mail.

I wasn’t very good at the job – but don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved it. I loved the craic. I loved the deadlines and the pitches. I loved the drinking culture. I loved the wild creatives who kept odd hours and were theatrically temperamental. I loved the absolute bullshit of it all.

And, in all honesty, in hindsight, I realise only now, whilst I write this speech to the Advertising Association, that the experience has helped me greatly in my job as a politician.

 

My short career in advertising

I look back on my very brief and unsuccessful time in advertising and remember all the characters and their portentous claims. I still have committed to memory the first sentence definition of advertising in Ogilvy on Advertising: "I do not regard advertising as entertaining or an art form but as a medium of information."

You see, that’s why I failed. For me, the short-lived advertising career was nothing but entertaining.

And I got obsessional about it for a very short period of time.

I still have Scientific Advertising by Claude C Hopkins on my bookshelf. Claude, who tells us that "The only purpose of advertising is to make sales. It is profitable or unprofitable according to its measurement".

It was Claude who also told me that "the average person worth cultivating has too much to read" – beautifully absolute in his certainty, but it stuck in my mind to such a degree that, in 30 years of writing local political leaflets, I’ve always tried to keep the word count below 160 on the page.

And I think that intersection between advertising and politics is why I find what you do so interesting.

The words we use convey powerful stories – but only if the right words are assembled in the right order on the page. And in a so-called "post-truth" world, the need for advertising to be "legal, clean, honest and truthful" has never resonated more strongly with the public.

I’m reminded of the great Conservative prime minister Stanley Baldwin – one of the most misunderstood and underappreciated prime ministers of the last century – who wrote "Words are the currency of love and friendship, of making and marketing, of peace and war. Nations are bound and loosed by them. Three or four simple words can move waves of emotion through the hearts of multitudes like great tides of the sea: 'Lest we forget', 'Patriotism is not enough'."

Now, on transformation. Last year, I had a life-changing transformation which has made me fitter, faster, happier and given me more energy and focus than ever before.

It’s an experience that has given me a different perspective on the work you do, so I’d like to share some thoughts about that with you today.

Some of the things I’m going to say may sound tough. But it will be said in a spirit of great respect and concern for an industry I greatly admire.

 

Advertising’s benefits to UK plc

But first, I want to talk about the great of our UK industry.  

For every pound spent on advertising, £6 is added to our economy. A million jobs across the UK depend on you, with more than half of advertising jobs based outside London. The UK is the fourth-largest advertising market after the USA, China and Japan.

That is all good news. Great news, in fact. And Labour wants to do everything we can to support your success.

But of course there are challenges too.

The fourth industrial revolution is changing the way every sector of our economy operates, advertising included.

Digital advertising is booming. The big winners are platforms like Facebook and Google. The big losers are organisations like local newspapers, which can no longer rely on diminishing "off the page" ad revenues.

Data-driven, targeted advertising is more important than ever before. We’ve seen claims that presidential elections and referendums have been won and lost through so-called "dark ads".

We’ve seen major ethical concerns about adverts being screened next to hateful, dangerous or abusive content.

I can see why you’ve focused "trust, trade and transformation" today.

 

A few words about Brexit

But before I talk about the Ts, I better mention the B word that no speaker will be able to avoid today: Brexit.

I can’t help thinking of the words on that infamous bus and wondering whether political advertising needs greater regulation. And Baldwin’s observation on words: "Nations are bound or loosed" by them.

And I know that your industry, like many others, needs from this process, stability, certainty, reassurance.

But that is the one thing the government has completely failed to provide.

Last night, we had a marathon voting session in parliament. Unfortunately, rather than solving anything, it’s left us even more confused than before.

The prime minister is going back to Brussels to ask for something the EU has ruled out and Theresa May herself spent the last four months ruling out.

Ken Clarke said during the debate yesterday that this is a "unique political crisis". He is right. And it’s hard to see a way out.

I’m not sure if this dud deal is going to get through parliament. Which means we need a new deal, which somehow can command a majority of the House, or we face the hard reality of an election, a public vote or crashing out with no deal.

I wish I could give you the ready-made solution in words as powerful as those spoken by prime minister Baldwin. But I’m afraid the words of that great advertising copywriter Fay Weldon are more relevant for this government: "Nothing happens, and nothing happens, and then everything happens."

 

The good and bad about the advertising of the past

I’ve explained that I’ve always been fascinated by advertising.

The words of advertising often enter the language of our daily conversation. It can shape our culture and thinking.

I love it that Fay Weldon came up with the phrase "Go to work on an egg".

It’s no wonder that many famous authors and film-makers began life in the advertising industry.

I love it that the author who wrote "What's real and what's true aren't necessarily the same" in Midnight’s Children also wrote "Naughty but nice" in a cream cake ad.

I’m sure that you’ll all know who these people on the screen are. Famous copywriters, now legends… F Scott Fitzgerald, Salman Rushdie, Fay Weldon, Dr Seuss, Terry Gilliam.

But though adverts and their creators might be brilliant, advertising doesn’t always get it right.

And that’s where organisations like the Advertising Association have such an important role to play in building, standing up for, defending truth and trust.

Looking through historic adverts and judging them through contemporary cultural values is not particularly productive. These ads weren’t right in the 1950s, and they almost look life spoofs now.

But they help me illustrate how important it is, particularly in the new context of information abundance and fake news, that what you say is accurate, proportionate and, well, truthful.

I guess I’ve got a creative brief for you today: to address one of the themes of this conference – the issue of trust

It’s been a bad year for politics in the UK, perhaps the worst in my lifetime. But, last year, politicians were given a small relative boost. For once, we didn’t come bottom of the Ipsos Mori "veracity poll" of most trusted figures.

That’s because Ipsos Mori included advertising executives for the first time – so politicians came second last.

The one thing you can take from these figures is that, even in times of adversity, you can be reassured that it’s clever advertisers that are making politicians look good! 

 

cocaine_one.png

Now I don’t want to put responsibility for all social ills in society on your industry, and I know that some say that advertising is just a mirror on our culture, but I think advertising can shape our culture more than it already does.

 

baby_drinking.png

I don’t know what was going on in 1895 when this ad for cocaine tooth drops was written, but it must have been a hell of a year for someone.

And I’m sure this poor boy enjoyed his 7 Up drink in the 1950s, but I’m also sure that he will have died from one of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease or vascular dementia in the years since.

This advert looks appalling to us today, but I wonder which of today’s ads and promotions for sugary foods and drinks will seem as horrible to future generations? 

 

Advertising has awesome power

You see, advertising has an awesome power to shape our lifestyles. If it didn’t, people wouldn’t invest in it. And, though Claude C Hopkins said it’s just about the sales, I disagree. With that cultural and commercial power comes responsibility.

We face a public health crisis in the UK, and one of the main causes is refined sugar in our foods and drinks.

The results are horrific: 26,000 children hospitalised with rotten teeth. The worst obesity rates in western Europe. And the catastrophe of type 2 diabetes, taking lives and costing the NHS £10bn a year.

I’m making it my political mission to change this. That’s why I’ve launched an independent commission into how we reverse the increase in type 2 diabetes in a single parliament.

To do it, we need to think big – bigger than we ever have before.

That could mean more social prescribing by GPs, more taxes on sugar in food and drinks, and stronger regulations on packaging and labels, and the claims made by manufacturers.

But it’s also got to mean radical changes to how we market and advertise food, especially to young consumers.

Here are some current examples of what I would call irresponsible advertising:

 

    cartoon_cereal.png

 

Before anyone tells me this is packaging and not advertising, let me tell you what they are: they are billboards on table tops aimed at tiny tots.

And, because of that, they should be included in the self-regulatory arrangements for the industry.  

These products are packed full of sugar, with little nutritional value.

Even if a child had the recommended portion of Frosties, they’d be eating more than half their daily allowance of sugar before they’ve even got to school.

And if they ate a bowl the size of the one that’s depicted on the front of the pack, they’d be exceeding their daily sugar allowance in one sitting.

For children under 10, cereal is their single biggest source of free sugar intake.

When we have a third of children leaving primary school overweight or obese, when teenage diabetes is rising by 70%, we’ve got to ask ourselves – is this still acceptable? I don’t think it is.

 

Facing up to an unpalatable truth about advertising today

The unpalatable truth for the Advertising Association, that represents the interests of the industry to government, is that some sectors of the advertising industry have played a part in getting us here.

Advertising has contributed to making us a nation overweight, unhealthy and addicted to sugar, and the industry has got to play a part in getting us out of this mess. And it’s in your self-interest to do this, if the Ipsos Mori survey on trust is anything to go by.  

So when it comes to high-sugar products like Coco Pops, my argument to you today is: get that monkey off our packs.

I want you to find a way to help us get healthier. Get cartoon characters off adverts for high-sugar foods. Help us kick our sugar habit.

If you don’t find a way to do it, then I promise you that the next Labour government will.

If you are not convinced of the need for change already, I want to show you a photo that I was sent by a paediatric dentist, Claire Stevens, from the University Dental Hospital in Manchester, just this week.

 

      Jar_of_teeth.png

This is a picture Claire took of the rotten teeth she removed from children during a single afternoon in surgery in Manchester.

It sometimes seems an abstract fact that dental problems are the main reason that children aged five to nine are admitted to hospital.

But this picture is the reality – the truth about Britain’s sugar problem.

All because the food they are eating is rotting their teeth and making them ill.

 

The ad industry must do more to drive positive health change or face regulation

Advertising can have a positive role. Fay was right, after all. "Go to work on an egg" and not a box of obesity-inducing Kellogg’s cereals.

Advertising has the power to take sugar off the table and reinvent the British breakfast.

Just last week, the launch of ITV and Veg Power’s campaign to get more kids eating veg showed what creative collaboration between advertisers and health campaigners can achieve.

So, I don’t want you to go away thinking that I don’t like what you do. On the contrary, I love what you do. Most of what you do.

But this country needs your work to drive positive change that makes us healthy.

As Yuval Noah Harari wrote in the chapter on the post-truth world in his recent book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century:

"What images come to mind when you think about Coca-Cola? Do you think about young healthy people engaging in sports and having fun together? Or do you think about overweight diabetes patients laying in a hospital bed? Drinking lots of Coca-Cola will not make you young, will not make you healthy, will not make you athletic; rather it increases you chances of suffering from obesity and diabetes.

"Yet, for decades, Coca-Cola has invested billions of dollars in linking itself to youth, health and sports – and billions of humans believe in this linkage."

Everywhere our citizens look, on TV, online, on buses, on billboards, they are surrounded by adverts for foods laced with sugar. Those ads work.

They’ve sold us the idea that breakfast means a bowl of sugary cereal. They’ve sold us the thought that thirst can only be truly quenched by a sugary, fizzy drink.

So, today, I want you to think deeply about how advertising could help transform the lives of Britain's 3.7 million identified diabetics.

How could changes in your industry contribute to stopping kids leaving school obese. How we can get two million type 2 diabetics off their meds. How we can save the NHS 10% of its budget.

If you manage that creative brief, I promise that when Labour is next in government, I will be the biggest advocate for the UK advertising industry of any minister – an industry that did so much to shape my life and that of thousands of more talented and successful people than me.

Trust me on this.


A call to arms

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A nation to be proud of again

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A nation to be proud of again- my speech to the Fabian Society

We are cursed, I’m afraid, to live in interesting times.  

These are not, however, glorious times. 

This week the Government suffered the biggest defeat of any in British history.  With just 73 days to go until Brexit, the only deal available fell down.  In their hearts Tory MPs know the Prime Minister hasn’t got what it takes to get any deal through Parliament. 

They know the cruel truth. 

She doesn’t possess the empathy and she doesn’t have the policy to lead this country any longer.  But they didn’t have the courage to face up to that on Wednesday night.   No plan, no authority, no hope. They know that.  It should have led to ‘No Confidence’. 

But instead the Prime Minister limps on while the nation is shaking its head in despair.  To be honest I can’t blame them.  As the clock ticks constantly down, it is our duty to engage intelligently with the Government on Brexit negotiations.

But the Prime Minister must create the conditions for that engagement 

And I fear her inflexibility and lack of imagination will mean she is unable to do so. The result of the 2016 referendum posed the biggest challenge our country has faced since WWII.  To respect the result while protecting jobs and families and bringing the country back together. 

It’s not easy but sadly the past two years have shown we have a government that is not equal to the task.  Our national conversation is toxic, angrier than I have ever known.  Trust in politics is shrinking.  

All the important topics - the quality of jobs, the availability of childcare, the future of schools and hospitals - are left to languish.   At a time of greater adversity than this, a better man than me warned that “if we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.” 

Throughout history, times of adversity have resulted in extraordinary change.  A little over a hundred years ago, David Lloyd George promised to build “a fit country” for its returning heroes.  The first Labour government played an important part in building those homes.  

Less than thirty years later, in the aftermath of another great war, Clement Attlee built a “New Jerusalem”, still the cornerstone of our modern society.  

Over ten years ago, we experienced another historic crisis: The Great Recession.  

This time, our democracy failed us.   No “New Jerusalem” followed in its wake; no great programme of reform. No building of anything.   Instead, we experienced years of Tory austerity: austerity that is still all around us today, regardless of what this government tells us.  

We see the 500 libraries that have closed. We see the £7 billion slashed from schools that have left classrooms overcrowded and teachers rationing even the basics, like exercise books.  We see the homeless people, whose numbers have doubled since 2012, on streets in every town in Britain.  We see 4.5 million children in the UK growing up in poverty. Children going to bed hungry and waking up in cold unheated homes. 

 

A Nation Divided

When you think about all this, the thread that connects the result of the 2010 election directly to the result of the 2016 referendum, to the problems of the nation, is clear. 

We are now a country divided like never before:   Between “haves” and “have nots”;  Between North and South; And between Leavers and Remainers 

It needn’t have been so. 

The Government could have sought a Brexit to bind the nation. 

Instead, the Tories have turned into a narrow nationalist sectional party.  And Mrs May has chosen at every point to placate her most extreme colleagues. Those who respond to change by fleeing back towards the past.  Sometimes, let’s be honest, we are tempted to do the same.  But at its best, this party embraces change in a spirit of optimism.  In the expectation that the future will surpass the present and improve on the past. 

In our 1945 the manifesto of the great Attlee government was called ‘Let us Face the Future’. 

In 1964 the Wilson years were ushered in with the promise of a ‘new Britain’ which allied the cause of social justice with a new vision for how the white heat of technology could transform our economy. 

In 1997 the promise of New Labour New Britain showed how a changed and modern Labour party could change our country. 

That is the task. To look to the future.  

 

At the last election, under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, we stood on an exciting programme to remedy the social injustices of the austerity years.  But we cannot rest on the manifesto for the last election and hope it will deliver victory for us in the next. 

We need now to show that we have a programme and a vision for how to equip all our people for the economic changes the new technological revolution will bring.  

We must turn our vision to rebuild Britain for the many, not the few into a programme that will deliver both within and beyond our traditional Labour base. 

 

If we do not do that, we will have failed in our duty.  If we do not do that we will lose people because of it.  If we do not do that, someone else will.  

I want to talk today about what that future could look like.  I want to talk about a fairer, more just and equal society.  An economy that works for everyone.  Our values and how they will be projected across the world.  

A new politics that restores the trust of the electorate.  I want to talk about building a nation that we can be proud of again.  

A nation only Labour can build.  

 

A New Economy

A good society is built on the foundations of a strong economy.  A party with the name of Labour has to understand the world of work. 

Technology is changing work profoundly.  

 The Fabians recognise that and your commission on workers and technology will I know produce important policy recommendations. also have a personal interest in this issue.  

One of the famous computers in artificial intelligence was developed at IBM.  To show how close to human life the computer could get it was submitted to play the game show Jeopardy! on American television.  

Remarkably, the computer won.  

The name of that artificial intelligence was Watson. The way that technology changes the economy is a game of jeopardy.  Remember when bowling pins had to be reset by a real person? Remember when there were film projectionists in every cinema across Britain? I am showing my age here.  

Every time I go to a supermarket there are more self-checkouts and fewer cashiers. I am not suggesting we try to turn back the clock.  The best of today’s economy is that it provides freedom, autonomy and flexibility.  

It promises a revolution in product standards and in productivity.  But it is our job to ensure that these benefits flow to the people and are not made at the cost of the people.  

Online shopping is cheap and easy but we have seen High Street outlet undercut.  A High Street is not just a retail park. It is a community centre and the heart goes from a town when it disappears.  

There is a lot more change coming.  

Here are just some of the decisions that will soon be made by algorithms churning through vast data sets.  

Whether the bank gives you a credit card or a mortgage. The best candidate for a job. Whether you deserve a promotion. Whether we should be given a certain course of treatment. 

The Government has estimated 9 million existing jobs could be lost to AI by 2030.  We haven’t seen change on this scale since the Industrial Revolution. 

It took 17 different Factory Acts over 100 years to find a balance between the power of the employer power and the rights of workers. We’ll probably need to the same for the digital revolution.  It was early Trade Unionists that championed the rights of workers against industrialists in the 1870s.   

Union membership today is at a record low while under-employed, gig economy workers and those on zero hours contracts need the strength of collectivism more than ever.  

 

A Green Economy

We also need to come together to make sure that the new economy we build is the greenest the world has ever seen.  

In 2015, Britain signed the Paris Declaration and committed to freeze global warming at 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.  We must now set in course the action that ensures we hit these targets.  There is no excuse for not having a plan in place that will deliver a net zero carbon economy.  A Labour government must take us to that goal, as fast as can possibly be achieved.  As other nations across the world renege on their commitments and promises, we must do the opposite. 

The Tory government consumed by Brexit is not even talking about any of this, let alone doing anything about it.  

Only Labour can do that.  

Only Labour can fashion change into fairness.  

 

A Fair Country

And I worry that in the Tory Britain of today, justice has gone missing.  

British democracy used to offer a compact to its people.  It was the promise that the young, wherever they are born and whoever they are born to, can do as well or better than their parents.  

Today, the link between work and making ends meet has broken.  There are now 4 million workers in the UK who live in poverty. 1 in 8 people classified as ‘working poor’. Nearly 2 million people are employed on ‘zero hours’ contracts with no guarantee of minimum hours and no idea how much money they will have coming in.  

Our society is calcifying.  

If you are born poor today, you can expect to be poor as an adult too: just look at how the privately schooled still dominate the major professions.  Those born rich get richer, and inequality grows: 10% of the country now own 66% of its wealth.  

Last year just one in seven young people said they thought they had the chance to move up in society. A UN special rapporteur looked at British society late last year.  His words were lost in the tumult of Brexit, but they bear repeating:  

He described austerity as “punitive, mean-spirited and callous”.  

He reported that changes to our taxes and benefits placed “the highest toll on those least able to bear it.” 

From this imbalance, anger and frustration grows.  

The Labour party must step in.  

We must build a society where aspiration is more than a buzzword.  

I’m so proud of the work Angela Rayner is doing with our National Education Service to make these hopes real.  A measurement of social mobility should become as important - if not more important - than the other measures we use to judge our economy and society. No-one should tell us about GDP growth or unemployment figures, without mentioning social mobility in the same breath.  

The question is not: “is our economy growing?”  The question must be: “is our economy growing for everyone?”  

If we are going to give people something to aspire to, there are few things more evocative than a “home of one’s own”.  Our own home is an aspiration shared across our country and throughout our history.  But today, for most it is an unattainable dream.  A thirty year-old who saves 5 percent of her income each year will put down a deposit on an average-priced house in the year they turn seventy-five.  In thirty years, house prices have doubled relative to income.  This is a country that offers too little to too many. 

If there is an anger in our politics now, I am not surprised.  

 

A Proud Country

I want this to be a nation of which we can be proud and that means fairness at home. It also means a nation that does us proud in the world outside.  As we leave the EU, our international position will change.  We must ensure that this is not a retreat.  

The international order that has maintained peace and ensured prosperity since the end of the Second World War is under threat.  The history of the Labour Party is entwined with the history of this international order, not - as some believe - opposed to it.  It was a Labour Prime Minister, our greatest: Clement Attlee, and a Labour Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, who built it with their American counterparts.   We are now at a moment in time when this order is in retreat as never before in my lifetime. 

Freedom House points to 71 countries where we are witnessing a net decline in political rights and civil liberties.  This is a time that we must stand up and fight for our legacy. Brexit has caused Britain’s international reputation to decline.  

We must rebuild it.  

We can once again be a proud figure on the world stage, standing up internationally for the values that we embody at home. 

The Labour way is the way of my great political hero Ernie Bevin. A partnership of patriotism with internationalism. 

Those are the values of this movement.  

 

A New Politics

Another of those values is the nobility of politics.  It is a value we are not living up to. Trust in politicians is low and falling.  

Regardless of what Mr Gove told us, public trust in experts is high: scientists, doctors, professors, nurses.  Politicians, however, are second only to advertising executives in how little we are trusted: just 19% of the public believe we are telling the truth. It is clear that the public have totally lost trust in those they elect to these offices. 

I think the key to changing this will be to pay close attention to slogan of the Leave campaign: “Take Back Control”.  When a slogan like this resonates so deeply, it is clear that something in our politics has catastrophically failed.  Power has become too distant.  Unaccountable and too centralised in Westminster.  

We must find ways to make those in power more accountable to the people.  We must allow people to feel a greater part of our democratic process: they must see more people like them in office, more people they know in power at the local level.  

Our democracy was built with assumptions made hundreds of years ago.  It has become increasingly ill-fit for its purpose ever since.  It is time that we built a political system that gives the people back control over their lives and future.  

 

Why Now?

If that sounds ambitious, if all of this sounds ambitious, that is because it is:  

A new industrial revolution.  

A new compact with the post-unionised workers of today. 

A commitment to building the world's greenest economy. 

A society where social mobility is a reality.   

A society where the young can aspire to own their own home.  

A welfare state that looks after those in need.  

A nation that stands tall on the world stage: defending the international order that has long brought peace and prosperity to the world.  

A politics that gives control back to the people. 

A nation to be proud of again.  

These are the ambitions that great moments of change call for.  

As we move into a post-Brexit era, we are in one of those moments.  

The cost of failing to do so is clear.  

But this is about more even than the movement I have been a part of all my life.  

This is about our country.  

The cost of failing to set a new course now will be borne by us all:  

More years of Tory mismanagement; 

More years of a two-track economy, growing inequality and an increasingly unjust and unfair society;  

More years of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer; 

A slow but marked diminishing of our presence on the world stage; 

And the continued separation of the political class and those it purports to represent.  

With this in mind, I look at Britain today and its current trajectory, and the words of Neil Kinnock ring in my ears:  

I warn you not to be ordinary. 

I warn you not to be young. 

I warn you not to fall ill. 

And I warn you not to grow old. 

These words describe life now as well as they did under Margaret Thatcher. 

Our country is at a crossroads. 

Fear and frustration under the Tories, retreat from the wider world. 

Or renewal and the recreation of hope and optimism with Labour. 

The country needs the leadership that only we can give. 

Let’s make sure we do not fail them. 


No Confidence in the Prime Minister

Yesterday, January 16, I was asked to make the closing speech on the motion of No Confidence in the Prime Minister.



You can watch the speech in full by clicking on the video above or read a transcript here.

 

Here's an extract...

"The Rt Hon Lady will be forever known as the 'nothing has changed Prime Minister'. But something must change. The truth is she is too set in her ways, too aloof to lead. She lacks the imagination and agility to bring people with her. She lacks the authority on the world stage to negotiate this deal. Ultimately she has failed.

It is not through a lack of effort. It is not through a lack of determination. And I think the country recognises that effort. In fact, the country feels sorry for the Prime Minister. I feel sorry for the Prime Minister. But she cannot confuse pity for political legitimacy, sympathy for sustainable support.

The evidence is clear. Everyone in this chamber, no matter which lobby they go through tonight, knows in their hearts this Prime Minister is not capable of getting a deal through. That is why we need something new. That is why we need a General Election."