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Politics & Governance

A New Direction: Ideas to Transform the Future of Britain


Paper28th July 2023

Our Future of Britain initiative sets out a policy agenda for a new era of invention and innovation, based on radical-yet-practical ideas and genuine reforms that embrace the tech revolution. The solutions developed by our experts will transform public services and deliver a greener, healthier, more prosperous UK.

The technological revolution is the single biggest force changing the world today. Yet just as with other big periods of upheaval – not least during the Industrial Revolution – political leaders and government have been slow to adapt.

Most politicians still treat technology as a side issue to be addressed once the “real” political debates have raged. Mainstream politics denies itself the enabling possibilities of technology (leaving the discussion to e-government bureaucrats) and so remains a 20th-century fight at the margins of tax and spend or welfare policy.

This presents concrete dangers. The current path of ever-higher taxes and increasing government costs – particularly when citizens get less in return – is unsustainable.

The real issue is how we harness the power of technology to revolutionise how the state governs.

In the 1990s, the only way to make the state responsive to citizens was through top-down targets and introducing competition where possible to create choice. But those were only proxy mechanisms to empower citizens.

The technologies we have now – including artificial intelligence (AI) and digital identity – are not proxies. They offer a direct way in which we can give and receive information in real time to deliver better, personalised public services and empower citizens.

A new 21st-century “strategic state” would harness these technologies to drive down the cost of public services, while constantly striving to improve outcomes.

A new model of government requires a new politics, shunning the old debates of tax and spend and left versus right for a simple, single-minded, unifying question:

What does Britain need to thrive in the future?

Answering this requires setting a higher bar of political leadership. The exercise of political authority has not changed: set a strategy that can prioritise challenges, define the policy actions that can solve them and adopt a delivery focus at the highest levels to get things done. What has changed is the potential for technology to enable that leadership.

For example, data and analytics can build a richer, more accurate representation of the problems for a country to solve when setting strategy. AI can identify more cost-efficient, higher quality policy interventions. And real-time delivery data monitored at the highest political level can ensure effective deployment of political power to unblock barriers to get things done.

Delivering this requires a new vision and framework including:

  • A commitment from the highest political authority to leverage the transformative power of technology for a mid-21st-century version of the state.

  • Far deeper state investment in technological and AI-era infrastructure, utilising cloud and modern software.

  • A more agile, responsive and targeted state, in which citizens have a digital identity and control their data.

  • A new treatment of data as a competitive asset, which can, for example, stimulate innovation in health.

  • A greater alignment between the government and private sector to mobilise effectively behind clear purposes, such as around climate.

  • A greater appetite for risk and innovation, with greater expertise from the outside informing direction.

Over the long run, a successful state will likely be smaller in scope but more effective in its delivery.

The promise of modernising the state by harnessing the personalised, realtime offer of technology is that government can empower people and put the state – the strategic state – at the service of citizens.

The Future of Britain Conference 2023 set out a vision for a strategic state that embraces bold ideas and technological progress to shape a brighter future for Britain.

Download A New Direction: Ideas to Transform the Future of Britain.

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