Keir Starmer must embrace the ‘game-changer’ of artificial intelligence, says Tony Blair

New technology can ‘turbocharge growth’ and save government tens of billions of pounds, former PM says

Andy Gregory
Sunday 07 July 2024 00:08
Keir Starmer gives speech in first cabinet meeting: 'We're a changed Labour Party'

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Sir Keir Starmer’s new Labour government must fully embrace artificial intelligence (AI) as a “game-changer” in fuelling economic growth, his predecessor Sir Tony Blair has urged.

While Britain is stuck in a “horrible and unvirtuous circle” of high taxation, spending and debt but with “poor outcomes”, advances in the new technology mean there has never “been a better or more exciting time to be governing”, the former Labour prime minister claimed.

Hailing Sir Keir for his landslide general election victory, the last Labour leader to achieve such a feat in 1997 described Thursday’s result as “the most remarkable turnaround in recent British electoral history and the most stunning in the 120-year history of the Labour Party”.

Tony Blair and Keir Starmer at the Future of Britain Conference in London
Tony Blair and Keir Starmer at the Future of Britain Conference in London (PA)

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Sir Tony set out his advice for the new PM on Saturday in a piece for The Timesa more expansive format than the text messages he has been sending him over recent days.

In it he claims that Sir Keir and his chancellor Rachel Reeves both “recognise we have reached the limits of traditional tax and spend to solve our problems”.

While reforming the planning system, fixing the Brexit trade deal are among measures which could kickstart economic growth, Sir Tony insisted that “the only game-changer is the full embrace of the potential of technology, especially the new developments in artificial intelligence”.

The former PM said his Tony Blair Institute – which works in nearly 40 countries – would publish analysis at its Future of Britain conference next week showing “how the unvirtuous circle can be turned virtuous, by accelerating the application of technological innovation”.

“The spread of the application of AI by the private sector and its encouragement by appropriate government policy is the only answer to Britain’s productivity challenge and, over time, it can turbocharge growth,” Sir Tony wrote.

He pointed to advances in treatments for cancer, cardiovascular disease and obesity drugs as boosting employment and economic growth as well as health, and claimed that applying AI to government processes could cut workforce time and could be used in the Department of Work and Pensions to cut benefit fraud.

Keir Starmer has told The Independent that he regularly receives texts from Tony Blair with advice
Keir Starmer has told The Independent that he regularly receives texts from Tony Blair with advice (PA)

“Over two terms of government, we estimate the savings run into the tens of billions, allowing us to get growth back to the levels it was in the early part of the century,” he said, adding: “This 21st-century technological revolution is the real-world fact that will change everything.

“The question is whether we have the imagination to harness it. The companies and countries that do will prosper, and those that don’t will fall behind.”

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