Election 2024: the key manifesto takeaways for tech leaders

AI, infrastructure, R&D and online harms all feature in the main party manifestos for this year’s general election

Voting Candidate Campaign In Democracy Ballot Box. Latin Mid Hand Unrecognizable Man

Technology was once an afterthought in the manifestos of the major British political parties, but this is not the case today. Each of them talks at length about artificial intelligence, data centres, cybersecurity and even deepfakes in their 2024 manifestos. 

Labour’s pledges skew largely towards regulation and infrastructure and include the creation of new departments like a National Data Library and a Regulatory Innovation Office. The Conservatives, meanwhile, have committed to banning smartphones in schools, tax relief schemes and a £2bn boost to R&D spending. 

Both the Tories and Labour have pledged to deliver gigabit broadband by 2030 and promised to continue the 5G rollout across the UK.

Read on for more of the key tech takeaways from the UK’s main-contender manifestos.


Full manifesto (PDF).


  • To address a lack of capacity for the AI-driven data boom, Labour would spearhead the creation of new data centres on green-belt land, overriding local government opposition.
  • Labour would create a Regulatory Innovation Office to bridge existing regulatory functions across government. The new organisation is pitched to “help regulators to update regulation, speed up approval timelines and co-ordinate issues that span existing boundaries”. The party previously described this office as a “pro-innovation body” designed to “set targets for tech regulators, end uncertainty for businesses, turbocharge output, and boost economic growth”.
  • As part of this new regulatory body, Labour also promised to introduce new, binding regulation on “the handful of companies” developing “the most powerful AI models” – you can probably read that as big tech firms such as Google and Microsoft.
  • The National Health Service would receive investment earmarked for AI-powered diagnostic services to find medical problems in patients more quickly.

R&D and investment

  • A Starmer-led government would create a National Data Library, to centralise government research projects and help to deliver data-driven public services. Labour promises that the data library will be secured with strong safeguards to ensure any plans do not endanger, and are of benefit to, the broader public.
  • Labour has promised to create a new, publicly owned energy company, Great British Energy, headquartered in Scotland and capitalised with £8.3bn over the next parliament. The company will partner with industry and trade unions to lead the transition away from conventional energy and will support capital-intensive, clean-energy projects.
  • National planning policy will be amended so that it’s easier to build laboratories, digital infrastructure and gigafactories, which typically manufacture batteries for electric vehicles.
  • Short-term R&D funding will be scrapped in favour of 10-year investment plans. These longer cycles, the manifesto claims, will allow for more meaningful partnerships with industry.
  • As part of such longer cycles, the government will work with universities to offer more support to spinout businesses.

Digital and connectivity

  • Labour has committed to full gigabit broadband and national 5G coverage by 2030.
  • Children will be given unique digital ID numbers to improve data sharing between schools, health services and councils.
  • Labour pledged to simplify the procurement process for government to “reduce micromanagement”.
  • HMRC will receive investment for new technology, designed to modernise the department.
  • Labour will also support open banking and open finance initiatives, while “ensuring a pro-innovation regulatory framework”.


  • A Strategic Defence Review in Labour’s first year of government will assess the threat of cyber attacks but also of “misinformation campaigns which seek to subvert our democracy”.
  • A new fraud strategy will tackle online, public sector and serious fraud. The government will partner with technology companies to prevent fraud on their platforms.
  • As part of this strategy, the government will work with national policing bodies to standardise IT procurement, standards and training.
  • A Starmer-led government will ban the creation of sexually explicit deepfakes – GenAI-created digital replicas of real people.

Online safety

The UK’s Online Safety Act, which received Royal Assent last year, enjoyed bipartisan support. Labour has accordingly said it will build and expand on the controversial legislation.

  • Social media firms would be in a Labour government’s crosshairs. It promises to “explore further measures to keep everyone safe online”, particularly “when using social media”.
  • Coroners will be empowered to access data held by technology companies after a child’s death.
  • A Starmer-led government will ban the creation of sexually explicit deepfakes – GenAI-created digital replicas of real people.
  • Gambling regulation will be strengthened.


  • A new organisation called Skills England will aim to bring together business, training providers and unions with national and local government, to upskill the workforce in line with delivering Labour’s Industrial Strategy.
  • The government would also turn further education colleges into ‘Technical Excellence Colleges’ for creating a “highly trained workforce”. Details are light on exactly what these will look like, but Labour has promised they will “give communities the chance to fit skills to the needs of the local economy” and “make sure local skills plans meet national strategic priorities”.
  • Labour will create a framework under which skills bodies such as the Department for Work and Pensions and the Industrial Strategy Council work more closely together.

The Conservatives

Full manifesto (PDF).


Sunak’s government has made a lot of noise about artificial intelligence. Although it has had a laissez-faire approach to regulation, it briefly flirted with tougher rhetoric with the AI Safety Summit conference.

  • The 2024 manifesto pledges to double AI and digital expertise in the civil service. Elsewhere, the Tories promised to reduce the civil service to its pre-pandemic size and use the savings to up defence spending. It’s likely these two pledges are connected, given Oliver Dowden’s interest in using an ‘AI hit squad’ to cut public sector staffing.
  • AI will be used to “free up” frontline NHS staff such as nurses and doctors. The Conservatives will also create a “new medtech pathway” to boost AI adoption in the health service.
  • The party pledged £1.5bn of investment into large-scale computer clusters to support the growth of AI.
  • The Conservatives also promise to support the use of AI in the creative industries.

R&D and investment

  • In the next parliament, the Tories pledged to increase public R&D spending by £2bn to £22bn a year, along with R&D tax relief.
  • A £4.5bn commitment to an ‘Advanced Manufacturing Plan’ aimed at boosting automotive, life sciences, aerospace and clean energy manufacturing.
  • More money for the nine government-backed ‘Catapult’ business accelerators, with £1.6bn in funding throughout the country by 2028.
  • They are also pledging £1.1bn to the Green Industries Growth Accelerator for clean energy supply chains.

Digital and connectivity

  • The Conservatives are still pledging nationwide gigabit broadband by 2030.
  • All populated areas are to have 5G coverage while the Tories say they will “keep the UK at the forefront” of 6G development.
  • There will be a review of alternatives to overhead pylons in the UK’s telecommunications network.
  • The Tories are also promising digital health checks for NHS patients and a new NHS app to access medical records, order prescriptions, book vaccine appointments and manage hospital appointments. They say they will digitalise more processes and provide a lot of new computers for the NHS.


The manifesto boasts of the Conservatives’ record in “toughening” the UK’s cyber defences and removing Chinese manufacturer Huawei from the UK’s telecommunications network. 

  • As part of its proposals to reintroduce National Service, young people will have to choose between civic volunteering or military service. If they choose the military, they will be able to pick a paid, year-long, cyber-defence placement.


The Conservatives pointed to their creation of 21 ‘Institutes of Technology’, designed to support STEM skills.

  • Additionally, from the 2025 academic year, the manifesto said adults will be able to apply for loans in order to obtain new qualifications. The adult skills programme would be expanded with “skills bootcamps” to meet skills shortages.

Online safety

The flagship tech legislation of the Conservatives is arguably the Online Safety Act – a controversial, sweeping bill ostensibly introduced to improve the safety of children on the internet. Critics – among them major Silicon Valley players – suggested the Act was draconian in outlook and damaging to cybersecurity thanks to its encryption-busting ethos. 

Nevertheless, the Act won bipartisan support. 

The Tories set out a full page for protecting children online in their latest manifesto, claiming that the UK has “done more to protect children online than any other country” and that the “Online Safety Act will make it a legal requirement for social media firms to protect children from illegal or harmful content online”. 

Additionally, the Conservatives would:

  • Ban mobile phones in schools and offer funding to help enforce the ban.
  • Consult on more parental controls over social media access. They would investigate age-verification technologies and other parental controls, “consult widely to get this right” and develop technology “in partnership with other countries” to do so.

Liberal Democrats

Full manifesto (PDF).

Regarding technology, the Liberal Democrats put regulation, data privacy and ethics front and centre of their 2024 manifesto, including for AI. They suggest closer cooperation with the EU, as well as negotiating the UK’s participation in the Trade and Technology Council to play a “leading role in global AI regulation”.

They have pledged a “clear, workable and well-resourced” regulatory framework for AI that would “promote innovation” while “creating certainty for AI users, developers and investors”. This framework would also ensure transparency and accountability for AI systems in the public sector and work to ensure the use of personal data and AI is unbiased, transparent and accurate.

Notably, the Lib Dems promise something a little different from historical Labour and the Conservative approaches to online surveillance: they plan to end the bulk collection of communications data and internet connection records. They also promise to introduce a legally binding regulatory framework for biometric surveillance. 

And, they would create a new firewall to prevent public agencies from sharing personal information with the Home Office for the purposes of immigration enforcement, repealing the immigration exemption in the Data Protection Act.

A new Digital Bill of Rights would set out people’s rights to privacy and free expression without being subjected to harassment and abuse. Social media companies would be required to publish reports setting out actions they’ve taken to address online abuse. 

The Lib Dems would also increase the Digital Services Tax – the 2020 legislation that taxed profits from search engines, social media services and online marketplaces – from 2% to 6%.

Moreover, they would introduce public awareness campaigns about emerging cyber threats and online misinformation campaigns. They would create a new Online Crime Agency to tackle illegal content and activity online, such as personal fraud, revenge porn and incitement to violence on social media. 

The Green Party

Full manifesto (PDF).

Like the Liberal Democrats, the Greens would also introduce a Digital Bill of Rights, which they say would “establish the UK as a leading voice on standards for the rule of law and democracy in digital spaces”.

This Digital Bill of Rights would be designed to give the public greater control over their data. They also promise to push for greater regulation of social media and amend the Online Safety Act to “protect democracy”. 

Their manifesto adopts a “precautionary regulatory approach” to AI, which emphasises the technology’s potential to harm. The party would bring UK regulation in line with the EU and other global efforts to mitigate AI risks. This includes protecting the intellectual property of creators, as well as protecting employee rights against the rise of AI in the workplace.

The Greens say they would also focus on securing social and environmental benefits of AI technologies while addressing bias, discrimination and privacy issues from the use of AI. 

General election manifestos: tech industry response

Although AI features prominently in the Conservative and Labour party manifestos, their approaches to technology policy differ. Labour’s focus is on infrastructure and regulation, with promises to build new data centres and create a new Regulatory Innovation Office to speed up decision-making. A National Data Library has also been promised to centralise government R&D programmes and deliver data-driven public services. 

The Conservatives have pledged £1.5bn for large-scale computer clusters and also committed to a £2bn increase in R&D spending. They said they would weave digital technologies and artificial intelligence into the fabric of the public sector, including the NHS, while also cutting civil service jobs to pre-pandemic levels.

With some polls predicting the worst Conservative defeat in 200 years, it looks likely that Labour will make major gains. Industry reaction to the tech policy in the manifestos has been mixed but many technologists are pleased to see signs of more deliberate strategy around AI and regulation. 

Campbell Cowie, head of policy at digital authentication firm iProov, believes the proposed industrial policy for AI could bring “much-needed strategic political leadership”. But a narrow focus on AI would be misplaced. Instead, the next government should recognise AI as one part of a “richer and more complex digital economy” combined with specific actions from government to drive digital participation and inclusion. 

There’s also an opportunity for Labour’s Regulation Innovation Office proposal to build on the existing Digital Regulator Cooperation Forum (DRCF), according to Cowie. However, clarity is needed over how the office will function in practice alongside current regulators, he adds.

Elsewhere, both parties have emphasised the need for economic growth. Phill Robinson, CEO of software executive community Boardwave, notes that tech will be essential to achieving these goals. Labour has recognised this by offering a more agile approach to regulation, while the Conservatives have promised to maintain the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) for raising venture capital.

“The big question will be how to build a tech ecosystem in the UK which drives growth and productivity across the whole country,” Robinson says. “This means prioritising support for tech scale-ups and implementing policies to benefit companies once they get out of the startup phase. For example, by expanding SEIS and growing the talent pipeline for coding and AI skills through a reformed apprenticeship levy.”

Despite ongoing attacks on critical infrastructure from cybercrime groups, neither Labour or the Conservatives dedicated much space to cybersecurity in their manifestos. Labour has committed to a defence review that would include evaluating emerging threat actors, while the Tories have suggested that young people opting for military service in their revived national service proposal could take an informatino security pathway instead. Labour also said that it would ban sexually explicit deepfakes. 

However, a lack of concrete cybersecurity plans from all political parties “raises concerns” for Spencer Starkey, VP EMEA at security firm SonicWall. “Governments set cybersecurity standards and policies that the private sector follows, so inadequate regulation could leave both public and private sectors vulnerable,” he says. “A robust, future-oriented cyber strategy should be a top priority for the current government and potential successors.”