If you care about AI, this is who you should vote for in the UK general election

Nearly all UK election manifestos contain pledges relating to Artificial Intelligence. Yet, writes Jason Tucker, the various parties all focus on different aspects of AI. Two are most concerned with regulation, two with public interest, and one with innovation. Another has published a manifesto that ignores AI entirely...

There isn’t much nuance in how UK politicians talk about AI. Apart from the small number of doomsayers and evangelists, most politicians quietly back away from the debate beyond platitudes. So, the variation between pledges about AI in the 2024 UK election manifestos comes as a welcome surprise. It provides voters with choices about how they might shape the ways AI technology embeds itself yet further into our society.

The world stands at a critical juncture in the development of AI and its influence

The world stands at a critical juncture in the development of AI and its influence. A number of international actors, most notably the EU with its 2024 Artificial Intelligence Act, are making significant progress towards better regulation. And while we should be wary of the hype, AI systems are already in use. Some have resulted in good, some in harm. Now, for the first time in AI's (short) history, the stars are aligning. Soon we may see real and robust global regulation of AI technologies.

Seeing AI featuring so prominently across UK political party manifestos is therefore reassuring. The variation in parties' policies is also encouraging because it pushes back against the trend for narrowing public debate about the future of AI. But the parties' varying approaches to AI regulation also present UK voters with an important choice. The winner of this election will shape the future of AI in the UK and beyond.

The parties' varying approaches to AI regulation present UK voters with an important choice

Whether you are AI inclined, sceptical, or uninterested, if you're registered to vote in the UK, I want to help you make your choice. To this end, I analysed the AI pledges, or lack thereof, in the main UK parties’ manifestos.

If you care about Artificial Intelligence and regulation

Vote for either the Green Party or the LibDems if you want to see the UK regulating AI within EU and international frameworks. These two parties also give passing mention to national regulation, whereas this is the Labour Party's main focus. Labour even step it up a notch, by pledging to make companies with the most powerful AI models comply with robust regulation.

If you’re concerned with ensuring AI is ethical and inclusive, again, the Green Party or LibDems should get your vote. Unsurprisingly, the Greens are the party to vote for if you are concerned with AI's environmental impact. Labour also specify that they will legislate to punish those who create and share sexually explicit deepfakes.

If you care about Artificial Intelligence and innovation

If more unfettered innovation in developing and deploying AI is your cup of tea, the Conservatives are for you. The Tories claim this goes hand in hand with their party being leaders in global AI safety. Labour and the LibDems provide an innovation with guardrails option, if you want to see growth, but want it kept in check. Protecting creative industries is a concern for the Conservatives. The Greens, meanwhile, look to ensure that AI doesn’t have a negative impact on working life in general.

If you care about Artificial Intelligence and public interest

The Conservative and Labour manifestos both talk up the ability of AI to improve healthcare. The Tories propose (albeit vaguely) a rapid adoption of AI in healthcare to free up staff and make everything more efficient. Labour are more specific about where they think the medical profession should apply AI, most notably in identifying cancer. Managing the public-sector adoption of AI to ensure public good is a concern for Labour as well as the LibDems. The LibDems are the only party pledging to involve citizens in discussing if, how and when society should adopt this technology. If you think doubling the number of people in the civil service with AI competence is a good idea, vote Tory.

If, on the other hand, you want an AI pledge-free manifesto, the Reform party is for you.

Mainstreaming Artificial Intelligence

My takeaway is that AI is now mainstreamed in nearly all manifestos. Compare this with the 2019 election, in which AI was near-absent from party literature. This significant shift reflects rising public awareness and concerns about the potential impacts of AI technology.

On the evidence of these current manifestos, the earlier panic around AI seems to be subsiding

On the evidence of these current manifestos, in which parties adopt a variety of approaches, the earlier panic around AI seems to be subsiding. This is an important development, because there has until now been only limited space for public debate on the future of AI in society. However, while parties are giving some space to considering the current and future societal harms of AI, only the LibDems propose meaningful public participation as a solution. And despite the vast environmental damage that AI technology causes, none of the manifestos propose concrete measures to address this.

I understand, of course, that AI pledges are unlikely to be voters' priority policy concerns. But they are worth bearing in mind given the increasing scale and scope of AI in our daily lives. The mainstreaming of AI in UK political party manifestos reflects the recognition that the technology is playing an increasing role in how society functions – and in geopolitical power relations. Whatever your take on how AI might shape our society in the future, if you are registered to vote in the UK, get out there and do so on 4 July. Maybe just not for Reform.

This article presents the views of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the ECPR or the Editors of The Loop.


photograph of Jason Tucker
Jason Tucker
Assistant Professor, Department of Global Political Studies, Malmö University

Jason is an interdisciplinary researcher working on artificial intelligence, health, politics, futures, the everyday and citizenship.

He holds a PhD in Social and Policy Sciences from the University of Bath (2014).

He is WASP-HS Assistant Professor in the Global Politics of AI Health and is leading the research project AI and the Everyday Political-Economy of Global Health.

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2 comments on “If you care about AI, this is who you should vote for in the UK general election”

  1. Update from the author:

    The major parties from the devolved nations were not included in the initial analysis as the DUP and SNP were late to publish their manifestos. Now they’re in, so here’s the DUP, Plaid Cymru and SNP pledges on AI:

    🇬🇧 The DUP pledge to:
    - Use AI to build stronger communities and drive economic growth.
    - Oppose plans to allow AI developers to data scrape literature and works of art.
    - Seek more robust regulation to avoid AI undermining democracy, including harmful practices such as deepfakes.

    Inline with the LibDems, Labour, and the Greens, the DUP call for innovation with guardrails. Like Labour they take aim at Big Tech, in an indirect way at least, through their data scrapping concerns. As with Labour, the DUP focus on regulating AI at a national level.

    It is noteworthy that the DUP are the only party to discuss the dangers that AI can pose to democracy at large.

    🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 Plaid Cymru have an AI pledge free manifesto, like Reform.

    🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 The SNP pledge to:
    - Prioritise research and investment in AI.
    - Maximise its potential in public services.
    - Ensure that the use of AI in the public sector is open, ethical and transparent.

    The SNP have a similar approach to the LimDems and Labour in terms of innovation with guardrails. They are also inline with the LimDems, Labour and the Greens in their call for regulation and ensuring the greatest public good from AI. Similar to Labour and the DUP, the focus on regulating AI is at a national level.

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