After Labour’s election victory, who are government’s new digital ministers? 

Following Keir Starmer’s win, civil servants in digital roles – and anyone interested in public sector tech – will need to get acquainted to some new faces. PublicTechnology offers an introductory guide 

The UK this morning wakes up as a country governed by a Labour administration for the first time in 14 years. 

When the party left office in 2010, it did so in a world in which Instagram, TikTok, ChatGPT, Uber and 4G – let alone 5G – internet services did not yet exist. And where Jude Bellingham was a six-year-old primary-school child. 

A lot, clearly, has changed since then.  

With the passage of almost a decade and a half, it is to be expected that, beyond the major cabinet positions, new ministers may currently be unfamiliar to many citizens. Labour’s ministerial make-up is likely to shift and evolve in the coming weeks and months – and continue to do so over the years ahead. 

But the shadow cabinet with which the party entered the election provides an idea of who may be taking on key digital, data, and technology briefs, at least in the near term. Here’s a rundown of who government tech-watchers might wish to look out for: 

Cabinet Office 
As the long-time home to the Government Digital Service and the Central Digital and Data Office, a ministerial post in Whitehall’s central department may provide the greatest scope for influencing government’s use of digital and data.  

Set to head up department as the new chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is Pat McFadden (pictured below right), the MP for Wolverhampton South East. The 59-year-old Scot was previously part of Gordon Brown’s cabinet, having held a post as business minister in the last Labour administration.  

Since then, the Conservative incumbents of his new cabinet post have shown varying levels in interest in the work of GDS and CDDO, with some taking a very hands-on approach, and others largely leaving oversight of the digital units to junior colleagues. This being the case, Llanelli MP Nia Griffith and Labour peer Baroness Jenny Chapman, who are both pencilled in for unspecified roles in the Cabinet Office, may end up as significant players in the government digital scene. 

Former teacher Griffith has been an MP since 2005, while Chapman lost a seat in the Commons in the last general election in 2019. The following year, she chaired Keir Starmer’s successful leadership campaign and was seen as his closest political adviser, before being nominated for a peerage and moved into a shadow ministerial role in the House of Lords. 

Department for Science, Innovation and Technology 
As its name suggests, DSIT is another hub of ministerial influence on digital and tech. The secretary of state post is due to be filled by Peter Kyle, who worked for charities and aid organisations before being elected to parliament in 2015. The Hove MP is one of 40 candidates formally endorsed by the Labour Digital movement. 

Also on that list were all four other MPs scheduled to take on DSIT posts: Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central and West and minister for science, research and innovation; Chris Evans, MP for Caerphilly and minister for tech and digital economy; Matt Rodda, MP for Reading Central and minister for AI and intellectual property; and Chris Bryant, MP for Rhondda and Ogmore and minister for creative industries and digital – a role shared between DSIT and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.  

Onwurah (pictured below left) is a former engineer and ex-head of telecoms technology at Ofcom. Since being elected as an MP in 2010, she has held a number of shadow ministerial posts focused on technology and business – as part of which she once warned attendees of a PublicTechnology event about the cyber risks of connected technology

“Intimate personal devices – from pacemakers to children’s toys – can be hacked and controlled remotely. My personal recommendation is: if a device is called ‘smart’ – do not buy it,” she said.  “Smart meters and smart fridges are leaving our citizens open to being hacked. When I raised this in parliament, [I was] accused of scaremongering. But I do not think it is possible to overestimate the potential for cybercrime in this country.” 

Having been an MP since 2001, Bryant held several ministerial roles during Gordon Brown’s premiership, including minister for Europe and deputy leader of the House of Commons. Evans, meanwhile, was first elected in 2010 and spent four years on the influential Public Accounts Committee, as well as serving stints on the Justice Committee and the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee. 

Rodda is a comparatively recent arrival in Westminster, after being elected for the first time in 2017. Before being given AI brief, he held shadow ministerial roles focused on public transport. In recent weeks, the former journalist and civil servant has investigated the prevalence of legacy IT across government via a series of parliamentary questions. 

Also slated for junior ministerial roles in DSIT are three Labour peers: Lord Steve Bassam; Lord Wilf Stevenson; and Baroness Maggie Jones

Others to look out for 
The founder of the Labour Digital movement, MP for Bristol North West Darren Jones, is expected to take on the post of chief secretary to the Treasury. This will give him an important role in guiding departments’ investment in technology and data – especially with government now due for a comprehensive three-year spending review.  

Jones’ recently announced replacement as head of Labour Digital, Pontypridd MP Alex Davies-Jones, also entered the election in possession of a shadow ministerial post, as minister for domestic violence and safeguarding. This role could afford her a chance to help shape the new administration’s approach to online harms and abuse. 

Of the 40 candidates endorsed by Labour Digital, the only other who was scheduled to be appointed as a minister was Thangam Debbonaire, who has held the shadow cabinet role of secretary of state for culture, media and sport for the past 10 months. 

But, after nine years in parliament, Debbonaire lost heavily to the Green Party leader Carla Denyer in the newly created constituency of Bristol Central. 

Digital is now so ubiquitous – particularly in the delivery of departmental services – that many other new ministers without tech-specific briefs and outside the formal Labour Digital group will surely become central figures in the government tech world.  

This includes those who will inherit responsibility for delivery of major projects that are already in train, such as James Murray – the MP for Ealing North and, until recently, shadow financial secretary to the Treasury. If he takes the same role in government, he will no doubt become very familiar very quickly with Making Tax Digital and other HMRC tech programmes. The 40-year-old Londoner has formerly served as a councillor in Islington and as the capital’s deputy mayor for housing. 

As the new minister for policing, MP for Nottingham North and Kimberley Alex Norris will be heavily involved in the delivery of the troubled Emergency Services Network programme. The former union official and Nottingham City Council member has been an MP since 2017. 

Elsewhere in the Home Office, issues of cybersecurity will become an ever-bigger part of the brief of security minister, a role which is expected to go to Dan Jarvis. The MP for Barnsley North (pictured right) is a former army officer who, from 2018 to 2022, also served as the first-ever mayor of South Yorkshire.  

As government’s largest departments, the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Work and Pensions each have thousands of civil servants working in digital and data roles – and both oversee some major technology projects. 

If she is returned as M Birmingham Ladywood – a seat which was still awaiting result at time of going to press – qualified barrister Shabana Mahmood will take the role as secretary of state for justice, while the role of shadow courts minister was held by former Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham, who has now retired. 

Liz Kendall, the MP for Leicester West, will become work and pensions secretary. She has been an MP since 2010, before which she held roles with civil society groups and worked as an adviser to former cabinet minister and deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman. 

Sam Trendall

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