Election 2019: Which party has most to say on digital, data and technology?

Written by Sam Trendall on 10 December 2019 in Features
Features

Examining the language of each party’s manifesto reveals significant differences in the amount and focus of proposals related to technology and data policy – as well as in the wider themes of each document


Credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Perhaps understandably, there has been little discussion of technology and data during campaign activities for this election and the surrounding media coverage.

With the NHS in dire need of resources, the union of the United Kingdom appearing increasingly imperilled, and a renewed and urgent focus on the global climate crisis, even the most fervent technologist would struggle to deny that there are more pressing issues at hand than channel shift and big data analytics.

And that is before we have even considered the suffocating spectre of Brexit, and how our parliamentary democracy will recover from the litany of constitutional crises it seems to have run into in the last few years. 

Nevertheless, each of the major parties has at least a handful of policies and proposals that, should they come to fruition, would have a major impact on the relationship between digital and data and government, industry, and the citizenry.

With its pledge to deliver nationalised broadband infrastructure and free universal connectivity, Labour may have captured considerably more technology-related headlines than the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats. 

All three manifestos, however, feature numerous references to digital, data, cyber, and IT.

But just who has the most to say on all things tech? And what else are the three main parties talking about?

We took a closer look at the manifestos to find out.
 

Conservatives

Words: 21,379
Average word length: 4.98 letters

Instances of:
Technology – 21
Digital – 3
Data – 5
Cyber – 2
Total: 31


The Conservative election manifesto not only has the least technology-related content, it has comfortably the least content overall. The document comes in at a comparatively skinny 21,379 words – some 4,365 and 7,094 words shorter than the Labour and Liberal Democrat documents, respectively.

With a mean word length of 4.98 letters, the Tories also use slightly shorter words than their rivals – each of which has an average length of 5.33 letters

It features 31 separate mentions of one of our major tech terms – or a variation thereon. This is about 50% lower than Labour, and less than half the total of the Lib Dems.

Seemingly more resonant topics for Conservative voters are ‘tax’, with 57 mentions, and ‘NHS’, with 45. More popular still is ‘Brexit’, which is mentioned 61 times – including 23 repetitions of the slogan ‘Get Brexit Done’.

'Education' features 17 times, ‘climate’ is used 10 times, while ‘Corbyn’ is invoked 13 times – which is 13 times more than ‘Swinson’ is mentioned.
 

 

Instances of:
Brexit – 61
Tax – 57
NHS – 45 
‘Get Brexit Done’ – 23
Corbyn – 13
Climate – 10
Swinson – 0


 

 


Labour

Words: 25,744
Average word length: 5.33 letters

Instances of:
Technology – 16
Digital – 15
Data – 4
Cyber – 11
Total: 46

 

With a total of 46 uses of the four terms we were looking for, the Labour party sits in the middle of our technology table – comfortably in front of the Conservatives, but some way behind the Lib Dems.

The party does lead the way when it comes to focusing on ‘digital’, which it mentions 15 times, and ‘cyber’, on 11. 

In each case, this is more than the other two parties combined, which cumulatively use the words in question nine and five times, respectively.

Labour also sits in the middle in terms of overall manifesto length – again, placing well ahead of the Tories and well behind the Liberal Democrats.

A major focus of the document is ‘climate’, which features 60 times. ‘Education’ is also a watchword, with 49 uses, ahead of ‘NHS’ on 34 and ‘Brexit’ on 19. The prime minister is mentioned six times, while US president Donald Trump is namechecked thrice. Unlike Jo Swinson who, once again, does not make an appearance.
 

Instances of:
Climate – 60 
Education – 49 
NHS – 34 
Brexit – 19
Johnson – 6 
Trump – 3 
Swinson – 0 

 

 

Liberal Democrat

Words: 28,473
Average word length: 5.33 letters

Instances of:
Technology – 40
Digital – 6
Data – 17
Cyber – 3
Total: 66 


The Lib Dems have by far the longest manifesto, clocking in at 2,729 words longer than Labour – and more than 7,000 ahead of the Conservatives.

The party is also well out in front when it comes to its focus on digital and data, using our quartet of tech terms a collective total of 66 times, 20 times more than Labour.

This includes 40 separate mentions of ‘technology’, and 17 of ‘data’.

Elsewhere, the party shares major focus areas with each of their two main rivals. The Lib Dem manifesto mentions ‘climate’ once more than Labour, and cites ‘education’ 57 times, and ‘NHS’ on 37 occasions.

And, like the Conservatives, the party also devotes a large amount of attention to Brexit – albeit for rather different motives.

The word is used 57 times in the Liberal Democrat manifesto, including 14 repetitions of the slogan ‘Stop Brexit’. The word ‘remain’ also crops up 16 times.
 
Party leader Jo Swinson finally gets a mention – the signature of her foreword and the captions of three pictures adding up to a total of four uses of her surname. ‘Corbyn’ and ‘Trump’ get three each – one more than ‘Johnson’.
 


Instances of:
Climate – 61 
Education – 57 
Brexit – 51 
NHS – 37 
Remain – 16 
Stop Brexit – 14 
Swinson – 4 

 

 



 

 

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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