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Labour appoints Liam Byrne as shadow digital minister

Neil Merrett Published 18 July 2017

One time Treasury chief secretary given shadow Cabinet technology role after former digital economy minister Louise Haigh takes up Labour police brief

 

Labour has appointed Birmingham Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne as its Shadow Digital Minister as part of a post-election shake-up of key roles in the opposition party.

Byrne, a self described technology entrepreneur and former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, will be leading the party’s technology focus after it was announced that Shadow Digital Economy Minister Louise Haigh would be taking responsibility for policing within the official opposition.

It is not known yet what specific focuses Byrne will look to undertake in the shadow cabinet role, or how this may differ from the work of his predecessor. However, the shadow minister earlier this month submitted a question to the Home Office seeking details of the government’s aims to try and prevent the spread of “extremist material” through social media.

Prime Minister Theresa May has in recent months pledged to try and curb what she calls “safe spaces” online that may be used by terrorists to plan attacks, accusing major private sector service providers of not doing enough to tackle extremist ideologies through the internet.

Pressure groups and privacy campaigners have nonetheless been critical of the government’s pledge, citing concerns about the potential undermining of secure networks and encryption technologies as weakening and setting back online services and innovation.

Byrne has also been part of a group of Labour MPs known as Red Shift that has put together research on attempts to try and reshape the party and government to better address the technological and social changes happening across England up to 2030.

In a report for the group entitled “New English Socialism’, Byrne has previously noted benefits from digital democracy technology already in use by parties such as the left wing Podermos party in Spain.  He said the technology had already led to the production of a “people’s plan” for the West Midlands that saw a number of potential policy ideas and green initiatives being put forward.

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