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by Sofia Villegas
09 July 2024
Tony Blair: 'AI means there has never been a better time to govern'

Former prime minister Tony Blair | Alamy

Tony Blair: 'AI means there has never been a better time to govern'

Tony Blair has urged the new Labour government to harness artificial intelligence (AI) to drive economic growth and public sector reform, claiming there has never been “a better time to govern”.

Speaking at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change's (TBI) Future of Britain conference, the former prime minister said: “The gains are of a significant magnitude. Nothing else comes close in terms of turbo-charging growth and restoring public finances.”

He claimed embracing AI would enhance productivity and efficiency, driving economic growth.

“This is a revolution; every bit as far reaching as the 19th century industrial revolution and possibly more so. That is in my view, beyond debate," he said.

He continued: “The simple and unavoidable truth is that unless we improve growth and productivity, and drive value and efficiency through our public spending, we're going to become poorer. Much poorer.

“This explains the mood of pessimism evident in much of the election campaign.

“But I do not share the pessimism. On the contrary, I don't think there has ever been a better time to govern. A better time to effect change. A better basis for optimism and a surer reason for hope.”

He added: "The task before us is a great renewal. To be the first nation to show the full opportunity of governing in the age of AI.”

Blair shared new TBI findings that reveal that existing AI solutions could save a fifth of public sector workforce time and up to £10m during the next parliamentary term.

He said the technology could be rolled out across the NHS to adopt a preventative health care approach.

TBI research focused on cardiovascular disease (CVD), with its research revealing that a 20 per cent drop in CVD incidence could bring net savings of £600m over the next five years.

Findings also indicated that AI could enhance triaging to tackle backlogs in the justice system, as well as boost tax revenue.

Meanwhile, Blair also pressed for the rollout of Digital IDs to streamline access to public services, with TBI research suggesting its implementation could yield £4bn in cumulative savings over the next five years. 

On the education front, TBI estimated that an AI-enabled system would increase GDP by around six per cent.

Sounding a note of caution, Blair called on the Labour government to drive policy reform to accelerate AI adoption warning the UK would otherwise be “in danger of forfeiting” its world-leading position.

Currently, the UK is ahead in the AI race, with its AI market valued at $21bn, only behind China and the US.

He claimed that focusing on universities, clinical trials, and data centers was “vital” for “a forward-looking British government”.

Blair added: "If done in the correct way this [technological] revolution offers the best route to a society that is not only more productive but one that is more just, more equitable and more secure. 

"This technology revolution is the new world we are going to live in. It will change everything, and positively if we embrace it in a spirit of innovation not introspection.”

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Read the most recent article written by Sofia Villegas - King’s Speech: Labour to clamp down on AI.

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