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What’s Onward this week

The results of yesterday’s local elections are still rolling in, but the overall message is clear. The Government, and the Conservative Party, have much more to do to persuade the public that they can address their biggest concerns.

But the world will not stop for a political post-mortem. This week, the resignation of Google’s Geoffrey Hinton put the risks of AI at the top of the agenda. The announcement of record quarterly profits of £7.6 billion by Shell re-opened debates on the cost of living and decarbonisation. And tomorrow, the world’s eyes turn to the King’s Coronation – a historic national moment.

Onward was founded in similarly turbulent times. Five years ago, an article covering our launch said that for Conservatives “the present has become almost too dismal to contemplate.” Then, as now, the challenge is to cut through the noise and focus on what matters. Our two new papers released this week – on the rise of generative AI and the strength of our social fabric – seek to do just that.

✍️ Research

🤖 The Generative AI Revolution: Opportunities, Risks, and Shocks is a new report by former Government advisor Shabbir Merali and Yale PhD Candidate Ali Merali. It argues that the UK needs to act fast to realise the economic and geopolitical opportunities of generative AI, manage labour market and macroeconomic shocks, and limit safety and ethics risks. 

Our recommendations include the development of sovereign Generative AI capabilities (“GB GPT”), introducing a cross-government AI Fellows programme, expanding the High Potential Visa scheme, preparing contingency plans to shift the burden of tax from workers to machines, and taking a lead role in developing a new set of global AI safety standards.

The report was covered in The Telegraph, The Guardian, City AM, and Politics Home. Adam Hawksbee discussed the report with Rick Edwards on 5 Live Breakfast and Shabbir Merali appeared on LBC News.

🧵Onward’s 2023 Social Fabric Index updates our landmark dataset on the strength of the UK’s communities, which was used by the Government in the Levelling Up White Paper. The report examines how the sense of community has changed across the whole of the UK during the pandemic and economic turbulence that has followed.

The Index shows that areas with the weakest social fabric have also been the areas most in need of levelling up – particularly in the north east along the Tyne and Tees, the M62 corridor and along the Thames Estuary into Essex.

The research was covered in The Times, Yorkshire Post, and Manchester Evening News. Seb Payne discussed our findings with Matt Chorley on Times Radio

📰 Media Mentions

The Prime Minister’s remarks at Onward’s fifth Birthday party received coverage in the Spectator, Telegraph, Independent, Evening Standard, and City AM.

Adam Hawksbee was quoted on the need for focus on levelling up in the New Statesman, and gave evidence on levelling up funding to the Senedd’s Economy, Trade, and Rural Affairs Committee.

Lord Hague referenced Onward research on alienation among young people in his Times column.

Kate Maltby points to Bridgit Philipson’s childcare speech at Onward in her column for the i.

Sebastian Milbank cites Onward research on young people and democracy in The Critic.

Warnings on tech use and sleep from Burnt Out Britain were covered in The Telegraph.

🌐 Onward Online

Tom Westgarth from the Tony Blair Institute tweets a thread on Onward’s Generative AI Report

Onward Senior Researcher Francois Valentin highlights the best maps from our 2023 Social Fabric Index

🗓️ Upcoming Events

Reclaiming the Realignment: Can Conservatives build a voting coalition for the future?

Despite some recent gains, the Conservatives remain 15 points behind in the polls. Some forecasts project a dire electoral outcome for the Government if recent voting intention were to be replicated at the next general election.

The Conservatives also face long-term demographic challenges. While the age of the average Tory voter continues to rise, younger voters no longer seem to be becoming Conservatives as they get older In 2019 the party won a convincing majority in the wake of Brexit, securing seats in traditional Labour heartlands outside the South East – those seats are now under threat. With a shaky Red Wall and “Blue Fade” in the South, how can Conservatives build a sustainable voting coalition for the future?

Sign up for the second in our Future of Conservatism event series here.

Event Graphics 2023 2 - Onward newsletter, 05/05/2023

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