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Who is Jeremy Wright, the man in charge of the UK’s digital future?

Jeremy Wright

With the release of the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review, the UK is now theoretically positioned to tackle the challenges of the digital economy. But who is the man in charge of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, leading the charge to the connected era?

After Matt Hancock took his partying over to the Department of Health and Social Care (where his experience might actually be useful), Jeremy Wright has taken over DCMS. But one question remains; who is Jeremy Wright? Is he going to be a suitably qualified individual to head up progress in this important department, or is this just going to be another case of card shuffling MPs who are simply using the department as a means to climb the ladder?

Unfortunately for the digital ambitions of the UK, at first glance Wright’s experience does not look like the most relevant. At least with the rate at which MPs at the top of the ladder are dropping off, Wright will only have to deal with those pesky digital guys for a little while.

In terms of Wright’s experience, the Secretary of State was elected to Parliament in 2005 to represent the constituency of Rugby and Kenilworth. After being moved off the backbenches in 2007, Wright was made an Opposition Whip and served as a Government Whip from 2010 until 2012, holding the office of Lord Commissioner of the Treasury. In September of 2012, Wright was appointed as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry of Justice, before Attorney General on 15 July 2014, a position he retained until the resignations offered an opportunity to climb the ladder and cosy up with the bigger boys (and girls) of the Tory party.

Prior to moving across to DCMS, Wright could be viewed as being in a suitable position. Prior to government, Wright was a barrister, called to the Bar at the Inner Temple in 1996 and specialising in criminal law in the Midlands. This is an example where an appointment in government seems to have worked quite well, though we suspect this is more due to luck than judgment.

While Wright has little experience in relevant fields, this should not be seen as unusual. Civil servants generally run the government, while the MPs simply go for lunch and immaturely shout incoherently at colleagues trying to make a point in the House of Commons. However, the MPs are the ones who vote on bills and therefore do influence the course of government, even if they have very little to do with the ground work.

That said, we have been searching for a silver-lining, and perhaps we found one.

Communications laws in the UK are dated. This should not be a direct criticism to the UK in particular, most countries around the world are in the same position. In the UK, the Communications Act remains, which became law in 2003, the baseline for new regulation and legislation which dictates the comings and goings of the digital economy. Considering how much the world has changed in the last 15 years, perhaps updating this aspect of law should be a priority, especially considering the influence digital is having on every other aspect of our lives. The Communications Act was deemed as a suitable replacement for the 1984 Telecommunications Act, though some might argue this was overdue at the time.

With Wright having a legal background, he might just be the right person to provide a more contextualised legal and regulatory framework for the digital economy we live in today. Then again, DCMS might just prove to be another quick visit for a career-climbing politicians with eyes on larger prizes in the UK government.

BONUS INFO

How has Wright voted on some of the issues over the last couple of years?

  • Voted for the mass retention of information on people’s internet usage, and to allow the bulk interception of communications, equipment interference, and the retention and examination of bulk personal datasets (Snoopers Charter)
  • Almost always voted against a right to remain for EU nationals already in living in the UK
  • Almost always voted against UK membership of the EU
  • Consistently voted against increasing the tax rate applied to income over £150,000
  • Consistently voted for allowing employees to exchange some employment rights for shares in the company they work for
  • Almost always voted for reducing central government funding of local government
  • Generally voted for a statutory register of lobbyists

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