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What happened in Theresa May’s car crash LBC interview?

She refused to say how she’d vote in another EU referendum – but that’s not all.

The Prime Minister is getting a lot of stick for an excruciating interview she gave Iain Dale on LBC. Hesitating and stop-starting like a rabbit in a field of wheat caught in combine harvester headlights throughout the 40-minute slot, Theresa May’s inability to say whether she’d vote Brexit drew most pundits’ attention.

Asked three times whether she would vote to leave the EU in the event of another referendum, May struggled to answer either way.

“Well, I’ve… I don’t answer hypothetical questions but what I have… have… well, I voted Remain, I voted Remain for good reasons at the time. But circumstances move on, and I think the important thing now is that I think we should all be focused on delivering Brexit, and delivering the best deal…”

Etc.

Rarely does your mole buy May’s argument, but her assertion that she’d weigh up the circumstances and make a decision like she did last time is fairly reasonable, and probably inspired more sympathy among Remainers than Brexiteers.

However, as the PM who is supposed to be delivering Brexit, she should’ve had a firm answer to this classic gotcha question rather than sitting on the fence. If her deputy Damian Green managed it on Newsnight (he’d still vote Remain), and Jeremy Hunt the Health Secretary did when asked the same question (he’d change his vote from Remain to Leave) on LBC, then she should be able to do it too.

Also, the idea that she doesn’t “answer hypothetical questions” is a bit of a stretch – given she’s repeatedly said that she’d press the nuclear button as a first strike in the event of nuclear war.

So May should’ve known better how to answer that one, but even worse were her rather flustered answers to meatier, surely more predictable questions about why she didn’t have cough sweets on her during her party conference speech, and how she feels about the Tory MP Grant Shapps mounting a coup against her.

She hesitated, spouted clichés and looked panicked – not something you can get away with as Prime Minister when even radio interviews are now filmed for the world to see.

Watch the full interview here:

I'm a mole, innit.

Photo: Getty
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People are not prepared to see innovation at any price - we need to take care of our digital health

Correcting the course of technology in Britain does not need to mean taking backwards steps and becoming an anti-innovation zone.

As individuals, we have never been better connected. As a society, we are being driven further apart.

Doteveryone’s People Power and Technology report, released this week, found that half of the 2,500 British people we surveyed said the internet had made life a lot better for people like them - but only 12 per cent saw a very positive impact on society.

These findings won’t be news to most people living in Brexit Britain - or to anyone who’s been involved in a spat on Twitter. The fact that we’re constantly connected to our smartphones has not necessarily improved our communities or our understanding of one other, and the trails of data we’re leaving behind are not turning into closer social bonds.

Many of the positives we experience are for ourselves as individuals.

Lots of consumer tech puts simple self-sufficiency first - one-click to buy, swipe right to date - giving us a feeling of cosy isolation and making one little phone an everywhere. This powerful individualism is a feature of all of the big platforms - and even social networks like Facebook and Twitter, that are meant bring us together, do so in the context of personalised recommendations and algorithmically ordered timelines.

We are all the centre of our own digital worlds. So it is no surprise that when we do look up from our phones, we feel concerned about the impact on society. Our research findings articulate the dilemma we face: do we do the thing that is easiest for us, or the one that is better for society?

For instance, 78 per cent of people see the Internet as helping us to communicate better, but 68 per cent also feel it makes us less likely to speak to each other face-to-face. 69per cent think the internet helps businesses to sell their products and services, while 53 per cent think it forces local shops to compete against larger companies online.

It’s often hard to see the causality in these trade-offs. At what point does my online shopping tip my high street into decline? When do I notice that I’ve joined another WhatsApp group but haven’t said hello to my neighbour?

When given clear choices, the public was clear in its response.  

We asked how they would feel if an online retailer offered free one-day delivery for lower income families, but this resulted in local shops closing down - 69 per cent found this unacceptable. Or if their bank invested more in combating fraud and cyber crime, but closed their local branch - 61 per cent said it was unacceptable. Or if their council made savings by putting services online and cut council tax as a result, but some people would find it hard to access these services - 56 per cent found it unacceptable.

It seems people are not prepared to see innovation at any price - and not at the expense of their local communities. The poorest find these trade offs least acceptable.

Correcting the course of technology in Britain does not need to mean taking backwards steps and becoming an anti-innovation zone.

A clearer regulatory environment would support positive, responsible change that supports our society, not just the ambition of a few corporations.

Some clarity about our relationship with web services would be a good start. 60 per cent of people Doteveryone spoke to believed there should be an independent body they can turn to when things go wrong online; 89 per cent would like terms and conditions to be clearer, and 47% feel they have no choice but to sign up to services, even when they have concerns.

Technology regulation is complicated and fragmentary. Ofcom and the under-resourced Information Commissioner’s Office, provide some answers,but they are not sufficient to regulate the myriad effects of social media, let alone the changes that new technologies like self-driving cars will bring. There needs to be a revolution in government, but at present as consumers and citizens we can’t advocate for that. We need a body that represents us, listens to our concern and gives us a voice.

And the British public also needs to feel empowered, so we can all make better choices - adults and children alike need different kinds of understanding and capability to navigate the digital world. It is not about being able to code: it is about being able to cope.

Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and well-being, and reduce health inequalities. Perhaps we need a digital equivalent, to protect and improve our digital health and well-being, and reduce digital inequalities.

As a society, we should not have to continually respond and adapt to the demands of the big corporations: we should also make demands of them - and we need confidence, a voice, and representation to begin to do that.

Rachel Coldicutt is chief executive of Doteveryone.