Corbyn Invokes Machine Breakers in Plea Over Technology and Work

  • Investment in education needed to help workers adapt to change
  • Labour leader rejects austerity ahead of possible election

Jeremy Corbyn greets supporters after speaking in Parliament square during an anti-austerity demonstration in London on July 1, 2017.

Photographer: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the U.K.’s opposition Labour Party, will invoke the memory of radicals who broke machines in the early 19th century as he calls for increased investment in education and training so workers can keep pace with advances in technology.

Corbyn will say that adjusting to the loss of jobs caused by new manufacturing techniques cannot be left to the market if Britain is to avoid the kind of upheaval that the Luddites protested against by smashing looms and other machines that threatened their livelihoods.

“At every stage of economic and industrial history, jobs, industries and skills have been lost, replaced and transformed,” Corbyn will say in a speech in London, according to extracts released by his office. “But whether that happens at huge social cost, as it did, for example, in the early days of the industrial revolution and the Luddites, or is embraced and benefits everybody, depends on managing and planning for technological change. We can’t simply leave it to the market.”

Corbyn, who says he is ready for another general election this year, will use the speech to the British Chambers of Commerce to pledge more spending on education as he pushes back against seven years of spending cuts. Opposition to the austerity policies of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives helped Labour erase her Parliamentary majority and left her reliant on the votes of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists.

“It is education that will drive up productivity, increase our economic dynamism and allow our businesses to compete on the world stage,” Corbyn will say. “It is by investing in our education system that we can end the spread of low-paid, low-skilled, insecure work by providing the skilled workforce that businesses need if they are to create high-skilled, better-paid jobs.”

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