Tech for UK – Mike Butcher statement December 2019

20 December 2019 at 12:58 reproduced with permission.

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Tech For UK – A message to our community


After resting for a while over the break, we’d like to get everyone together for a reflective Meetup.

Please sign up here.

There is also a separate “election Tech” Meetup being organised here.


After protesting against just about everything, including the Vietnam war, at the end of the ’60s and early ’70s, Americans who wanted change in their government gave up. In her book “Just kids” singer Patti Smith wrote about how passionate people like her became absolutely fed up with protesting and marching against Vietnam, racism, you name it. Instead, they went into an era of ‘self expression’ in the 70s and 80s. If they couldn’t change the government, they though, let’s change ourselves.

But, as a result, people shifted to a form of expression which removed them from the power structures they disapproved of. Rather than campaigning, they found it more exciting to simply “rebel” culturally. But what seemed like “rebellion” actually ceded the ground to successive Right-Wing US governments. They abandoned collective action. So they were neutered for a generation.

This is what I fear will happen after the general election: that we will be too exhausted to carry on addressing the country’s problems, and simply go back to our day jobs, knowing Johnson has 5 years to do Brexit and potentially change the country immeasurably.

So what we need to understand is that although we should definitely rest fornow, if we decide to walk away, then the other side will definitely have won. We must stay in the fight, but also change tactics and change our approach to meet the new situation.

While Brexit is almost certain to go ahead now, the problems of the country remain, and rather than just giving up, we need to take a fresh approach to what we do.

But to achieve that, we need to nurture our community, and not cut off all the connections we’ve made over the last couple of years.

That means not leaving all the WhatsApp, Telegram, Slack, email lists and Facebook groups we’ve joined in the last few years.

That is exactly what the other side wants! They WANT us to disperse!

We must reject that, stay together and maintain the connections we’ve built up, even if the noise goes down for a while.

Since we launched TFUK in early 2018, and had our first hackathon that Summer, we have been over-joyed to meet and work with so many incredible and talented people. There are too many people to thank and recognise. Just go look at to find a list of all the amazing projects. Some highlights included the launch of,, and many many more. We had 1,000+ tech leaders sign a letter to the PM for a Second Referendum.  We also did some amazing work for the EU Elections to help EU nationals to register.

We’ve built an email list of over 1,500 people, and a slack community of 400+. We have all made real friends, and we even welcomed a TFUK baby, Alden, born to Hope and John who were instrumental to MyEU! He’s a real cutie!

But to be self-effacing, however, I think that while we had the talent to build great products, we often lacked the distribution channels to generate lots of traffic & interest, having to rely too heavily on the goodwill of others. While we managed to get to a point where we could generate great social imagery and meme-type material, we still lacked the distribution. These are things we could work on.

We also found that our best TFUK projects have been the ones people have just taken the initiative on and got done. Here’s to just getting shit done…

Now, in no particular order are a few observations:

Early results indicate that the Tactical Voting of Remainers turned out – unfortunately – not to be the key fight in this election. As Becky of has written, Tactical Voting made voting Labour a bit more palatable to ‘normal’ voters, but didn’t move the needle nearly as much as many had predicted.

Unfortunately, Tactical Voting web sites which called seats early could well have damaged tactical voting. How many postal votes went the wrong way? We don’t really know. Plus the anti-Labour tendency of the Remain movement would have come into play here.

That’s why the attacks on Corbyn by Jo Swinson (and even the ‘don’t worry he can’t get in’ narrative from others) was damaging. That meant that sadly, many did not want to risk voting tactically, in case Corbyn got in.

Plus there was the whole “Corbyn turn-off factor” which countless newspaper articles have now pored over.

But while it would seem we have reached the limits of Tactical Voting giving the huge problems with the FPTP system, the learnings we’ve got from this last election shouldn’t be forgotten. We have to build on the knowledge we’ve gained.

But we’ve also learned that Tactical voting has to be accompanied by huge pushes by opposition parties. TV itself is not enough. And the the cross-party appeal only gets you so far. And it didn’t help when Lab/Lib decided to BOTH fight for a seat the Tories could win.

Tactical voting PLUS a Remain alliance PLUS better messaging PLUS better leaders could have had the right effect. But that didn’t happen, as we know.

On that note, we have to pay tribute to Swap My Vote. This site by Tom De Grunwald, Adam Spiers and many other contributors ended up getting 610,000 page views in 254,000 sessions from 167,000 users with  20,852 accounts created. So a massive success from a standing start!

One problem was that their twitter account was kicked off twitter mid afternoon after a tweet of theirs got reported. They are still looking into that.

Tom is taking a break but will send more info in due course.

Suffice it to say that SMV was and is a great idea. It allowed people to feel better about Tactical voting.

Given that we need a better voting system that FPTP, we hope TV will become even more mainstream in years to come, so that we change fix this broken electoral system.

As our co-founder Eloise Todd has written, the weekend the Lib Dems backed the election and the plug was pulled on the People’s Vote campaign were deeply connected political events. Let’s remember that Chuka Umunna was advising Jo Swinson, and the Lib Dems believed that there would be a chance of a massive swing to them. For some inexplicable reason, they thought Labour could effectively be ‘instructed’ to change leaders if the LDs did well enough. Well, we know what happened there…

The lying and disinformation by the Tories during this election was huge. The often bad messaging of the opposition parties themselves did not help. Lib and Lab supporters fighting eachother more than they fought the Tories did not help.

The Remain movement proved not to be united enough when it came to fighting an election.

Forget that the Tories won for a second. It turns out voters backed Remain parties over Leave parties by 52:48. Yes, the irony…

Brexit supporting parties (the Conservatives, The Brexit Party and the UKIndependence Party (UKIP)) only got about 14.8 million votes, down from 17.4 million leave votes in the 2016 referendum.

So we have clear evidence that FPTP worked against the wishes of the majority. FPTP is not fit for purpose.

On that note, Tech For UK will be looking to help campaigner for a Proportional Representation system.

As Labour’s Alan Johnson has said: “Corbyn was a disaster on the doorstep. Everyone knew that he couldn’t lead the working class out of a paper bag.”

If you look at number of votes rather than percentages, then the Tories barely went up. The “Didn’t Vote” vote went up and Labour went down.

As the results attest, the fight was about winning hearts and minds in the regions outside the big metropolitan centres. As Eloise says, “Brexit is not the fight. Brexit is the symptom of a problem which is people feeling totally disconnected from politics – and crucially not particularly wanting to get connected.”

Overall, however, the pattern is clear. It was Labour in free fall, rather than a huge Tory advance, which delivered this victory for the Tories.

Twitter got a strike against their account on the day. This suggests that they got mass reported or something and probably that blue tick helped them stay online.

We should pay tribute to the team there of Alison, Steve and others for their commitment. Please stay connected to STC on Twitter and other channels. 
Its fair to say our attempt to get a ‘pro-democracy affect’ by promoting the use of the Telegram app more or less failed. But there are some learnings that we got which would would not have if we hadn’t done the experiment.

Josh and I intend to keep the Telegram channels up and we will need them in the weeks and months to come. We believe that a lot of campaigning should actually come off social media and do more organising “off the radar”. So Telegram will be an important part of that.
By the end we were showcasing 22 different sites and apps on to get people voting! We want to pay tribute to the teams behind Swap My Vote, Student Voter (Sharon and co!), VoteBot (Ali and co!), VoteFlip (Adam Stamper), Everyone.Vote (Ed Dowding), VoteEarly and many other iniatives. You are all heroes! And remember, we also previously built some great stuff on The last couple of years have been incredible for TFUK’s contribution to the movement of ‘CivTech / CivicTech’!

There’s no getting around it. The country will now have to go through the clear harm that Brexit will do to the country. If people live through it, they will start to realise it for themselves, sadly.

There will likely be continued privatisation of public services, eroding working conditions, depleting resources, watering down professional standards and necessary oversight while lining the pockets of profiteers. Expect more of it. It will make a few providers very rich, lower standards of care and service at great cost. It will also likely mean the privatisation of the government’s response to the Climate Crisis. That means it will be inadequate to the challenge since only real legislation and a huge, national and global effort will make any real difference.

We now have to prep for the fight to get beyond Johnson. That will be a generational fight. We can’t give up and just throw-in our lot with the Brexiters. Making Johnson look good cements-in a drift to the right.

It would be great if the Tech For UK community could be thereby bringing the right support to people when they need it through the aligning of tech on education, climate, health, jobs, housing etc.

We want to act as a network to incubate many kinds of projects.

After resting for a while over the break, we’d like to get everyone together for a reflective Meetup.

Please sign up here.

Some other challenges on the shopping list:
– Supporting electoral reform of FPTP
– Countering the Far Right
– Empowering volunteering/activism

It’s been our plan for TFUK to not go away regardless of election or brexit outcomes. If we can, we’d like to stay here for the long haul. There are a lot of things to fight for and there always will be. We think tech people are good at coming up with ideas to help the UK and we want to continue, so long as we can make the ‘model’ viable long-term.

George Monbiot has some sobering analysis and some ideas about what we could work on: “We have a government not of conservatives but of the radical right, who will now seek to smash the remaining restraints on capital and those who accumulate it. They will take their sledgehammers to our public services and our public protections. They cheated and lied to assist their victory; they will cheat and lie even more to implement their programme.”

“The long-standing strategy of governments such as this is to degrade these services until we become exasperated with them, whereupon, lacking public support, they can be broken up and privatised.”

“They are creating an anti-intellectual culture, to make people easier to manipulate.”

He suggests reinvigorating the ‘workers’ education’ movements.

This might well be a task ahead for the TFUK community: Education.

But we also want make sure we do as much “listening” as possible. How that manifests itself we are not sure yet. Possibly some kind of research project.

For now, we will have a new years’ gathering (see above) where we can reflect on where we are, reconnect face to face and take stock of what happened.

It’s time to sleep, recharge, reconnect with family, and think carefully about how to engage in this next phase. Who wins the leadership of the Labour Party and the Lib Dems will be a key part of this, among many other factors.

Best wishes to you all, compliments of the season, and massive thanks forsupporting what you believe in.

Mike, Eloise, Josh, Madhuban

Tech For UK

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