Tom Watson puts a new spin on David Cameron's most famous soundbite

Written by David Singleton on 11 December 2017 in Diary

The Labour deputy leader reckons that people should hug a robot (rather than a hoodie).

Tom Watson is not known as a big fan of David Cameron, it is fair to say.

In 2010, he called Cameron and Nick Clegg "mollycoddled middle-class white men whose idea of an early shift is the Today programme radio car interrupting their morning cappuccino". More recently, he accused the former prime minister of "uber-cronyism" over bumper pay rises for his advisers.

But Watson has now paid the ultimate compliment to Cameron. Or at least to one of his best-known soundbites.  

"It can sometimes feel like we are preparing for a world in which artificial intelligence, algorithms and automation, rather than human endeavour and hard work, will shape every aspect of our society and our economy. That sounds like a frightening prospect. But it needn’t be," Watson said today.

"That is liberating. So I suppose what I’m really saying is: robots can set us free ...

"A former prime minister once famously said ‘hug a hoodie’. Today, I’m asking you to embrace an android."

The Labour deputy leader’s comments came at the launch of the final report of the Future of Work Commission, which has concluded that people should not fear the “march of the robots” and that technological revolution has the potential to reverse the UK’s economic decline and create as many jobs as it destroys.

In his speech in 2006, Cameron did not actually advise anyone to actually hug a hoodie - but he did call for more understanding of hoodies in a bold bid to re-engineer the Conservatives' image on crime. The raid on Labour territory was part of the successful modernisation strategy orchestrated by Cameron's then right-hand man Steve Hilton.

Cameron said: "The hoodie is a response to a problem, not a problem in itself. We - the people in suits - often see hoodies as aggressive, the uniform of a rebel army of young gangsters. But hoodies are more defensive than offensive. They're a way to stay invisible in the street. In a dangerous environment the best thing to do is keep your head down, blend in.

"For some the hoodie represents all that's wrong about youth culture in Britain today. For me, adult society's response to the hoodie shows how far we are from finding the long-term answers to put things right."



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