With speculation mounting as the race to become nominated for the leadership of the UK conservative party and hence become the next British Prime Minister, Blockchain advocate and tech campaigner Matt Hancock has thrown his hat into the ring.
With the number of candidates now standing at eight, with more yet to put their names forward in the next few days, current Health Secretary of State and former economist at the Bank of England, Hancock has the country’s tech-savvy millennial population well within his sights.
Matthew John David Hancock is a British Conservative Party politician serving as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care since 2018 and has served as Member of Parliament for West Suffolk since 2010 and as minister for digital policy, Hancock recommitted to a “full fibre” digital policy for the UK in 2017.
Hancock is well known for his pro-blockchain stance amongst political circles and also his strongly positive views regarding the development and application of cryptocurrency within the UK’s financial system. In his previous role as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport he pushed to get blockchain accepted as a definitive new technology which would push the industry forward in the UK.
From his beginnings, following university, Hancock briefly worked for his family’s computer software company, and throughout his career has spoken out for IT, emerging technologies and their application across industry and finance. He even backed up his enthusiasm in February last year when he was still Culture Secretary by launching his own app called Matt Hancock MP, explaining at the time:
“It’s a chance to find out what’s going on both in my role as MP for West Suffolk and as culture secretary, and most importantly it’s a chance for you to tell me what you think, and to engage with others on issues that matter to you.”
UK MPs have become increasingly vocal on cryptocurrency and Bitcoin. In 2017, Hancock delivered a memorable speech to the UK Law Society asserting that blockchain technology would have a “monumental impact” on people’s lives in the future. He spoke of “vast areas of public life” that he predicted blockchain would transform: the financial sector, government services, and laws and regulation.
He is a champion of advocating blockchain technology to solve many of the worlds social challenges and has cited the World Food Programme Ethereum Blockchain Aid initiative as an example. The same program transferred cryptocurrency-based vouchers to 10,000 refugees in Syria, enabling them to buy cash-free provisions. He asserted at the time:
“I use as my example the use of blockchain in development aid because then you can follow the money to the recipient and go and check that the recipient has received the money and what they’re using it for. I can see anywhere where you need verification, the blockchain is a potential technology for doing that.”
Clearly, the 40-year-old Hancock will broaden the appeal of his party to attract millennials, particularly given where his pro-tech sympathies lie, including his views on cryptocurrency which are very much slanted towards innovation and limit on controls:
“We only want one currency here in the UK. Nevertheless, having other currencies whether they’re backed internationally or are essentially backed by technology and verified through a distributed ledger, it’s better to have them here than offshore…I want our regulators to carry out their essential roles – preventing harm, providing certainty to businesses and trust to citizens – without stifling innovation.
Hancock has outlined how the UK Government’s Digital Strategy demonstrates Britain becoming “the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business and to trial new technologies like blockchain” and sees London’s influence as the potential tech hub capital of the world to influence the rest of the UK.
Hancock pointed out that in June 2017, the UK’s top ten publicly-traded fintech businesses crossed the 100 billion-dollar market at a value of GBP 71 billion. He went on to illustrate that it was blockchain which was the most important emerging technology and that UK financial regulators were leading the world in encouraging innovation.
Whether this self-confessed computer geek can appeal to enough millennials to push him over the line remains to be seen. Regarding his race to Number 10, he has stated the need to reconnect with the younger generation, but not simply those who have just left university
“The average age of people who vote Conservative is now 51. So we need to reach out to a whole new generation of people – not just those in their 20s but those in their 30s and 40s, too….We desperately need that generational shift. We need a fresh start and to turn the page on some of the ugly politics of the last few years.”
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