Voters need to be alive to very real threats posed by cyber-attacks, AI and deep fakes – Christine Jardine

As general election campaigns get underway, we all need to make sure the voices we listen to are genuine

Finally. After all the speculation and ‘will he, won’t he’, the Prime Minister summoned up his courage and we’ll have our general election on July 4. But while there will, of course, be those who doubt that it will make any difference to their lives, this time may prove to be much more than a regular five-year update.

Parliament will be dissolved on May 30 and what happens in the following weeks may dictate much more than the political hue of the next occupant of Number 10. Across the Western world, we are seeing a worrying rise in the popularity of the politics of the right and a threat to democracy from external actors. Hungary, France and even Germany have all witnessed right-wing politicians garner popularity.

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We are only too aware of the turmoil Donald Trump continues to stir up in the US. The horrific events in Slovakia have shown us the depth of feeling that exists in the politically frustrated. We also have to take into account not just the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, but the uncertainty and fear that is sweeping through former Soviet states and Eastern bloc countries over Putin’s ambitions.

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We know that there have already been attempts to interfere in the democratic process in this country and our security services are alive to the potential threat from cyber-attacks, AI and social media deep fakes. It's becoming increasingly clear that what we mustn't do is rely on that old stalwart defence, of ‘oh it could never happen here’.

Politicians of all parties need to be aware in this contest that we carry a responsibility to work for the greater good. In hustings and debates across the country, we will argue how to end poverty and encourage economic growth. But we must also be aware of the bigger picture and challenges we have not previously faced.

Since the last general election, we have been through a national trauma. We are on the other side of it, but perhaps have underestimated the impact in both economic and social terms. We need change, but part of that has to be about recovery.

For the small businesses that haven’t quite got back on their feet, for the young people trapped on waiting lists who need mental health support, for families who can’t make ends meet, we need to make sure that we don't allow the next five years to be as politically ineffective as the past five have been.

I go into this election, with my Liberal Democrat colleagues, as committed as ever to making a difference but also more worried that it may be more difficult to achieve than ever before. Inflation may be down, but the cost of food and all other necessities is still rising.

Our health service and those at its front line are under increasing pressure as all our public services struggle. We need change like never before, but we need the right change.

And we need to be careful that the voices we listen to are genuine in their concern for the things we hold dear in the country. The battle for hearts and minds is underway. Hopefully at the end we will have representatives who will do us proud.

Christine Jardine is the Scottish Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West



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