A Basic Income is a story the Liberal Democrats can champion

This time last year my Lib Dem council colleagues and I on Hull City Council tabled and passed a motion to call for a Universal Basic Income pilot in Hull; we were the first of what is now many Liberal Democrat Councillors to do so. Little did we know a year on Basic Income would pass overwhelmingly at our Autumn party conference into policy and be championed in Parliament by a number of our MPs.

Now, as we see the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic hit our society harder than ever before it is essential for Liberal Democrats to be pioneering and spearheading the charge towards making Basic Income a reality.

This, of course, comes with challenges.

Sceptics, of which I was one, always say,  “no one’s heard of it”, “we’ll never be able to make it work” or “it’s just for policy wonks” but the pandemic gives the idea of Basic Income limelight. It gives Liberal Democrats a lightbulb moment that can commit us to a caring society where no one gets left behind.

A Basic Income is explained simply – it is a fixed, unconditional, universal payment to all in our society. It has the power to be a great leveller to the economic insecurity Coronavirus has exposed.

A Basic Income would have seen the free school’s meals meltdown from government melt away with parents having a safety net. A Basic Income would see those who have fallen through the cracks of Covid support catered to and supported. A Basic Income, if championed by Liberals, could be our generation’s answer to the National Health Service.

Now, that does not mean implementing a Basic Income is a panacea, of course; it’s not. Societies’ problems naturally go deeper. Nonetheless, the freedom of people, often our most vulnerable, from the pits of worry is a Liberal idea and gives us a vision worth fighting for.

As the party smells the coffee and we shape ourselves as a caring party we should rally behind a Basic Income because it makes sense for us to fight for a policy that leaves no one behind and frees people to create their opportunities. We need to be the party that empowers normal people, backs normal people and stands up for normal people and this idea does just that.

We shouldn’t shy away from it simply because it’s an idea that is relatively unheard of when we’re on the doorstep talking about roads and pavements. We should welcome the opportunity of a relatively unheard of idea and make sure Liberal Democrats take the chance to pioneer and shape a policy with a vision for rebuilding a brighter future post Coronavirus.

The preamble to our constitution as in the back of our membership cards says no one should be enslaved by poverty – it is time Lib Dems start acting on those words, it’s time we championed a Basic Income.

 

* Jack Haines joined the Liberal Democrats in 2015 at the age of 16 and was elected as a Liberal Democrat Councillor in Hull in 2019. He is a campaigner for Lib Dems for Basic Income @LDforBI.

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40 Comments

  • Peter Martin 15th Jan '21 - 1:00pm

    We’ve been through all this before. The UBI sounds fine until you start doing the arithmetic to add the details. The problem then is that it is considered unaffordable if it is large enough “be a great leveller” but a token gesture if it isn’t.

    The use of the word “unaffordable” can be construed to have neoliberal connotations by those who have some passing familiarity with MMT. The government can never run out of money etc. This is true, but it can still wreck the economy with high levels of inflation. Consequently the leading MMT economists do not support the concept.

  • Paul Griffiths 15th Jan '21 - 1:06pm

    Isn’t there a UBI Policy Working Group? Shouldn’t we wait until it reports?

  • John Marriott 15th Jan '21 - 3:10pm

    It must be Groundhog Day….again. Sorry to be a killjoy; but a Basic Income (where did the ‘Universal’ go?) sounds like that line in the Dire Straits’ song; “Money for nothing “, although I don’t think that, within that demonstration of national largesse, you would get your “chicks for free”.

    If the Lib Dems were to lead on this, I can imagine the reaction. “Free money” would be a mild comment compared with what some of their opponents would come up with. (I wonder what Mr Martin would have to say!)

    Mr Haines is young and idealistic. I am old and cynical. I was young once and I can tell him for starters that this idea, in various forms, has been around for quite some time. Didn’t the Finns try an experiment not that long ago, and then there was the Social Credit movement in pre war Canada, that saw SC governments elected in BC and Alberta, the latter ruling until 1970.

    We had a massive debate on UBI on LDV last year, didn’t we? What more is there really to add to what was said then?

  • John Marriott 15th Jan '21 - 3:28pm

    Before he questions my sanity, I would like to point out to Mr Martin that my comment on UBI was penned several hours ago and would have been the first comment in this thread had it not incurred the dreaded “Flood Alert” from the LDV computer. I’ve only just been released from my gagging order!

  • Colin Paine 15th Jan '21 - 3:50pm

    Not again. I’m still hoping the party will come to its senses and drop this policy before the next general election.

  • Jack, it does sound like a great idea. Perhaps even too good to be true. The drawback is that someone has to pay for it and with the country approaching £3 trillion in debt, that someone is not going to welcome an additional, highly expensive scheme with doubtful benefit and unnecessary cost.

    As we try to recover from the pandemic, the main challenge will be to help everyone get back into work and to find new jobs to replace the ones that are lost forever. Paying people for doing nothing does not fit well with that priority.

  • clive english 15th Jan '21 - 5:15pm

    UBI is like the perpetual motion machine or the philsophers stone. Nice to have in theory, but unobtainable and fundamentally wrong in practice. Quite why society should give free money to those who have plenty of it in effective preference to those who may not have enough is quite puzzling. It will end up requiring a lot of tax revenue from somewhere to fund it if at a reasonable level or be a totally pointless gesture. If we have free money to quite literally burn lets have totally free teritary education. Or fund a proper child care system. If we wnt to help the poor start by making zero hours contracts illegal.

  • @clive – I fully agree with every word. However, I have one concern, I am not a supporter of zero hours contracts but I know that some people do need them, usually for reasons of flexibility. Shutting down the ability to work for some people is of great concern to me but I am not close enough and lack the time to find a solution.

  • Daniel Walker 15th Jan '21 - 7:27pm
  • Plugging the holes would achieve the same result without stratospheric cost , change and disruption.

  • Daniel Walker 15th Jan '21 - 7:51pm

    @Peter “without stratospheric cost

    What part of “its effect is redistributive rather than an increase in overall taxation” suggested a “stratospheric” cost?

  • Peter Martin 15th Jan '21 - 8:54pm

    @ Daniel,

    Table 1 in the reference you gave says there will be a tax of 25% on incomes of £0 -50,000

    So that means you are going to tax children doing paper rounds?

    There’s a UBI of around £200 pw for everyone aged between 25 and 64. Why not the retirement age of 65+ ? Why do 24 year olds and less get nothing? Groceries are still the same price for them. They’ll still have to pay the same increased rates of income tax.

    It’s still going to cost £236.63 bn p.a. according to the authors.

    Good luck with selling that one on the doorstep!

    There’s no discussion, as far as I can make out, on the negative effect of removing the tax free threshold. Many will simply stop doing any work at all and just collect the £200 pw. Or if they do continue they’ll be working informally and off the books.

  • Martin Land 15th Jan '21 - 9:53pm

    I suspect that a lot of the money, unearned income, would not go to feeding children, but fuelling alcoholism and feeding drug dealers. Populism worthy of Donald Trump, I’m afraid. Truly addressing poverty requires long term solutions. And having the courage to tax the rich.

  • Paul Drake-Davis 15th Jan '21 - 11:05pm

    Many of the comments here explain why the party is on its knees and polling at 6%.

    It seems there are still many members who accept Tory ideologies like “a government must balance the books” and “poor people will spend their money on drugs and booze”. Is this still a party of the white middle classes?

    Laissez-faire liberalism is dead. It failed us and brought upon us a new era of Nationalism. The world needs egalitarian and radical Liberals.

  • Michael Sammon 16th Jan '21 - 1:45am

    Developing a social security system is complex and it’s so vital. I personally am not convinced that we can afford UBI in any meaningful measure and it will be tough to justify giving money to people who don’t need it with the NHS desperately struggling, the climate emergency and the economy post Covid and Brexit. The worst thing we could do is introduce it at a low level which would not benefit anyone in poverty.

  • Daniel Walker 16th Jan '21 - 7:45am

    @Peter Martin “Table 1 in the reference you gave says there will be a tax of 25% on incomes of £0 -50,000

    Firstly, thank you for reading the paper, Peter.

    Table 1 in the Torry paper refers to his “Recovery Basic Income” scheme; i.e. one designed for stimulus. It isn’t intended to be revenue-neutral.

    The permanent proposals are from Section 4 onwards.

    So that means you are going to tax children doing paper rounds?

    Indeed, Dr Torry’s 2017 (permanent) proposal did indeed remove the Personal Allowance completely. Clearly other people had the same objection—with which I agree—and so his 2020 one reduces it (to £4k) but does not eliminate it.

    The total cost is, again, £26 million.

    @Martin Land “I suspect that a lot of the money, unearned income, would not go to feeding children, but fuelling alcoholism and feeding drug dealers.

    Generally, that turns out not to be the case, and is an appalling thing to say. Most poorer people are not either alcoholics or addicts. Torry’s 2020 proposals are redistributive; they are taxing the rich.

  • @Martin Land – “I suspect that a lot of the money, unearned income, would not go to feeding children, but fuelling alcoholism and feeding drug dealers”

    That’s the attitude that resulted in last weeks school meals food hamper scandal, where the Government wouldn’t trust parents with vouchers. The idea that poor people can’t be trusted or addicts are beyond redemption is convenient cover to cut welfare and humiliate the less fortunate.

    Addicts will spend whatever income they get on their habit, whether it’s Universal Credit, UBI, or the proceeds of crime. Providing a Universal Income is a better outcome for society than having desperate addicts turning to crime or prostitution, while providing a more stable platform from which to try recover and improve their lives.

  • @Peter Martin – “There’s no discussion, as far as I can make out, on the negative effect of removing the tax free threshold. Many will simply stop doing any work at all and just collect the £200 pw. Or if they do continue they’ll be working informally and off the books.”

    Why? The current system of withdrawing benefits when claimants earn money is a far bigger disincentive to work. Properly implemented, a UBI system would result is people always being better off if they took any work, no matter how temporary or part time. A few might be happy with £200 pw, but most would want more and be prepared to work for it.

    Working off the books? It happens already, and removing the tax threshold so that all income is taxed at the basic rate at source would make it a little bit harder for employers and employees to cheat.

  • Peter Martin 16th Jan '21 - 11:39am

    @ Nick @ Daniel,

    The big unknown is human nature in the formulation of the Torry and other costings. So it looks like he’s simply ignored it and made the common mistake of assuming that everything else, apart from the parameters he’s proposing to change, will remain the same.

    The U in UBI could equally stand for unconditional. We are all used to the concept of a conditional income. You turn regularly to do your job, you get on with your work colleagues, you aren’t rude to the boss etc and you’ll get paid for what you do. The UBI isn’t about abolishing that completely but it is about shifting the balance. Workers will be paid less, after taxation etc, for the conditional nature of their employment and more unconditionally. The argument is that they’ll be better off as a consequence.

    If you have children, you could test out what happens when firstly you pay them, say £5 pw, for doing some jobs about the house. Then you replace that with an unconditional payment of £3 pw and a conditional payment of £3pw for doing the same jobs. So they can now earn £6 pw and be better off. But will they still do them, or will they think their effective pay for doing the work has been reduced by 40% and no longer think it is worthwhile?

    We all need everyone to do their jobs for society to function. So the more sensible alternative is to give a job to everyone who needs one at a living wage. It’s unlikely that the kept partners of the wealthy will take up the offer, although they could if they wanted to, and this will avoid the charge of giving out money to those who don’t need it.

    The other argument for a guaranteed, but conditional, income is that there is more to equality than what we receive. We all of us should want to contribute in some way to society and most of us do. Many want to, but don’t get much of a look-in when they are in competition with able bodied people. The JG addresses this problem in a meaningful way rather than simply handing out sums of money and telling the supposedly unemployable to go away and hide.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-ouch-32613957

  • Katharine Pindar 16th Jan '21 - 11:46am

    What could be offered on the doorsteps this year, apart from the continuing efforts of Lib Dem councillors to improve their areas, is the comprehensive attempt to address social ills, from poverty, health and social care, to housing, education and unemployment, which is envisaged to be covered in a new Beveridge-2 Plan and Social Contract. Increasing poverty and inequality cannot be solved by planning to have a Basic Income for everyone.

  • Daniel Walker 16th Jan '21 - 12:15pm

    @Katharine Pindar “Increasing poverty and inequality cannot be solved by planning to have a Basic Income for everyone.

    Table 7 of the Torry 2020 paper addresses the anticipated effects of a UBI on both GINI and overall poverty (it reduces both, as you would expect from the redistributive effect shown in fig 2)

    So while the revenue-neutral one proposed by Torry would not solve poverty and inequality, it would help.

    I do agree that your Beveridge-2 / New Social Contract plan is a good one, however. I just don’t see that UBI need not be part of it.

    @Peter Martin “The big unknown is human nature in the formulation of the Torry and other costings. So it looks like he’s simply ignored it and made the common mistake of assuming that everything else, apart from the parameters he’s proposing to change, will remain the same.

    Section 5 covers this, the aptly-named “Limitations of this research”. Behaviour change caused by this sort of intervention is unknowable – although as I said to Martin above, there is evidence that direct transfers do indeed mostly go towards food, and do not decrease hours worked (ref: New Scientist, Forbes)

  • Peter Martin 16th Jan '21 - 1:14pm

    @ Katharine and Daniel

    It seems that we are all in agreement that poverty is a problem that needs to be tackled. The disagreement is about how.

    Katharine is arguing for an improved system of conditional social benefits and a reversal of the changes to the system made by all Governments since the Thatcher era. I would argue that this is ignoring why the changes have come about. Thatcher was tapping in to an unease that the social benefits system was being abused in the 70s. It was. I have my own personal knowledge of that but just to the extent that the Thatcherites claimed was doubtful. They just made the most of it. Nevertheless I don’t believe it is politically realistic to argue for a return to what we had then. In any case, it wasn’t that good in any case.

    The UBI proposal won’t, I believe, work for the reasons Katharine and others have already given. There are arguments about the cost but fundamentally there’s always going to be unease about the ultra broad brush approach to solving this problem. We need more targeted measures.

    I’m not usually in favour of focus groups but in this instance it might be useful to get a wider range of opinions. There’s no point in advocating what we might personally prefer if voters don’t like the idea. I doubt if most voters have ever even heard of a UBI or the MMT alternative of a Job Guarantee. I did try to explain them to a group of regulars the last time the pubs were open. They were sceptical of both. They were all solidly of the opinion that if the Government were to hand out money to everyone they would put up taxes by far more to pay for it! Naturally they weren’t in favour.

    There was some support for the Job Guarantee but even there we’d have our work cut out to get a general acceptance. Most, even Labour voters, thought the jobs were already there for those who genuinely wanted work. I’m sure you’ve heard it all many times yourselves!

  • Peter Watson 16th Jan '21 - 3:10pm

    @Daniel Walker “there is evidence that direct transfers … do not decrease hours worked (ref: New Scientist, Forbes)”
    I would be very sceptical about drawing that conclusion from the experiments, e.g. the Finnish one described in the New Scientist. Anybody receiving additional money for a finite period is likely to be aware that after it stops, the consequences of a longer gap in their employment record might outweigh any short-term benefits. The “permanent” example from Alaska is more interesting but does not appear to involve sums of money that many would describe as life-changing.

    When it comes to UBI, I am probably quite representative of the general population: I have no idea if it is a good idea or a bad one but I am instinctively uneasy/suspicious about the impression of “money for nothing”, “too good to be true”, “who picks up the bill?”, etc.

    So if it is a good thing, the party needs to be fully convinced and committed to it unreservedly. It will be a difficult sell on the doorstep and in the media so there would no point in going forward with it halfheartedly. Opinions on any form of universal benefit can be divisive, but perhaps there is hope for those who see UBI as a key policy for Lib Dems. After all, Lib Dems used to oppose universal free school meals until Nick Clegg decided they didn’t! 😉

  • Arthur Clive Trussel 16th Jan '21 - 4:12pm

    Simply, I agree with Jack.
    A couple of years ago, we discussed the idea at a Sunday Assembly meeting.
    There where many reasons against – but there were more for it, and in general, overall –
    we agreed it would be good for the people’s quality of life, society and the country.

  • Peter Chambers 16th Jan '21 - 4:16pm

    @Clive English
    > let’s have totally free tertiary education

    That would be better than the current mess of a student loan scheme. The one that is almost impossible to understand, has a built-in poverty trap, and sits like a millstone round our necks whenever someone remembers we exist.

  • @Peter Martin – a better pocket money analogy for the current system – I give my child £5 a week pocket pocket money. They then get a paper round that earns them another £5 a week, so I tell them I’m cutting their pocket money to £2 a week because they are earning money now.

  • Peter Martin 16th Jan '21 - 5:03pm

    @ Nick,

    If I’d had £5 pw I wouldn’t have even considered doing a paper round!

  • Katharine Pindar 16th Jan '21 - 6:30pm

    Daniel, thank you for your approval of the Beveridge-2 /Social Contract plan. I don’t disagree that UBI, if it ever comes about, could be part of it, and my colleague Michael Berwick-Gooding, co-author with me of the business motion on Beveridge-2 which we have offered for Spring Conference, is willing to discuss with his economic grasp how our party’s new policy of UBI might be furthered.

    Peter, hi, we have argued these matters many times, and often come to some agreement. But I disagree with you, as you know, that upgrading social benefits as part of relieving poverty is out of date. On the contrary, I think there is a strong conviction in the country now that, for instance, the benefit cap should be ended and that the (measly) increase in Universal Credit should be continued after April. There is real need in the country, which people have noticed, and have seen that it does affect the poorest workers most. Kenan Malik, a journalist writing for the Observer, made a strong case for an increase in sickness benefit last Sunday , and I recall that our Leader had written to the Chancellor about its inadequacy months ago, without response as far as I know.

  • Daniel Walker 17th Jan '21 - 7:48am

    @Peter Martin “I have my own personal knowledge of that but just to the extent that the Thatcherites claimed was doubtful. They just made the most of it.

    Not having been round for much of the seventies, I am sure you are right that there were people who took the mick; as you say, I doubt it was to the extent that Thatcher at al. were saying (more recently, I recall the Metro had a front page on a family that they alleged was living the high life on about £28k in benefits (I can’t recall the exact numbers). It took half a glance at the story to realise a) there were ten of them; b) the dad had relatively recently lost his job through no fault of his own; c) the reason there were 8 kids is because it was a blended family. £28k between ten is hardly luxurious living – and this was a national newspaper looking to demonise; that’s the best they could manage.

    I don’t think we should be deciding policy on the approval of the people who commissioned that story.

    If I’d had £5 pw I wouldn’t have even considered doing a paper round!

    With respect, Peter, I suggest that a fiver perhaps wouldn’t go as far these days as when you were a kid – it’s not going to get you many cinema tickets or much in the way of other entertainments. Even when I was doing a paper round in the early nineties an album was at least a tenner.

    @Peter Watson “The “permanent” example from Alaska is more interesting but does not appear to involve sums of money that many would describe as life-changing.

    US$2000 per annum is $38.46 per week, about £30. Torry 2020 suggests £60 p/w for a working-age adult, so it is substantially more, but within the same order of magnitude. I would argue that, given the arguments this week over £30 worth of food, it could easily be the difference between malnutrition and a decent amount food, so I that would be life-changing for some. I’ve never, thankfully and luckily, been in that situation. I try to take my guidance on this topic from people who have.

    @Katharine Pindar I look forward to reading the motion.

  • Peter Martin 17th Jan '21 - 8:43am

    @ Katharine,

    I didn’t say that the upgrading of benefits was out of date. They do need to be contininually revised to ensure they do what they are meant to.

    But I don’t believe there is any evidence they have ever been instrumental in taking people out of poverty. That’s always come about through higher wages and conditions of full employment. That’s where the emphasis should still be with the provision of a guaranteed job at a living wage for those who can’t find employment on the open market.

  • Peter Watson 17th Jan '21 - 10:18am

    @Daniel Walker “I recall the Metro had a front page on a family that they alleged was living the high life on about £28k in benefits …”
    There were a lot of stories in the Tory press like that around 2012 in order to support and promote the need for a cap on benefits to prevent such extravagant lifestyles. Fortunately the Lib Dems were also in government in order to … oh, support and promote it as well 🙁

  • Peter Watson 17th Jan '21 - 10:46am

    @Daniel Walker “it could easily be the difference between malnutrition and a decent amount food, so I that would be life-changing for some”
    I was thinking of “life-changing” in the context of whether somebody would choose to work less, if at all, but more generally I suppose that it would depend on what basic level of benefits Alaskans were entitled to in addition to the universal $2000. And I don’t think it makes it an easier sell here if for some people the government are giving money that makes “the difference between malnutrition and a decent amount of food” while at the same time giving it to somebody for extra holiday spends at Disney World.
    It’s similar to one of the problems I had with Nick Clegg’s universal free school meals: in the 2015 election it was being promoted as putting a few hundred quid in parents’ pockets, making it sound more like a bribe to a better-off demographic likely to vote Lib Dem. More recently, we’ve seen just how free school meals can be truly life changing to those who need them.
    It is so much easier (and often still challenging) to make a case for targeted benefits, so I think promoting UBI is likely to be too steep a mountain to climb unless its proponents can find a simple argument that really cuts through to those who are most likely to vote. The only one that springs to mind is self-interest: promoting it to those better-off people for whom the money is extra holiday spends or bonus cash in their pocket. But that is a very uncomfortable thought.

  • Peter Martin 17th Jan '21 - 10:52am

    @ Peter Watson @ Daniel Walker,

    Yep it only takes a few cases of abuse of the system, or even what might just about be presented as marginally doubtful cases, for the whole system to be undermined. We can argue that 99% of claimants are perfectly genuine but it doesn’t seem to cut much ice. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to work quite as well in our favour if we are arguing against tax cheats. There’s a popular feeling that they are just looking to hang on to their own money.

    There’ll be the same problem with a UBI if it ever does become established. There’ll be stories in the press about some gangland families pocketing thousands in UBI to top up their other illegally obtained incomes. Or they will be asking why some WAG of a famous footballer, or a multibillionaire, is using her UBI to buy an ultra expensive handbag when the NHS is running on empty.

    So time to get working on some good answers.

  • I agree that it will be a hard sell, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do.

    The excuse that it will cause inflation is up there with minimum wage causing inflation. See also safe working practices, and not sending children up chimneys. It’s possible if it were done incorrectly, there might be some inflation, but so long as we ensure that everyone has enough for the basics, then it doesn’t matter if the basics cost a little bit extra.

    We need to stop calling it “Free Money”. Or at least, I expect anyone complaining about citizens benefiting from the country’s collective inherited wealth to have also complained about individuals benefiting from wealth inherited through family connections. If you are worried some of the country’s wealth might go to those who don’t really need it – how much are you bothered about the well educated grown-up children getting an inheritance?

    I do agree that it would be dangerous to remove the tax free earning threshold altogether, but I still think it could be reduced to help to balance things out a bit, and of course we can reclaim the money from the wealthy through regular income and wealth taxes.

    Yes, some will moan about the wealthy getting their “Basic Income”, but it’s not causing any more of a problem to the NHS than not taxing them properly in the first place. If need be, and especially as the system is being introduced, we could say that it’s not going to be available to anyone in the top tax bracket, or similar. But the super-rich get pensions, the winter fuel allowance and free prescriptions and TV licences.

  • Daniel Walker 17th Jan '21 - 12:38pm

    @Peter Watson “at the same time giving it to somebody for extra holiday spends at Disney World.

    I refer you to my earlier answer of 15th Jan ’21 – 7:27pm. Or indeed my answer to David Raw of 14th Jan on another thread.

    @Peter Martin “There’ll be the same problem with a UBI if it ever does become established.

    Yes. There’ll be the same arguments for your Job Guarantee program “Pretend jobs for the idle” and without the benefit of no-one actually starving. Unless you are suggesting that people who refuse the guaranteed “job” should be allowed to starve?

    I don’t disagree that it is a tough sell to right-wing (viz. most of them) newspapers. Even relatively left-wing ones can be quite hard on “benefits scroungers” (as opposed to people getting the amounts they are due – the rate of actual fraud is tiny)

    @Fiona

    I mostly agree, but the problem with “not going to be available to anyone in the top tax bracket, or similar” is that means the effective marginal tax rate on the £1 per annum that tips you into the top bracket is (assuming a £60 p/w as per Torry) 312000% (i.e. is costs you £3119) – probably not desirable 🙂

  • Peter Davies 17th Jan '21 - 2:42pm

    I disagree that it will be a hard sell. The number of people who will be more that £1000 p.a. better off massively exceeds our current vote. We need the working group (if there is one) to come up with concrete proposals and then set about finding those people and telling them about it loudly and often.

  • @Daniel – I agree that there’s always going to be a problem with thresholds. I’m fine with letting the super-rich get the payment on the grounds that if we are adjusting general taxation at the same time, they won’t actually be any richer as a result. However, it might be easier to sell the concept if there was to be an exception – although we’d inevitably end up back in the same place with anyone already earning a decent wage.

    I’d argue that those on the very top tax brackets are unlikely to try to cap their earnings so they get UBI, but I wouldn’t put it past some of them to claim it’s preventing them from being ambitious!

    The thing is, this is one of those policies that makes sense when you take the time to research it with an open mind and really think through concepts such as shared inheritance. But I do think there’s a lot of work ahead of us to convince many of those who would be receptive to the idea, because it’s quite a radical concept, and some of the benefits appear counter-intuitive at first. It’s not something that can easily be explained for the first time during an election campaign, or with tabloid style reporting.

    Some people will never be persuaded, because they don’t actually like the idea of shared inheritance – they enjoy (or think they enjoy) privilege that comes from hogging inheritance. IMO, they are in the same category as those who are still complaining about H&S regulations and maternity rights. I’d say we should just leave them to it, but inevitably they’ll be the ones who try to derail constructive conversations with their ‘concerns’ about Alan Sugar getting some free money.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th Jan '21 - 6:26pm

    @ Peter Martin. Agreed, Peter, that paying out benefits does not take people completely out of poverty. We don’t claim that, but merely that benefits should be sufficient to bring people up to the poverty level. They can easily sink further if the increase in Universal Credit of nearly £20 a week isn’t maintained, or they haven’t enough coming in for their housing needs because they come up against the benefit cap, or if they are sick for very long because the current rate of sickness benefit is totally inadequate.

    Yes of course we want people to have jobs that last and pay a living wage, and I agree that there should be a guaranteed jobs provision as a last resort, though not enforced. But what I think you forget is a cost which was not so great as to cause people to regularly contend with poverty in your youth – the greatly increased cost of housing, to buy or to rent as a proportion of people’s wages. Expectations of consumption, I mean, what are regarded as essential consumables which everyone has a right to have, must also have risen steadily since your youth.

    All such problems seem to be related to poverty. A new Beveridge-2 Plan and Social Contract must consider them all, but also the problems in health and social care, and in schooling and training. We need a comprehensive plan for people in our country today to live securely, freed from all the social ills we speak of, and I want our party to campaign for it.

  • @ Katharine I’d include adequate housing on the list, Katharine. At the basic level how can kids possibly do homework if they’re crowded in inadequate accommodation with no privacy or quiet……. and how vulnerable to infection or inadequate nutrition are they if there are no inadequate cooking facilities ? The Covid figures bear much of this out. It’s time local authorities were properly funded again to provide good houses in the public sector.

    I thought we’d tried to get rid of all that with the Wheatley schemes in the 1920’s and the introduction of Parker Morris standards in 1961….. but so many are stuck with tacky cheap private rentals and high rise flats…. made worse by the starving of funds to local government and restrictions on their borrowing powers. We shouldn’t have to be fighting the battles of the 1920’s all over again.

  • Peter Martin 18th Jan '21 - 8:45am

    @ Katharine

    Housing wasn t easily afforfable even in the eaely 80s when I was first married. The problem then wasn t so much the house prices themselves, but they had risen sharply in previous years, but the high level of interest rates which were 15 -16% if I remember rightly. So more than half my income went on paying the mortgage.

    That was the start of monetsrism and the use of interest rates rather than fiscal policies as the primary economic regulator. Not a good change IMO.

    Also it marked the start of the end of the post war consensus that full employment was possible. The new sell was we’d all be better off if the economy was totally deregulated. After an I initial show of opposition by old Labour all parties ended up going along with it to a large extent. That’s led to where we are now.

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