Author Archives: Hina Bokhari AM and Julia Hines

How a Universal Basic Income could make Britain more liberal

The news of a trial of universal basic income in Jarrow and East Finchley sparked a true watercooler moment. For a party like the Lib Dems, it is important to recognise what that means. It wasn’t a viral meme to like, or share, and it wasn’t a culture war issue that triggered rage, or anxiety. In conversations in staff rooms and pubs, in social media spaces from LADBible to Gransnet, people were talking about an idea. 

There are lots of reasons why. The cost of living crisis, obviously; the fear by every political party that they interrupt the Tories whilst they are making mistakes has led to a dearth of ideas; and, finally, the pandemic.  Arundhati Roy wrote in April 2020 “Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.”

The idea is simple to grasp. It is money that is always there, if your life changes, or you want to change your life. It appeals to both optimists and pessimists. Post Covid, we all know that our lives can change in a moment. UBI supports those in need, with the dignity of liberal choices. 

This national conversation echoes the support we found on the doorstep and in focus groups. 

The trial will not tell us everything we need to know about basic income, but it will tell us a lot about damage the current welfare system causes. The gap between losing your job and receiving Universal Credit is a minimum of 5 weeks, and can be up to 12 weeks. Very few people can sustain that wait without getting into debt that is almost impossible to climb out of. Sanctions cause the same problem. Being unable to feed your family, owing money everyone you know, is bound to make you feel worthless and a failure. When a bill you cannot pay lands, you will panic. The cure is not antidepressants or mindfulness. The cure is money. The thousands of people queuing at foodbanks are not there because they need help to shop. They know how to do that, they just lack the means. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 17 Comments
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