Author Archives: Roger Lake

UBI and PR will work together

“UBI” (Universal Basic income) has staggered and lurched in Lib Dem Land. I  believe most of the arguments against it are the prejudices of ignorance or the handicaps of expertise.   I shall try to explain why and how UBI and PR must and can work in harness.  I shall not here consider the objections to it,  but I do hope others will.

UBI is not too expensive – it should be managed by the Inland Revenue, and subject to Income Tax – simply one more thing to add to each taxpayer’s Income Tax  total bill.   Everyone receiving UBI would pay Income Tax at the rate appropriate to his or her means.  Say 10%, perhaps, for those without any other Income at all?   Enough for everyone to recognise that everyone getting UBI is a payer of Income Tax – and well aware of the fact.

Clearly that would require much re-arranging of Income Tax rules and rates.  But that will happen anyway, since there can be no such change before we have elected the House of Commons by Proportional Representation.   That will be all the sooner thanks to Boris’s laying waste to the Conservatives.

The Labour Party has (timorously?) declined to endorse either idea, despite having commissioned a Paper on UBI from the distinguished academic, Prof Guy Standing.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 27 Comments

The Lib Dems’ Big Idea

On 11th May Humphrey Hawksley posed the question “Do the Liberal Democrats have a captivating Big Idea?“.

Hawksley went on to mention Boris Johnson’s ‘Take Back Control’, and Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’, and briefly discussed these and other examples of Big Ideas, before finishing his post thus:  “The Liberal Democrats, therefore, have a unique opportunity. Let us define our big idea and begin arguing its case now, so that by the time the next general election is announced it will be embedded in the national conversation.” (I wish he had not dropped the capital letters!)

I shall attempt, now, to take up Hawksley’s challenge.

I actually wish to reinvigorate what is now a rather tired but now Very Big Idea, with one or two Radical changes  added. (Lib Dems are rather inclined to label any Good Idea as a Radical one: that is an error!)

Here goes, then.  I propose that our ‘Big Idea’ shall be endowed with a new name altogether. Let us proclaim, when the time comes, the Big Idea of the NATIONAL INCOME DIVIDEND, a new name for an elderly idea which  begins to limp along in tired plimsolls as Universal Basic Income, full of percentages and pennies and History.

NATIONAL INCOME DIVIDEND is not a mere renaming of UBI with less depressing words. Say it now – OUT LOUD if you are alone –  and listen to it. How does each word sound by itself? How does it ring? And how do they work as a threesome? And do they run in harness rather like that old-timer, beloved headliner, the unholy trinity GDP? GDP is the very devil at the heart of Conservative capitalism.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 33 Comments

Don’t Despair!

To begin with a conclusion:

There is a final thought for collective reflection, reiterating a point made earlier. Conservative governments, and some previous Labour governments, have used the power of the state to control people’s lives – treating lower-income individuals and families as supplicants to be reformed or ‘sanctioned’. A progressive government should use the power of the state to empower people, to have agency and greater security and control over their own lives and an ability to forge communities of their own volition. A basic income would help in doing just that.

That is the conclusion to a very recent report by Professor Guy Standing, of the Progressive  Economic Forum, a foremost exponent and proponent of the idea of Universal Basic Income. And surely it exactly expresses what Lib Dems would wish to achieve somehow? THIS is how. And we should do it – and get on with it before we are left behind.

The Report (for Labour’s Shadow Chancellor) is very readable, and not at all clogged with percentages. It would be “transformative” – and that transformation would be more Liberal than socialist, I consider. I believe it could be implemented progressively in five years.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 12 Comments

Christmas Competition: How can we reduce inequality?

Forget the aroma — LDs must be first, to get up and make the coffee! Manifestos must do more than hope to tweak benevolently. Changing one big thing always changes everything: ravish equatorial forest, you melt icecaps, perhaps drowning Rotterdam and Rye.

After the last ten years, our kingdom hurts– families divided, MPs at odds with constituents – hostility and temper; all is despair and sorrow.

Nonsense! Now is our chance to change everything for the better, to unite, and strengthen all that’s best. Improbable? Which of the countries ravaged and overwhelmed by WW2 does the best today, and has done for decades?

Now, in the imminent aftermath of Brexit, the urgent thing is to heal our internal and national strains. Moreover, the best way to work the healing is to succour those most damaged, and aggrieved, victims of Tory “Austerity” — the poor, and the ones who have ‘had enough of experts’. We need a Universal Basic Income.

“Oh, that old fantasy!” I hear you sniff? No fantasy – think on . . .

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged | 12 Comments

Opinion: Paddy Ashdown’s appeal to Green and Labour


Lord Ashdown’s call for ‘progressive forces’ to  collaborate before the next election  does not go far enough, especially now there is talk about Labour never winning again. He rightly talks about  Lib Dem collaboration with Labour and the Greens. But there can be no ‘progress’ without prior electoral reform: the alternative is the old see-saw, but worse – Labour’s Scottish  amputation has moved the pivot. ‘Progress’ demands the rout of the Tories and their money, and that can be achieved if all other parties gang up on them. That sounds unsporting, but the Tories know well that this is no game.

All those parties which together represent that huge majority which voted 2:1 against the Conservatives must grit their teeth and do the needful thing, for their several and their collective futures: they must form a Mayday Alliance: an Alliance short-lived, but irresistible as a rescue force.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 70 Comments

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