Centre interviews the Liberal Democrat leadership contenders (Part 1: Layla Moran)

This week Centre sat down with Layla Moran to explore why she wants to be the next leader of the Liberal Democrats. Below are my thoughts on the interview and some of the key takeaways. However, if you want the full interview, you can find it here.

In the first part of the discussion, Layla spoke about her upbringing, how she travelled around the world during her childhood and her love of physics.

We also spoke about her proposals for a Universal Basic Income. Layla supports a UBI of “£40-50 a week for an adult, maybe a bit more if there’s children” although programs such as housing benefits would remain in place. In the Compass model that would give adults a slightly higher £60 per week, this means raises in Income Tax and National Insurance to generate an extra £81 billion for the government. That’s a sizable sum of money when such an increase would almost double education spending from 2019-2020 levels. We need to decide if this is the best place to spend new revenue such as this.

I am also concerned as to whether this will be enough for people to live on, especially if it ends up around £40 a week. I spoke to an Asylum Seeker the other week who was struggling to live off £40 a week even with free accommodation. Therefore, I do worry whether £40-50 will be enough and whether this is really the best way to spend new tax revenue.

Whilst I have concerns over the specifics, there were also some particularly good points Layla made when talking about UBI. Even for someone like me who is sceptical she sold the idea very well as if it were a form of people pulling together after COVID-19.

The other big question was on how Layla would win back the former Lib Dem heartlands in Wales and the South West. In this she made some particularly good points that the Lib Dems need to start listening to areas such as Cornwall and that we need to focus on building our councillor base. Its exactly the kind of community politics that can help the Lib Dems to win back seats. The only issue I had with this question was, despite both areas voting to leave, our Brexit stance wasn’t mentioned. Something I would like to hear more from both candidates on is what they want the party stance on Brexit to be.

Yet, with both issues, I think Layla made a good point towards the end of the podcast. It’s about selling the policies the party votes for, not just about Layla pushing her own policies. I think Layla showed that she can communicate policies with some real passion.

Overall, Layla is a good candidate and whilst she isn’t flawless, she could certainly do a good job of selling the Liberal Democrat vision to the voters.

Part 2: Ed Davey will be published next Thursday

* Torrin Wilkins is a Liberal Democrat member and the Director of Centre Think Tank

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12 Comments

  • Who finances the ‘Centre Think Tank’……. and wasn’t it a front for the Brexit Campaign ?

  • Torrin Wilkins 16th Jul '20 - 5:11pm

    Hi David. We haven’t opened donations so no one is the answer aside from some money I have put in for running the website. In terms it being a front for the Brexit campaign that would be hard as we are neutral on the issue of Brexit and we currently have more remain supporters than leave supporters on our executive.

  • So the Centre Forum doesn’t exist in the real world but is there to give an impression of importance for your own personal views, Mr Wilkins ? How many actual members/supporters do you have ?

  • Torrin Wilkins 16th Jul '20 - 7:23pm

    Oddly enough we do exist and we have 25 team members including parliamentary candidates and Councillors on our executive. Its not just my personal views as all 25 exec members have one vote. We are also a registered company with regional branches across the UK. To say we don’t exist and that its just to give my person views importance isn’t true but each to their own I suppose.

  • James Belchamber 16th Jul '20 - 10:18pm

    Centre claims to have descended from Liberal Leave on their own website:

    https://www.centreuk.co.uk/mainpages/centreourstory.html

    So Torrin’s claim that they were “neutral” is.. well, disingenuous at best. There’s a clear and claimed lineage.

  • Torrin Wilkins 17th Jul '20 - 5:05am

    Hey James. I said we “are” neutral as we currently are just that, not that we were throughout all of our different phases.

    As far as Liberal Leave goes, after I took over the organisation we had a pro-remain deputy chair and we moved fairly quickly to having a neutral position on Brexit. So in terms of Liberal Leave after the referendum it was neutral apart from a fairly short period just after the referendum.

    In terms of during the referendum, the only thing Centre has from that period is the twitter page as the group itself ceased to exist just after the referendum as almost everyone had left. I didn’t have the website, email lists, donations or anything like that. Essentially it was an empty shell which we built on so the actual group itself really just originates from the post-referendum version of Liberal Leave which is why the “our story” page starts from there.

  • Centre Forum is a different body. It (aka Centre For Um :-)) was an incarnation of the now Education Policy Institute formerly the Centre For Reform. It’s fair to say it’s moved quite a bit from its original incarnation but as a reasonably well regarded and serious think tank shouldn’t be confused with Centre.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_Policy_Institute

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 17th Jul '20 - 2:32pm

    I thought the idea of Universal Basic Income was to provide a basic income which would be enough to live on. 40-50 pounds a week would not be enough to live on, so this does not sound like a real UBI

  • Torrin Wilkins 17th Jul '20 - 4:09pm

    Hey Joseph. In terms of the Spanish payment which goes to “the nation’s poorest families” so really its a trial of a Negative Income Tax as its only going to poorer families rather than being universal like a UBI would be.

    My issue is if even £60 a week is enough to double the education budget then I’m not sure UBI is going to be a full welfare system. My other issue is if this is meant to be a replacement for the £10,000 tax free allowance then the Compass report I linked removes that and then increases both income tax and National Insurance by about an education budget worth, £81 billion. If its just meant to be a replacement for that At the other end of the spectrum you could give all adults about £10,000 a year with nothing for children and you would be spending about £500bn a year to fund it. There may be a middle but even then its asking if its value for money compared to the difference it would make in education or health spending.

    Also, hey Catherine. I would agree thats its not enough but if this is already doubling the education budget in spending so bit worrying for the cost of a UBI thats enough to live on.

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