Revoking Article 50 alone isn’t enough

With the prospect of a general election on the horizon, we have just finished another successful Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference in Bournemouth. Jo Swinson delivered a stirring first leader’s speech and Conference backed several new policy motions, most notably the party’s new policy on Brexit. A future Liberal Democrat Majority Government would revoke Article 50 and instantly stop Brexit.

British politics now has a party that is prepared to do its utmost to put an end to Brexit, either by getting a democratic mandate to revoke Article 50 or failing that, by securing a People’s Vote with the option to Remain in the EU. Brexit has developed into the biggest peacetime political and constitutional crisis arguably since the 17th century. It is shaking British politics to its very foundations with our constitutional settlement being tested like never before.

It is not just enough to stop Brexit by revoking Article 50, we also need to heal our broken democracy. At the time of writing this, the case against the prorogation of Parliament is playing out at the Supreme Court. The Executive branch has been made to answer a case presented to the Judiciary in regard to its actions towards the Legislature. There is conflict between the three branches of government.

Britain unlike many countries does not have a single written (or codified) constitution with clearly defined checks and balances. In the absence of this, Boris Johnson’s government is able to railroad Parliament by utilising the ancient powers of the royal prerogative to enact a five-week long prorogation. The potential for an extremely authoritarian government being able to take power is very real under the current British constitutional settlement; a fact which is underlined by the majoritarian nature of the first past the post voting system.

Once Brexit is stopped the deep political fissure that it has created will have to be bridged by a constitutional convention to draw up a codified constitution, complete with checks and balances and a federal power structure which would preserve our liberal democracy in the face of future political demagogues and authoritarians. Our mission to reform British politics does not end there, we also need to replace the current voting system with proportional representation (preferably the single transferable vote) and have a democratically elected second chamber.

However, even reforming politics is not enough to solve the problems which have emerged with the Brexit crisis. These problems are far deeper than just simply the need to turn the clock back to early June 2016. The vote to Leave the EU was in part a vote against an establishment which had left behind whole swathes of the country. For many in Britain the world prior to June 2016 was already terrible. Whole communities which had suffered from decades of managed decline (such as coastal towns like Blackpool) and de-industrialisation had experienced falling living standards; bad educational outcomes; poor health rates; few well-paid job prospects; as well as profound personal and economic insecurity.  

Some parts of Britain never benefited from the fruits of the economic globalisation of recent decades. These communities were often ignored by Westminster while great prosperity was being generated in the wealthiest districts of the major cities. Sadly, the previous decade of austerity has only made the situation worse.

What is needed to tackle these entrenched social and economic inequalities is a radical commitment to social justice and the redistribution of wealth from the richest to the poorest. Thankfully, we Liberal Democrats took a huge step towards addressing this with the A Fairer Share for All motion at this year’s Autumn Conference. The party is now committed to investing an extra £5 billion into the welfare system every year, as well as establishing a £50 billion Rebalancing Fund to address the investment disparities between the different nations and regions of the UK. 

The motion made it party policy to abolish benefit sanctions; establish a legal right to food; build 100,000 new social homes a year; end rough sleeping within five years; bring work capability assessments in-house; and increase the minimum wage by 20% for people on zero hours contracts at times of normal demand. In addition thanks to the amendment I drafted, Conference also committed itself to raising the central government grants handed to local government in real terms every year, ending austerity in local government. The motion committed the party to piloting a “secure income guarantee”, the first tentative step on the way to making a universal basic income or a negative income tax Liberal Democrat policy.

At the next general election, we Liberal Democrats must embody three of our core principles; pro-European internationalism, radical political reform and social justice. We must stand to Revoke, Reform and Redistribute. Let’s revoke Article 50. Let’s reform our broken politics. Let’s redistribute wealth to the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society. Only then will the Brexit crisis be resolved. Only then will the social divisions that led to Brexit and the constitutional crisis which has been caused by Brexit be truly overcome. 

 

* Paul Hindley is the Northern Vice-Chair of the Social Liberal Forum and the former Chair of Blackpool and Cleveleys Liberal Democrats.

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39 Comments

  • Absolutely. You also need to put in place a rapid peace process, maybe using that much vaunted Citizens Assembly as part of it. Extremists will try to work up Brexit supporters, increasing alienation. People need to know how they can be heard in our democracy and how a Lib Dem government will increase access to power and be clear about our relationship and aspirations for the EU.

  • Tax and spend is not a particularly new concept. Problems have arisen whenever it has been tried and no new ideas are presented here. Wealth redistribution has to be accepted by the wealthy because, annoyingly, they are as intelligent as you are. The very wealthy would move their money out of reach except for the UK they already have. Also, though sadly not accepted by the left, you can not force energetic and capable individuals to start wealth creating new enterprises. If they think the state is being too greedy then they will just sit back like everyone else. The nation already has a serious, maybe terminal, lack of ambition and enterprise. It won’t take much to finish it off altogether.
    This piece bewails the consequences of globalisation but, as always, presents not the smallest scrap of a remedy.

  • William Fowler 20th Sep '19 - 1:35pm

    Well, as long as the tax increases are clear for this redistribution of “wealth” then people can vote on it in a GE, many who would prefer to remain but aren’t religious about it will probably look elsewhere, especially if Boris is touting massive tax reductions as a benefit of Brexit (yes, I know the economics of that do not make sense but it is politics…)… by the sound of it LibDems are going to need some serious dosh off some voters. given that they probably won’t be taxing people more who are earning less than 25k and won’t be increasing taxes on companies. The upside if Revoke happens is that people will have 27 countries to move to, helped along by the improved value of Sterling…

  • Tristan Ward 20th Sep '19 - 2:24pm

    “Revoke, retrench, reform” has a pleasing 19th century radical sound to it.

  • On political reform, here’s a pledge I would love to see us make. It wouldn’t cost a penny, could be implemented immediately and would, I think, get a big tick from voters. It’s simply this: any member of government who is dismissed, or who resigns, from office will not be re-appointed to any government post for at least a period of five years.
    I think people are sick of the revolving door at cabinet. Political resignation/dismissal used to mean something. Now the assumption is you’ll be back within a couple of years. I think this pledge would be a good bulletpoint in the ‘cleaning up politics’ page of our manifesto.

  • In the absence of this, Boris Johnson’s government is able to railroad Parliament by utilising the ancient powers of the royal prerogative to enact a five-week long prorogation.
    Given the current make up of Parliament and the powers transferred under the Fixed Term Parliament Act, I would hope that the opposition parties are using the prorogated time usefully and preparing the Parliamentary agenda – according to Parliament – that will be enacted on their return to Westminster. The stage is set for some serious Constitutional change so that never again can the Executive ride roughshod over Parliament. The only question is whether the opposition parties are up to the fight…

    Remember going back to the fundamentals, Brexit isn’t really about whether the UK is or isn’t a member of the EU, it is about previous governments misusing the powers available to them to avoid proper Parliamentary and public scrutiny of key pieces of legislation, namely: the signing of the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties. I note even Farage has forgotten this…

  • Richard O'Neill 20th Sep '19 - 6:53pm

    All the impressions I’m getting are that Revoking Article 50 is going to totally dominate the campaign, never mind that 1) it totally contradicts what the party has been saying for three years about the need for a referendum
    2) it is another divisive step, pulling the country further to extremes when it needs healing.
    3) the party isn’t going to form a majority govt after the election, so like tution fees it is looked upon as a free hit.
    4) the party will then return to advocating a new referendum having just spent a month trashing the idea.

  • Well said, Richard O’Neill! I fear that we are still the holier-than-thou party. Kirsten in North Devon has just tried to criticise the folk in my home county and has paid the price. Jeremy Thorpe. for all his many terrible faults, knew how to butter up those North Devon folk rather than treat them as biased peasants. We need to reach out to all sorts and conditions, not just the right-on remainers. We should have kept the second referendum to the fore. Had we been able to get a cross-party parliamentary majority for Revoke, that would have been good, but that was never a realistic option, and now we are on a limb when we don’t need to be.

  • Ross McLean 20th Sep '19 - 9:07pm

    Richard/Don – with respect, you are misunderstanding the policy. Far from ‘trashing the Peoples Vote,’ the PV is still our policy. Labour and others are lying about this, but we need to make sure the public, and the media, understand what the policy actually is:
    We want to Stop Brexit. But because of the 2016 referendum, we will only do so if we get a mandate from the voters. Our preferred way of doing that would be to seek a referendum, so that is still our policy. What we did this week was add a line to that policy. We didn’t replace it, we added to it. Why? Because it looks like there will be a general election before a referendum. So in that election (not before), we will put the revoke option in our manifesto, and IF we get elected as a majority government, we will then have the mandate to revoke A50 and we will do so. If we don’t get that mandate, we will continue to push for a referendum – which we (unlike Labour) have been doing for three years.
    So the policy is Stop Brexit, but only with a mandate. The referendum/election issue is just the means of getting there. We will use either but prefer a Peoples Vote.
    Let’s Get out and tell people that.

  • @Ross McLean – that’s all very well, except the bit where you claim that “IF we get elected as a majority government, we will then have the mandate to revoke A50 …” BECAUSE, even if legally true, that won’t generally be accepted as a sufficient mandate to overturn the 2016 referendum result – especially if, due to the effects of the unfair and disproportionate FPTP voting system (which we are committed to replace), we won a House of Commons majority with a minority (possibly only about 35%) of the popular vote.

  • @Sean Hagan – then we must convince people that it would be a mandate. It’s how our system works: governments get elected and they implement their programme. We also tell people that revoking would stop the endless discussion about Brexit and allow us to talk about health, education, etc. The early polls in fact show that it is a vote-winner. And the way the other parties have responded show they think so too. It’s up to us to be bold about the message.
    Above all, we mustn’t let Labour pretend we have ‘abandoned’ the Peoples Vote. Lord Falconer was disgraceful on this on BBC Question Time last night and I’m afraid Ed Davey didn’t really call him out on it. We need to say we’ll take no lectures on PV from the Labour party. They’ve finally got there, kicking and screaming. Well fine, but we led that campaign for 3 years – and we are still doing so.

  • Richard O'Neill 20th Sep '19 - 10:45pm

    @Ross McLean

    This is still contradictory. If the party favours a second referendum why would it not deliver it if elected as a majority govt. If this party won’t deliver it, why should it demand anyone anyone else should?

  • @Ross McLean – I do understand how representative parliamentary democracy operates, thanks, and (subject to the long overdue introduction of proportional representation) generally prefer that system to the recent mania for all manner of referenda. However, we cannot pretend that the 2016 EU referendum didn’t actually happen – and, that being the case, many of us (including committed Lib Dem Remainers such as myself) are convinced that the only truly democratic way to overturn the 52% Leave vote is via a further referendum, preferably BEFORE a General Election. Presumably, this is why the party has spent the last 3 years campaigning for a People’s Vote and is also why, for the sake of consistency, we should have maintained that distinctive and readily understood policy position throughout any early General Election.

    I take the point that we haven’t formally abandoned the People’s Vote, except (I’ll-advisedly) for the duration of any election campaign, and that we should certainly take no lectures from Labour – especially given their late PV conversion and the multiple remaining ambiguities and contradictions in their own policy – but, in my opinion, we have given Labour a golden opportunity, if they actually take it, to present themselves as the moderate and democratic pro-EU alternative to our perceived anti-Brexit “revoke without a referendum” extremism. Let’s hope that my fears prove to be unfounded.

  • John Marriott 21st Sep '19 - 8:11am

    The problem with going for Revoke, given the reaction from the audience on Question Time last Thursday, is that, whatever worthwhile policies the Lib Dems put forward, many of which have already been mentioned by LDV contributors in this thread, will be drowned out by this one issue.

    For a party, for which the smashing of FPTP has always been a core belief, to consider a win by that system to represent a mandate to do anything is rather strange. The 2016 referendum started a hare running, which is proving almost impossible to catch, let alone dispatch. The party may indeed not have ‘abandoned’ another referendum, as Lord Falconer might have us believe; but from where I’m sitting, it looks mighty like it.

    Lord Ashdown used to have the mantra; “No taxation without explanation”. Well, some people might welcome a bit more explanation here, before they start to believe the spin that the Lib Dems might be more dangerous to our democracy than the taliban.

  • Alex Macfie 21st Sep '19 - 9:18am

    John Marriott: Since when was the reaction of a QT audience (many of whom will have come onto the program specifically to heckle Ed Davey over the policy) considered representative of the public as a whole?

  • Paul, I absolutely agree that we need to be very clear about having a plan for what we’d do after Article 50 is revoked, and be clear that we know that is just as important and to ensure that people know about it.

    All easier said than done, but it’s arguably why having a clear Revoke (in the event of a general election win) policy is an advantage. Yes, there is a bit of fuss as Labour try to bash us by pretending that we are now against a Peoples’ Vote, and we need to set them straight on that, but what’s working in our favour is that a lot of Labour supporters who were previously luke-warm on a PV are now banging a drum for it, so that’s one less front to fight on.

    Ultimately, it means that if we do have a general election then our manifesto will be a lot simpler. In the event we win we’ll revoke Article 50 and then get straight on with doing x, y and z. Labour’s manifesto is going to be like one of those create your own story books where their other policy ideas will be substantially impacted by what kind of deal Corbyn would negotiate (is it still going to be out of the Single Market?) and form an opinion on how that deal would impact public finances and therefore their policy plans.

  • Denis Loretto 21st Sep '19 - 10:12am

    Even if the extension to January 31 is secured that will not allow time for a people’s vote to be held. Also the Tory mandate to govern (partly by their own hand) is being wrecked. In other words a general election is almost certain to be the next democratic test and may well be the only democratic test before Brexit is implemented. So we Lib Dems must throw everything at that election. Given that the Labour Party is demonstrating even greater self-immolation than the Tories nothing is now impossible. If Jo Swinson was to gain power does anyone seriously think she would go to Brussels and ask for a new Brexit deal? Clearly she would seek a parliamentary majority to end the miserable chaotic Brexit process and move to tackling the problems within the UK which fuelled the leave vote 3 years ago. And she needs to tell the electorate before the election that is what she will do.

  • John Marriott 21st Sep '19 - 2:25pm

    @Alex Macfie
    Granted that the QT audience is not a scientific sample; but it’s a fair indicator of the kind of reception the idea might encounter in various parts of the country, my own Lincolnshire included. If all you are going to use in your defence is the QT audience, then you might be in for a surprise.

    “A policy representative of the public as a whole”? What percentage do you consider to represent as a ‘whole’? I repeat what I said before – and it gives me no pleasure at all to repeat it – what the Lib Dems are advocating could prove to be a very high risk strategy.

  • Richard O’Neil has it exactly right. The current policy is completely dishonest and will be easily weaponised against the party.
    How can a referendum be the preferred choice over revoke? As the govt you could do either.
    The charge is easy and obvious. The party does not want the referendum it could institute as a govt in case leave won again and it would be honour bound to implement it.
    Are you sure you have thought this out?

  • Alex Macfie 21st Sep '19 - 3:30pm

    John Marriott: The way that people will “believe the spin that the Lib Dems might be more dangerous to our democracy than the [T]aliban” is if we fail to challenge that offensive comment, or if we try to engage with it as if it were a legitimate part of political discourse. “I can understand why some people might think we are dangerous extremists but actually” NO that DOES NOT WORK. It legitimises the spin, spreads the claim around, and worst of all, it legitimises the groups that we are being compared to. We have to shoot it down, and the only way to do that is to say the comparison is absolutely outside the bounds of civilised political discourse and demand apologies from Ms Thornberry and the BBC.
    I am not surprised at all that there are people who absolutely hate our Revoke policy and are very shouty about it, but it does seem odd that so many of them appear in QT audiences. But here’s the thing: they are never going to vote Lib Dem anyway. There is simply no point in trying to appease them over this issue.
    Yes, it’s a high-risk strategy. But there are no low-risk strategies on Brexit when we’re close to the endgame. As a small party we have very little to lose by taking a big risk. To go low-risk would be like taking a small timid step to cross a chasm.
    Hard Rain: Nothing “dishonest” about it at all. It does exactly what it says on the tin. We say we would revoke Article 50 if we got in with an absolute majority.

  • @Alex
    So…. all those placards that read “We demand a second referendum!” should have read “We demand a govt with an absolute majority deals with Brexit without a second referendum!” ?????

  • @Martin
    I fear the problem will be explaining, on the way to that majority, why after three years of demanding a second referendum it will be unimaginable after all.
    BTW most us clever people have been saying, all through that time, that a second referendum was a foolish idea and would never happen. Pity it has taken so long for some others to stop talking and think it through.
    Because the party policy is now NOT to hold the referendum it has been calling for if it ever gets the power to call one.
    Unbelievable.

  • @Hard Rain – “the problem will be explaining, on the way to that majority, why after three years of demanding a second referendum it will be unimaginable after all.”
    Not unimaginable, just unnecessary. Because the situation will have changed: we now have a General Election. And if you win a GE you get to implement your policy. People understand that.
    But let’s be clear that our policy is to seek a mandate to stop Brexit. Whether that happens by referendum or election is, in a sense, just a technicality. The actual policy is to get consent from the voters to stop Brexit. We should state that loud and clear.

  • @Martin
    I appreciate your response but the first referendum was impulsive and launched with the ineptitude and superficiality that we have come to expect from our national leadership over decades.
    No conceivable second referendum could undo a first so badly imp!emented.
    I actually agree that a new stance of revoke is defensible but it can’t co-exist with
    “We will call for a second referendum as a democratic and fair way forward as long as we are not in government and someone else has to implement it. If we are in government then we we won’t hold one in case the people voted again to leave because we would ignore them and not implement it”.
    That is obviously so bizarre that even many long standing LibDems have voiced their regrets here.

  • If only the policy motion “A Fairer Share for All” was radical. With regard to work capability assessments, bring them in-house is a backward step as our policy before we passed this motion was to scrap them. “A Fairer Share for All” doesn’t go far enough. The least it should do is reverse the benefit cut made during the coalition years. Until we do this we will be attacked by Labour as being Tory-lite. Then we need to commit to actually increasing the child element of the benefit system and increasing benefits in line with medium earnings if higher than inflation no matter what.

    There is no need to increase taxation to fund increasing benefit spend by £5 billion per year or to have a £50 billion Rebalancing Fund over five years. The first can be funded from economic growth and the second by borrowing.

    Hard Rain sets out why our new revoke policy is silly. I can’t use it on doorsteps because I don’t believe it will persuade anyone thinking about voting for us to actual vote for us.

  • William Fowler 22nd Sep '19 - 7:26am

    The Conservatives want a no deal exit if decided by a GE, LIbDem want to revoke if they win a GE… seems a fair enough throw of the dice. A lean and mean Brexit with low taxes and minimal welfare (no money to pay for the current system) or carry on with the EU with all the benefits for individuals in the UK, both are actually okay with me as, in different ways, they enhance my personal freedom. Brexit plus Labour would ruin he country in short order so do hope the LibDems mutate into the main opposition or even ruling party.

  • We can easily copy Justin Trudeau’s policies (without copying Lavalin and blackface lol): ditching balancing budget commitment (the fact that we are not socialists should allow us a greater chance to do so and get away), increasing social and infrastructure spending and completely reversing austerity, increasing tax (in our case it would be to Continental European level), introducing industrial strategy…

    Michael BG – “There is no need to increase taxation” – still, the purpose of raising tax is to raise general taxation level to Continental European level.

  • Michael BG — “There is no need to increase taxation to fund increasing benefit spend by £5 billion per year or to have a £50 billion Rebalancing Fund over five years. ” That may be so, but what is the objection to increasing taxation? If we share the almost universally expressed desire to shrink the gulf between low disposable incomes and high ones, surely increasing Income taxes is the ideal way to do it? There is a National Income cake to be shared out, and the best way to share it decently is to make small slices bigger by reducing the size of the biggest slices. HMG chooses where to place the knife each time, and currently likes to see lots of huge slices. QED?

  • Katharine Pindar 22nd Sep '19 - 6:16pm

    Paul’s article is very welcome, particularly in my view when he writes, “What is needed to tackle these entrenched social and economic inequalities is a commitment to social justice and a radical redistribution of wealth from the richest to the poorest.” Yes, this should be at the head of our Manifesto commitments, I believe, and we have already many of the policies needed. It is true that A Fairer Share for All should be stronger, and it is a pity that most of Michael BG’s suggested radical amendments were not accepted by FCC and debated. However, what is most important in the present situation is that we shall be known to have the commitment, and that will depend to some extent on our leader emphasising it.

    At the moment, it can be too easily surmised by voters that it is only the Labour party which is committed to ending austerity and severe poverty – helped by such Labour apologists as the journalist Owen Jones, who outrageously wrote in The Guardian on September 19 that Jo supports austerity. We have to state our full commitment to social justice loudly and clearly, citing the policies we have, which do also include last autumn’s Promoting a Fairer Distribution of Wealth .

  • Roger Lake,

    The party does not seem keen on increasing incomes taxes for the richest. It has the policy to increase income tax by 1 penny to spend on the NHS and social care. The party still seems to believe that increasing income tax for the wealthiest is not a good idea. Therefore I propose increasing government spending funded from economic growth rather than increased taxes, while the party has embraced the idea that new capital funding can be funded from borrowing. I would not object to the highest rate of income tax and national insurance combined being 62%.

  • Michael BGMichael BG –” If only the policy motion “A Fairer Share for All” was radical.”

    Here I believe you are spot on. I believe our “Fairer share” is a good example of too much of Lib Dem thinking. Some believe the word means ‘causing a perceptible improvement’, and others know it means (to use a good new buzz-word) ‘transformative’, and are afraid of it.

    But now, as the aftermath of the brexit typhoon approaches, we ought to be looking ahead — perhaps past the imminent General Election to the one after it — and seeking a truly radical approach. The coming GE may well be won by the Conservatives, too soon after Brexit for its effects to have sunk in. But after another five years, any disaster will be manifest to all — and so will the fact that conservatives caused the ruin, all by themselves, and failed to repair it! The General Election of 2024 should finish them off.

  • Michael BG.
    Michael BG
    Forgive me — you’ve woken a bee in my bonnet, discussing ‘radical’ thinking! I fear the Lib Dems may find themselves seriously left behind if we do not now join the growing discussion of a Universal Basic Income or UBI (dismissed in a puff of tweak too often). The Greens, I believe, already include it in their manifesto, though possibly not understanding it. And the Labour Shadow Chancellor has recently taken delivery of a Report by Guy Standing (of the Progressive Economy Forum) advocating it and discussing how it might be further explored. A recent article in the Guardian — no longer a Liberal newspaper — dismissed UBI as unworkable, and insufficiently socialist. I consider that it combines what is best in both left and right, and would truly represent a Liberally Democratic way of shaping and restoring a sane and civilised society. A UBI is not, in the end, Economics: it would be a saner way of life for the nations of the UK.

    So UBI is in the air, and Lib Dems must get abreast of it, or risk being left behind, trailing disconsolately behind more radically minded rival parties. We should begin, not by seeing how it works, but by considering its merits and what its effects beyond merely reshaping “benefits” might be — any radical change in anything has far reaching side effects, and these need to be anticipated and incorporated in any proposed scheme.

    I would wish to call our UBI the National Income Dividend, and Government would include its level of payment in each annual Budget, as a percentage of the the recent year’s National Income. What percentage was chosen would be the choice of the Government of the day: I hope it would be legally difficult to lower it, for some parties might wish to do so, though I can’t guess which.

  • Daniel Walker 22nd Sep '19 - 10:28pm

    @Roger Lake “Forgive me — you’ve woken a bee in my bonnet, discussing ‘radical’ thinking! I fear the Lib Dems may find themselves seriously left behind if we do not now join the growing discussion of a Universal Basic Income or UBI “

    p12 of the Fairer Share for all policy paper does, in fact include policy for trialling a unconditional payment system, although it does stop short of a full Basic Income system.

  • Katharine Pindar 23rd Sep '19 - 12:46am

    Roger Lake, you do indeed have a bee in your bonnet, but to me UBI is a far weaker policy than many that our party already holds but keeps too quiet about. Please start thinking BIG, beyond giving everybody a little bit of income. Please start thinking in terms of the Social Contract which Beveridge produced, which is so plainly lacking in our country today that an outsider, Philip Alston the UN Rapporter on extreme poverty and human rights could with great concern point out the lack.

    There is so much desperately wrong in our society that UBI cannot help with, such as the struggle of many working people for sufficient income from pay and frozen benefits to live without recourse to the food banks which we should pledge to eliminate the need for, and such as the desolation of the near-homeless in their bed-and-breakfasts and miserable temporary lets, where children are deprived of consistent schooling. Philip Alston noted the destruction of local services, the deprivation of children and young people, and the misery of those least able to cope and most disadvantaged, and warned that ‘an alienated society’ is in danger of forming here. Please help to start bees buzzing furiously around Jo, to press her to commit to a new Social Contract to aim to alleviate all these ills. Please, fellow Liberal Democrats, let us all fight for this so-much needed outlook and reform.

  • Katharine Pindar

    I agree with almost everything you say to me above; but I believe I have been unclear: so far any figures I have used elsewhere were not intended to be a recommendation, but an example to demonstrate that UBI is not expensive. In so far as they were anything more than abstract arithmetic, they were based on the current (well, 2016) figures showing the effect of Benefits and Taxes on Household incomes. So I was trying to show how UBI might be arranged to reproduce current Disposable Incomes, starting by ensuring that the poorest quintile were left with the same income as the existing benefits and taxes give them. I agree with you that the newly allocated income ought to be much higher. That could equally easily be achieved: it would be declared by HMG on ‘Budget Day’.

    So I do claim to be doing as you ask: Thinking BIG ! I am not trying to give “everybody a little bit of income”. Taken to the arithmetical and platonic extreme — Christian Communism, perhaps? — taxes could be so levied that every household (or every person) enjoyed the same disposable income, as a total UBI. (Well, UI) But I think all Christians and all Communists would in their different ways agree that that would be taking things too far! Different parties will have different notions of the UBI to aim at and declare. I believe it would enlarge year by year, because it need not alter the pecking order. The Super-Joneses will continue to lord it over their lessers, but less grossly. And that, I believe, is what the grossly well off really care about, isn’t it ?

    I find this argument difficult to conduct, when we have no bold and no italics to clarify our points; and when tabulated figures emerge with columns awry.

  • Peter Hirst 23rd Sep '19 - 1:56pm

    What happens to our policy if the GE is held after we have left the eu? Even if we don’t want that, it remains a possibility. We’ll have to rejoin unless there is an element of reversibility in the leaving process. If we have an election within a month of leaving, will it be possible to still revoke Article 50?

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