Ian Blackford nails the question Keir Starmer should have asked at PMQs

Ian Blackford and Keir Starmer
Emily Apple

Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) returned on 22 April in a slightly revised format. Fewer MPs were allowed in the chamber and many contributed virtually from their homes.

It was also Keir Starmer’s first PMQs as Labour leader. It was, therefore, disappointing that it was left to SNP leader in parliament Ian Blackford to ask the question Starmer should have asked.

“People are being left behind”

Blackford raised the issue of the huge number of people who have been “left behind” by the government’s coronavirus financial measures. While the government has introduced a wide range of support, he pointed out that:

34 days on, thousands of businesses and individuals have found themselves with no income, with no support, and no end in sight.

And he identified the reason behind this:

all because of arbitrary cut-off dates and bureaucratic barriers imposed by this UK government.

But the SNP has an answer and is leading a cross-party call to implement a Universal Basic Income (UBI). Blackford stated that UBI will:

put cash in people’s pockets and it will help ensure a strong economic recovery and a fairer society.

He then asked Dominic Raab (standing in for Boris Johnson) whether he agreed with the proposal:

Labour also left behind

It’s not surprising that Starmer didn’t raise this issue, though.

As the Financial Times reported, over 100 MPs have signed a letter calling on the government to introduce UBI. Signatories include leader of the Lib Dems Ed Davey and former shadow chancellor John McDonnell. But one prominent name is missing from the list: Keir Starmer. Starmer reportedly believes that it’s “unlikely to be possible”:

This is a strange statement given the seismic changes already introduced due to coronavirus. And it’s also not something other countries have struggled with. Spain’s centre-left coalition government, for example, is currently defendingplan to roll out a form of UBI “as soon as possible” in response to the pandemic.

The Conservative government has failed to introduce the one policy that could immediately help everyone in the country. Instead, it has introduced measures to satisfy just enough workers to avoid civil unrest. For now.

But this isn’t good enough. No one should be left behind. And UBI is a clear way to ensure this. It’s just a shame that Labour now has a leader that isn’t prepared to push for it.

Featured image via screengrab and @UKparliament/Jessica Taylor

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  • Show Comments
    1. As a former lawyer and barrister this Starmer fellow should be able to land some devastating verbal blows from the dispatch box, and if he doesn’t it proves he’s venal and somebody’s paid him off. In time his words and deeds will betray who.

    2. Kier Starmer is just another Tory Lite like the rest of the Tony B’Liar wannabes. He’ll only support legislation that will pass ninstead of fighting for what the people need.

      It’s time for a new party that will actually represent labour. I suggest a Real Labour Party be formed. Come on Jeremy, you know it makes sense now you can see how the Tory Lite members of the Labour Party dissed you. Dump them!

    3. Good points, but not a Universal Basic Income, rather Universal Basic Needs. The Right have spotted the advantage of UBI: give it everyone at a minimal level, say, £750 a month, and then abolish all benefits: no pensions, no employment benefit, no sick pay, no disability benefits etc. UBI plays into their hands. UBN doesn’t. A set of basic needs should be identified and met for everyone. How? Well, by various means. People can meet their needs through self-employment, employment in the private or public sector but where employment alone doesn’t meet the agreed needs, then they must be fulfilled socially. This prevents the Right using the idea of a basic income as an assault on social provision. Make no mistake, the Right has already seen UBI as a way of ditching benefits. Don’t fall into their trap. Campaign for UBN.

    4. All these people who are without an income have been put in the unenviable position of being worked to death out of desperation, intensifying the pandemic. What a tough, tough place to be in.
      They haven;t given anyone a choice of action but to work.
      These Tories I still consider to be the Zombie party but now for other reasons. Like sheer incompetence to make rational decisions. A human behavioral virus undocumented so far but described in detail every day by what they don’t do right

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