Labour’s latest promise lays waste to the Conservatives and the Brexit Party in one fell swoop

John McDonnell
Tracy Keeling

The Labour Party has made a promise that lays waste to both the Conservatives and the Brexit Party in one fell swoop. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell revealed his party plans to trial universal basic income (UBI) if it takes power.

Such a policy, whereby every citizen would receive a ‘basic income’ from the state, is an anathema to the Conservative government. Its welfare reforms have shown just how unwilling it is to hand financial support to struggling citizens, let alone everyone. But that’s hardly surprising, it’s the party that’s raking it in from Britain’s billionaires.

Labour’s proposal doesn’t only get one up on the Conservatives though by illustrating it’s ‘for the many, not the few’. It also serves as an ‘up yours’ to the Brexit Party. Because McDonnell says the scheme will be trialled in the north of England and the Midlands. Those are both areas where Labour is currently losing ground to Nigel Farage’s latest political group.

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A radical idea

As the Mirror reported, McDonnell has committed to trialling UBI in certain areas when in government. A recent report into the idea by the thinktank Compass showed that it’s affordable and would significantly cut poverty and inequality levels in the country. It would also provide support for the millions of currently employed people who may lose their jobs to automation.

McDonnell raised Liverpool, Sheffield and “somewhere in the Midlands” as potential places for the trial. The shadow chancellor said of his plan:

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Of course it’s a radical idea. But I can remember, when I was at the trade unions – campaigning for child benefit and that’s almost like UBI – you get a universal amount of money just based on having a child.

UBI shares that concept. It’s about winning the argument and getting the design right.

He also explained why he believes it’s right for Britain:

The reason we’re doing it is because the social security system has collapsed. We need a radical alternative and we’re going to examine that.

We’ll look at options, run the pilots and see if we can roll it out.

Finland has already run trials, exclusively with unemployed people. As McDonnell noted:

If you look at the Finland pilot it says it didn’t do much in terms of employment but did in terms of wellbeing – things like health. It was quite remarkable.

The other thing it did was increase trust in politicians, which can’t be a bad thing.

The other ideas

Labour’s proposal comes at an awkward time for the Conservative Party, however. The Sunday Times Rich List revealed that only three of the 50 biggest political donations went “anywhere other than to the Conservatives”. The optics are terrible. As Labour proposes a plan to support everyone in the country, we’re reminded that the Conservative Party’s pockets are brimming with cash – to the tune of £8.7m – from Britain’s billionaires and millionaires.

Meanwhile, Farage is on a rich list of his own. In July 2018, the Times reported that ‘skint’ Farage had earned over £780,000 in a year. That put him in sixth place on the MEP ‘rich list’. Of course, Farage is hoping people keep him in the life to which he’s become accustomed by re-electing him as an MEP at the European elections. He has though, offered the British people something in return (other than giving them a no-deal Brexit): less action on climate change, continued xenophobia and “gleefully” allowing private insurance companies to “take the burden off the NHS” by axing its universal, free-for-all status.

UBI anyone?

Featured image via YouTube – The RSA

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