“The UB-Aye’s have it. The UB-Aye’s have it. 715 to 250.”
That was the margin that Liberal Democrat members overwhelming voted Universal Basic Income into party policy at their party conference last September. In doing so, they became the biggest party in the UK to officially adopt the idea as policy.
The move was further evidence that basic income is rapidly becoming the cornerstone of post-COVID progressive politics in the UK. The Lib Dems joined the Green Party as official supporters of the idea whilst the SNP’s Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been an enthusiastic supporter throughout the pandemic. As have Plaid Cymru in Wales and Alliance and SDLP parties in Northern Ireland. Whilst there’s still work to be done to move the Labour Party towards basic income, there is now an unprecedented level of support amongst the opposition parties.
The Lib Dems announcement now leaves them with a more progressive welfare policy than Labour but this should come as no surprise as basic income has always had a strong liberal tradition. Versions of basic income have been backed in the past by Liberals Paddy Ashdown, Juliet Rhys-Williams, Keynes and Beveridge.
The Beveridge Report is being talked about a lot again this week, with many calling for a new Beveridge-style moment of change that can tackle the societal ills of the 21st century. Indeed the pandemic has exposed how the systems that were designed to catch us when we fall are now either broken or completely outdated when dealing with the modern labour market. We’ve seen millions of families fall through the gaps of the government’s support schemes. Basic income can be our generation’s NHS and the foundation of a new social contract that enables us to truly level up and build back better.
It was the Labour Party who came to power in 1945 and enacted many of Beveridge’s ideas and today’s electoral math means Labour are likely going to need to work with the Lib Dems if they are to come to power in 2024. Our challenge now is to ensure basic income becomes the foundation of a potential progressive alliance.
I’m proud to say the Basic Income Conversation played a key role in passing last September’s motion. Alongside Welsh Liberal Democrats Leader Jane Dodds, we helped build Lib Dems for a Basic Income with a group of senior politicians and party activists. We hosted a pre-conference fringe event with Ed Davey, Vince Cable and Vicky Pryce as well as organising parliamentary briefings for MPs and Peers ahead of the vote.
We’re also working within all of the major political parties to embed basic income into party’s policy platforms. As well as Lib Dems for Basic Incom, we’ve supported Labour for a Basic Income to grow, as the progressive platform for basic income builds and builds.
The challenge is to now prove that basic income can win on the doorstep and the first opportunity is at the local elections this Spring. That’s what Lib Dems for a Basic Income are now focusing on. In partnership with us at the Basic Income Conversation and the Social Liberal Forum, they’ll be hosting ‘How to win with UBI’ at 7.30pm on Tuesday 9th March.
They’ll be joined by a brilliant panel of speakers including Jane Dodds, Luisa Porritt (Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of London), Wendy Chamberlain MP, Tchiyiwe Chihana (UBI Lab Network), and a special guest from their sister party in Canada, Liberal MP Nate Erskine-Smith.
You can sign up to attend here
by Michael Pugh, 1st March 2021. Michael is Director and Co-Founder of the Basic Income Conversation which amongst other activities, is helping activists embed basic income within each of the major political parties. If you’d like to get involved in this by supporting basic income conversations within your party, get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org