A Universal Basic Income (UBI) is something that has often been talked about among regional authorities and more rarely by national Governments, it is not a new concept by any means but it is also something that has never been truly implemented (No seriously! Unlike socialism there really is no examples of a full UBI in practice), anywhere, which in itself is quite miraculous that in all our years of democratic society, we have never had a UBI system in place.
Before I go into the “why”, I want to clarify the “what”, as often things are mislabelled as being a UBI when in fact they are not. A Universal Basic Income is a fixed amount of money (or in some examples capital) that is paid unconditionally to every single member of the state, regardless of situation or earnings, in real terms it would mean replacing every single state welfare fund, from JSA to pensions, and using them to fund a single payment that is paid to everyone from a homeless gentleman on the streets of Manchester, to the rich oil tycoon in Kensington. It would mean scrapping the Department of Work and Pensions and bringing the new UBI under the remit of HMRC.
That all sounds rather fancy, but what would it mean to Joe Bloggs? In the 2016/2017 financial year we spent a whopping £264 billion on State Welfare, 34% of our budget, if we divided that across the country we could afford to pay only £415 a month to every working age adult. This is where UBI meets its biggest hurdle as £415, whilst being more than JSA, is a lot lower than most benefits and (when doubled for a two beneficiaries) £347 below the poverty line for a two person household, it would effectively throw many state dependants into poverty.
It can work though, if we have a UBI system, we no longer need tax-free earning thresholds since everyone in work would be earning a UBI anyway that £1400 a year saved on Tax Free earnings would be returned multiple times over. So if we were to scrap tax-free earnings that would free up approximately £70b more, or a further £120 a month. This is where a UBI becomes far more feasible, as this puts a household of two on £1070 a month, well within striking range of the poverty line currently set at around £1177 a month, it is not quite a perfected system within this article, but I think this proves the feasibility and thus proves there is an argument to be had for it.
Which leads on nicely to the question of who should be making this argument? The concept of a Universal Basic Income is often touted as a left wing idea, it is often seen as socialist, something that Momentum would sing from the hill tops as a flag ship policy of Jeremy Corbyn, I disagree, the very idea of a UBI is a conservative (small c) idea, conservatism is about ambition and equal opportunity for success. Conservatism is about the equal opportunity for happiness.
Conservatives need to adopt this idea and champion it for two reasons: First of all, this will give everyone a cushion to fall back on, I have been unemployed and I have been an entrepreneur, both times a UBI would have made a world of difference to my life and helped get me off the ground on days where I felt like I had a mountain ahead of me. Secondly, I truly believe that the Conservative Party is the party of the working class, a UBI would not just be there for those who do not want to work, who just want to claim off the system, it would be there for those single working parents, scraping by on minimum wage trying to support two children, it would be there for that hardworking builder who has fell on hard times, it would be there to escalate hundreds of thousands of people out of working poverty, giving everyone true spending power.
It would also allow people to begin to enjoy our lives, we spend about half of our waking life at work throughout the majority of our years, this would allow more people to adopt flexi-time or part-time hours and give them more of their lives back, this in turn would create more jobs as more and more people job share. With an age of automation and AI looming a head of us, which is expected to take up 1/3 of all jobs in Britain, a UBI is going to become more and more necessary in the future. The Conservatives and the UK Government could pioneer the way forward and set the precedence. We can plant the flag and become the champion of a UBI and prove we are truly the party for the many, not the few.