While England suffers under Boris Johnson’s tyranny, Wales may soon prosper under a coalition of Labour and Plaid Cymru led by Mark Drakeford.
Flagship policy is Drakeford’s plan to roll out a Universal Basic Income that could slash poverty by at least 50 per cent in a stroke. A pilot is planned for the spring involving young people leaving care, with other groups to be added.
The aim seems to be to find a way of introducing it without provoking sanctions from the deeply neoliberal – and poverty-encouraging – UK government run by Tory Boris Johnson in Westminster.
It seems the aim is to present Johnson with an argument he can’t refute, like showing the plan improves economic activity by giving people more spending power – as indicated by research from the Autonomy think tank.
According to Autonomy’s report, an introductory UBI of just £60 per week for adults aged 18-65, across the whole of Wales, would immediately cut poverty in half – and child poverty by two-thirds (to 10 per cent from 28 per cent, currently the highest level in the UK).
Pensioners would get £175 on this system, and pensioner poverty would be cut by 61 per cent.
A more substantial (and, yes, more expensive) UBI rate would almost wipe out Welsh poverty entirely. It is suggested as a long-term goal for policymakers.
The report forecast that UBI could create £600 million of extra spending in Wales by putting more cash in the pockets of lower-income households – the group acknowledged to spend most of its income into the economy, rather than saving it.
This would generate tax income for the Welsh government, allowing it to push on with further progressive policies.
The income security provided by UBI will improve the nation’s health and increase life expectancy – people in Wales will be able to expect longer and healthier lives.
And people will enjoy more freedom to try new things like finding appropriate jobs, starting businesses of their own, or improving their education or skills. These are all things that the Tory system of means-tested and heavily-restricted benefits suppress.
And the Welsh people support it by a clear majority. Surveys show 69 per cent of the Welsh public want UBI, while only 11 per cent oppose it.
And the First Secretary of Wales, Mark Drakeford, has said he will devote the remainder of his time in office to rolling out UBI in Wales.
This could be hugely important, not just for Wales, but for UK politics as a whole.
As England sinks into the mire of Tory corruption, its people forced deeper and deeper into poverty by higher costs for groceries, commodities and – very soon – health care, they may find themselves staring across Offa’s Dyke at a land of healthy, happy, people in a country that is moving forward, not downward.
The Tories will do their best to obstruct it, of course, but they can’t stop it. Indeed, any overt attempt to do so will be rightly condemned as anti-democratic.
Done properly, it may stand as a demonstration of the harm being done by Tory – and Westminster Labour – neoliberalism that promised us increased wealth for the rich minority that would trickle down to the rest of us once they’d had enough but only proved that the rich minority never have enough and enjoy keeping the rest of us in poverty and misery anyway.
In short: this could be the pebble that starts an avalanche, overturning failed right-wing economics for good.
Or am I overstating it?
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