Round 2 – Natalie v Andrew Neil

A comment on my last blog was “The party that changes people’s attitudes is the one that often wins elections”. Natalie made a start last Sunday when Andrew Neil asked her about the Citizens’ Income. quite courageous, but Natalie’s could have made life less difficult for herself. Natalie, why do you not use the weapon I have given you? What was wrong with the script in my last blog? It was like watching you defend yourself against an axe-man with your bare hands.

There are a number of points better put together as a coherent whole, when you get an in depth interview, as you will. But first you must get them across as individual ‘bullet points’ in a Carolyn Quinn or Andrew Neil type grilling:

  • The Universal Credit is an emaciated version of the CI
  • The UC is the intended jewel in the crown of govt policy
  • A more generous version of the UC is the principal recommendation of

Dynamic Benefits (2009)


  • Dynamic Benefits starts with a thorough exposé of means testing
  • Means testing is wrong in principle – It does need abolishing

This is what you need t attack on, and keep bringing the discussion back to. It is the  government’s strong point.

  • The UC is inadequate
  • Compulsory work sanctions are barmy with 50 chasing every job

In due course you will be given – or can carve out –opportunities to go on:

  • Means testing is exactly like a TAX.  So it IS a tax for practical purposes
  • Massive on small incomes, insignificant for everybody else
  • Dynamic Benefits shows this in graph form
  • The logic will inexorably push in the direction of a CI.
  • Lady Rhys Williams identified the work disincentive of means testing in 1944
  • And proposed a Basic Income then
  • Existence of BIEN, CI Trust, Europe wide Basic Income movement, Alaska PDF . . .

The cost question.

If it hasn’t cropped up already, you must introduce and expand on the ‘means testing is (identical to) tax’ theme POINTING OUT T HIS IS WHAT ‘DYNAMIC BENEFITS says, as per my blog on11.4.13. A part time single parent losing benefits as well as having meals and bus fares to find loses a bigger proportion of her/his income than a banker on bonuses. All the Citizens’ Income does is shift this burden upwards. You can give the bare outline – JSA, plus a rent component, and point out that the much trumpeted personal tax allowance gives the top tax bracket far more than the people it is supposed to be helping. See my blog post on 7.12.12 for a full explanation.

But bring it back to the principle. The original ‘Dynamic Benefits’ UC answered the question ‘ how do we make sure workers are not worse off than the unemployed’. The government scheme falls short of that,  but the CI incorporates this. The principle is that no one on a low income should lose a higher proportion of  their income than those on higher incomes.


Keep bringing dicussion back to the fact that means testing is wrong. Lady Rhys Williams, a member of the Beveridge Commission wrote a minority report recommending a Basic Income in 1944, having identified in advance what Dynamic Benefits now describes in detail. (see blog 7.12.12). Why did Labour abstain on that appalling reversal of  a vote on acour decision in favour of claimants? Why are many prominent Labour figures, including Miliband, on the defensive, obviously accepting the thesis that there might be scroungers? Why do large numbers of unaffected people buy this inhuman, preposterous view?

Answer: Iain Duncan Smith is quite right to get rid of means testing, but his plan is both nasty and stupid at a time of high unemployment. The GP believes that the logic will inexorably push in the direction of a CI

I have just read that Natalie is on Question Time tonight. She needs this without more ado.

11 responses to “Round 2 – Natalie v Andrew Neil

  1. what do you mean, Iain Duncan Smith is quite right to get rid of means-testing? Universal credit incorporates all the means-testing of the 6 benefits and tax credits it replaces!

    • IDS is being allowed to get away with an appalling con trick. You are almost right, but he is reducing means testing. There are two ways in which this can be done: give a benefit equivalent to everybody, or take it away from those who get it now. The principle of the UC is supposed to be that claimants keep 35% of their former beneifts when previously they would lose more than that. Johnnyvoid’s blogs expose gap between that and the reality. But the bedroom tax, the 1% cap on benefit increases, removal of benefits for the disabled, indeed the erosion of benefits generally does reduce means testing. My point is that the existence of means testing is the strength behind IDS’s strategy. It is the reason why Miliband & Co are on the back foot when they should be attacking.

      • Clive, I’m following this with interest because I’m a welfare benefits adviser at Disability Rights UK (but writing here in personal capacity), and I teach courses about universal credit. But before I move on to debate this with you, I’ve got to know what you are saying. First you say that “Iain Duncan Smith is quite right to get rid of means-testing”, then you say he is *reducing*, not *getting rid of* means-testing, and in your reply above you say, “My point is that the existence of means testing is the strength behind IDS’s strategy.” I’m frustrated about this: please could you have another attempt at clarifying what you actually mean?

      • Here is an attempt to summarise in a nutshell. Dynamic Benefits explains the effect of means testing chapter & verse – work disincentive/poverty trap. So means testing must go (Lady Rhys Williams said so in 1944)

        2 ways to remove means testing: CI, or abolish benefits

        IDS has concocted what in principle would be a clever obfuscation: UC is a move in the direction of a CI, but inadequate.

        But it won’t work – see the Johnnyvoid blogs in my tonight’s blog post – because it falls between the two stools of giving everybody benefit equivalent – CI (paying what it costs from taxation) – and just abolishing benefits. The point is opponents of IDS strategy seem not to grasp that means testing is a tax equivalent. The graph is intended to show this – the OUTLINE is what is relevant, not the components. I am going to get help on re-jigging this.

        Quick reply late at night. More in due course, though if you have time, other blog posts may help.



      • Your reply on May 4, 2013 at 12:34 am (which has no Reply button, so I’m posting here) is all very well, but not an answer. I fully grasp the concept that means-testing is income tax by another name and vice-versa. Ditto for “marginal deduction rates”, the Treasury’s preferred term, I think. Yes, we have a system of marginal deduction rates ranging from 95% for the poorest to 55% (ie income tax top rate) for millionaires. IDS is moving to a system of marginal deduction rates which will start at 85% for the poorest (with no change at the top). By the way 85% is the sum of the UC 65% taper coupled with the average impact of localised council tax reduction scheme, which DWP estimates at 20% for working age people.

        My trouble with you, Clive, is that you cannot answer a simple direct question with a simple direct answer. It was, are you saying that “Iain Duncan Smith is quite right to get rid of means-testing”, or that he is reducing means-testing, or that means testing is the strength behind IDS’s strategy?

      • We are clearly on the same side, but we have difficulty communicating. For a start, I don’t understand about ‘reply buttons’, and although I got your last comment as an email, it purported to come from me, and hence.without a reply facility. Fortunately your comment appears on my blog post.
        To try to answer your question:
        Yes, the existence of means testing is the strength behind IDS’s strategy, because it explains why e.g. Labour abstained when there should have been fury at IDS’s contempt for a court decision in favour of claimants.
        A CI would get rid of means testing. UC would be a step in that direction, but because it is inadequate, it has to be in conjunction with means testing and work sanctions.
        Dynamic Benefits advised IDS to get rid of means testing.
        Any nearer?

      • Thanks for your further reply and sorry for my earlier waspish tone. I have had an A-Ha moment and will either post a comment or write it up on my own blog soon. On the Reply button thing, WordPress seems to know how to put the replies on the blog in the right place, whether we correspond on the site or via email. Best wishes, Robbie

      • I am shaky on all things cyber. Can you give me a quick brush up on how to alert myself when you blog. I did it for Johnny void, but can’t remember how.

      • Thanks, Clive. My blog is at
        In the top right hand corner there is a blue box to “Join this site”. If you enter your details there, you’ll be a Follower and you should then get an alert when I post my A-Ha piece – and anything else, mind. I don’t blog that often so don’t hold your breath and I’ll send you a message (probably here via the Reply button on your blog) in any case, because I know you’d like to hear about it.

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