The Green Party is missing media opportunities


Last Sunday, Iain Duncan Smith launched the long awaited Universal Credit. Not according to Johnny Void he didn’t. But where was the Green Party? Another opportunity to showcase the Basic Income was frittered away.  The bishops pontificate yet again about poverty, and a BBC QuestionTime (19th Feb) gives the benefits issues a thorough airing, and still no mention of what we have now decided to call the Basic Income, despite  recent prime publicity slots.

Overall I am well impressed by Natalie Bennett, and the Green Party is beginning to edge upwards in the voting intention polls. But that is hardly a good reason to let opportunities slip. If Natalie had used a quarter of the material I have tried to brief her with over the past few months that dreadful Andrew Neil interview the other Sunday could have been a real game changer. But the Guardian salvo during the following week discredited the Basic Income anyway didn’t it?

No it bloody didn’t. The Citizens’ Income Trust swiftly issued a correction on their website that their quotes had been twisted, and the problems exaggerated. Did the Green Party issue a statement, using this as further publicity? No it bloody didn’t.

You may have gathered by now that I am losing patience. A last straw moment occurred this afternoon as I read my Independent (21st Feb) on the way back from leafleting for Gillian Creasy in Sheffield Central, where there are the makings  of an electoral shock. The front page heading is:

Low income families pay price of outsourcing fiasco

Families are receiving letters from Concentrix, an American firm to whom HM Revenue & Customs have outsourced fraud and error detection. These letters will read to many like a ‘phishing’ scam due to the flimsy basis for many cases, but failure to reply at all could result in loss of Tax Credits, which will of course look as though Concentrix is getting results.

The gist of the Guardian attack was that Euromod, a computer at Essex University with access to demographic details revealed that the Green Party’s Citizens’, or Basic Income scheme would make many low income families worse off. That was a lie for a start. The Green Party’s scheme is still not published. It is the CIT scheme, which is the template for the Green Party’s scheme, which is vulnerable. Tax Credits do remove some of the worst effect of the benefits trap for some low earners, but the benefits trap, or work disincentive (choose according to which papers you read) remains a serious problem. Iain Duncan smith has been allowed to successfully peddle myths about benefit claimants which are true only of a tiny minority who don’t benefit from Tax Credits, and even they are only reacting rationally to the work disincentive.

The Independent gives more details, but the important point is that at best, Tax Credits were an inadequate step in the right direction. They are better than the Universal Credit because they do alleviate the benefits trap/work disincentive. But in the current culture of privatization of everything they are suddenly toxic, and this undermines the Guardian criticisms. Tax Credits must be phased out pdq. A statement from the Green Party perhaps?

I shouldn’t need to repeat that the document which first mentioned the Universal Credit is unwittingly an excellent statement of the case for a Universal, Basic Income. This is because the Basic Income has as one of its purposes what the Universal Credit was supposed to achieve: make work pay. Many of my blog posts reiterate this, but for now just read the link to Johnny Void.

There are two  groups the Green Party could be recruiting, at least as voters, using the Basic Income principle. One is the 1.3 million who were supposed to be  on the Universal Credit by April 2014, but very few of whom are ever likely to be. The other is small businessmen, or budding entrepreneurs. I could accept the frequent references to the Living Wage, if they were followed by “Until the Basic Income is in operation”. Once everyone has the wherewithal for a civilized life, and would be employees have equal bargaining power with employers, wage rates can be left to the market. This will allow businesses – employers – to exist which would not be practical with a Living Wage. This is just one example of something which is oppressive at present which will make sense with a Basic Income.

Johnny Void reacted sharply to Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit announcement. Did the Green Party put anything out on something so highly relevant to the Basic Income?

No it . . . didn’t.

9 responses to “The Green Party is missing media opportunities

  1. I feel your frustration. For me it’s not just the silence around UC, it’s also the failure of the Greens to capitalise on the horrendous threats made by Labour and the Conservatives to young adults in regards to proposed welfare cuts over the last year or so, by telling young adults “Hey, we promise a Basic Income for all. We are not going to cut your welfare because you are overweight, we aren’t going to force you to work unpaid under threat of destitution…” And all the social and economic benefits that go with it, and so on.

    There are legions of angry (NOT apathetic) potential voters who simply do not know that Basic Income is a real and viable alternative. They do not know that the Green Party are advocates of it, and they will continue in this ignorance unless Natalie or the Green PR people start being vocal about it by taking opportunities when they very obviously present themselves.

    • Thanks for the support. I shall bring an emergency motion to conference headed ‘Restoring the credibility of the Basic Income’. I hope it will be prioritized by enough signatures (In case you are unfamiliar with conference, emergency motions are pinned up, and come to conference in the order in which they receive appended signatures). As you will see, I have tried to provide some briefing material on my blog. If there is enough of a groundswell at conference, there will be a media boost, and we can go some way to getting rank and file to use the BI. Natalie and others in the GP media are dragging their feet, but with enough enthusiasm, they will have to do their homework on it. We can only try.

      • You can retweet stuff, and if you are more au fait with the GP website than I am, you can tell the party, and especially the leadership that the Basic Income could be a tremendous asset to the party, and not to be frightened of it.

  2. I’ve never voted Green, and am ambivalent about their platform as a whole, but will be seriously considering them in May. Why? Because that seems to be the best if not the only way to show support for a BI.

    • Mutual reinforcement will be invaluable. There is absolutely no chance of any other party including the Basic Income. As this post implies, I wish more people in key positions in the Green Party fully understood it, but a groundswell of encouragement from the whole BI movement might just make them study it more closely – and publicise it. But as you will see from other comments, it does have support within the Party.
      As to your doubts about our other policies, I have more to fear from guys like you than you have to fear from giving the Green Party publicity. Once we have got Joe Public telling everybody else in the pub “I always thought it was fair, and made sense”, you and I can start pulling in different directions. My worry is if the BI is only a redistributive measure, so that the poor just spend regardless what has been quite reasonably confiscated from the rich, we are no nearer preserving the planet for our grand children.

      • I don’t think you have much to fear from guys like me. I’ve just had a skim through the manifesto and my main points of disagreement are a) the EU, b) nuclear energy, and c) a general worry about the tone of “nice things for everybody!” without much detail on where the money’s going to come from.

        I’m not planning to spend my Citizen’s Income on seal-clubbing holidays or anything.

  3. Grant Shapps on QT this week re pensioner benefits: “Why give that to
    everyone? The simple answer is if you start to means test these things you end up having to setup some very complicated system and expensive system in order to moderate all that and check it all. Our view is its better to simply make the payment.”

    Now Grant take a look at the Basic Income proposal and compare and contrast.I look forward to you supporting the policy in future, referably from civvystreet.

    • I thought I had replied to this, but I don’t understand these things, so apols if my reply is already out there somewhere. This is another prize example of a golden opportunity completely lost on the GP press team. Shapps v IDS.

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