Zac Goldsmith’s resignation; Caroline Lucas and the Basic Income; UBER drivers victory

Three important developments this week!

Zac Goldsmith was much closer to his uncle Edward than to his more famous father, Sir Jimmy.

Teddy and I worked together briefly in the early days of what became the Green Party. He was inspirational. ‘Blueprint for Survival, which he co-authored, was a seminal influence for me. He had a firm grasp of ecological realities, and ‘Blueprint’ was a bold attempt to offer a way to avoid the fate threatened by the MIT ‘Limits to Growth ‘ study.

But although Teddy’s insights remain central to my own world view, he did not like my own prediction, which unfortunately proved correct, that the Green Party would become an extremely socialist party. My basic reason for believing this was that even the planned ‘soft landing’ necessary to prevent the ecological crash predicted by ‘Limits’, though much less disastrous, would still entail drastic redistribution.

A theme central to Teddy Goldsmith’s world view was that we would do well to learn from the wisdom of so-called primitive tribes who had mastered the art of living sustainably within limited resources and technology. A globalised world, for all its achievements, has yet to learn this lesson.

Teddy rejected my view because notions such as ‘left’ and ‘right’ were unknown to hunter gatherer societies. They all used social control to ensure ecological sustainability, but not necessarily in ways which armchair libertarians would approve of. Consequently, he was often labelled a ‘right winger’, but this is far too simplistic a dismissal.

But what has all this to do with Zac Goldsmith, who has just resigned as an MP, only to fight a by-election as an Independent unopposed by the Conservatives, on the grounds that he disapproves of the decision to approve the go-ahead of a third runway at Heathrow.

After Teddy died in 2009, Zac seems to have lost his way. I note that several regulars have already looked at the page on this blog ‘An open Letter to Zac Goldsmith’. My opinion of him went down even before the London Mayoral election, as two subsequent blog posts indicate. As well as guaranteeing sustainability through social control ‘primitive’ societies all found some way of ensuring no one starved, but again, not always in ways modern societies could accept. On Tikopia, for example, even ruthless infanticide failed to prevent a war every third or fourth generation to bring back population to a sustainable level. If Edward missed this, it was unlikely that Zac would work out for himself that redistribution was necessary, and that the Citizens’ Basic Income was a way of enabling the better off to accept that emotionally.

Much as I too disapprove of the Heathrow extension, to see this as a ‘last straw’ is odd. The entire government record on the environment since 2010 would have had Edward Goldsmith screaming blue murder. Where was Zac when Caroline Lucas got arrested for opposing fracking at Balcombe? Did he never read ‘Blueprint’?

To choose this issue is strange because his Lib Dem opponent is already an opponent of the runway. The real issue is whose environmental credentials are the firmest? This is where the Green Party could have seized the opportunity if it had remained on the course which Teddy Goldsmith and I envisaged in the mid 1970s. Zac Increased his majority in the 2015 General Election. Did this mean that the electorate believed Zac was out of step with his party’s abysmal environmental record? Both Zac and the Lib Dems can be exposed as shallow at best in their interpretation of wider ecological realities, but the Green Party has left it rather late to assert that this was its original raison d’être.

. .  .  .  .

But it is not all bad news. Last Thursday, 27th October, Caroline Lucas gave the annual Olof Palme memorial Lecture. In the course of this she not only stressed the importance of the Citizens’ Basic Income, but even mentioned me in that context!

This an extremely heartening development for me. Ever since Caroline was first elected in 2010, she has insisted that she would not raise the subject until she was provided with details of how it would work. She is well aware that my exposition of the Basic Income principle is quite radical as compared with  the Green Party’s current policy, or the Citizens Income Trust version.  A welcome sea change indeed.

.   .   .   .   .

A London Employment Tribunal has just declared that UBER drivers are employees, not self employed. Against the present backdrop this is absolutely right. UBER have already said they will appeal, but the ride hailing app’s viability depends on its ability to bypass the minimum wage and providing basics such as paid holidays and rest breaks. They are not responsible for insurance.

The ruling has implications for the whole ‘gig’ economy, not just the 40,000 UBER drivers. But this cannot be separated from the benefit sanctions régime. As I have already explained in previous blog posts, Zero hours contracts only became toxic on a precise date in October 2012. One overlooked factor is that the sanctions régime drives large numbers to attempt to become ‘self employed’, so that the ‘market’ for their services becomes glutted.

The Citizens’ Basic Income is not a panacea, but it would transform this particular issue. Whether regulation of some aspects would still be necessary is something which can be worked out in due course, but freed from the compulsion of benefit sanctions, UBER would suddenly find itself short of drivers. It might even have to tempt them back by offering some of the ‘perks’ that used to be a normal part of working life.

 

 

 

 

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