John McDonnell announces that Labour has set up a ‘working group’ to investigate universal basic income

john-mcdonnell-smallThe group is working with Guy Standing, one of its economic advisers. Guy is a British professor of Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, and co-founder of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN).

Standing has written widely in the areas of labour economics, labour market policy, unemployment, labour market flexibility, structural adjustment policies and social protection. His recent work has concerned the emerging ‘precariat’ class and the need to move towards unconditional basic income.

During the summer of 2016 Mr McDonnell, who has been the MP for Hayes and Harlington since 1997, suggested he could “win the argument” on basic income within the Labour party. He now intends to publish a report on the idea to encourage discussion on the topic around Europe.

The Shadow Chancellor launched the first of Labour’s regional economic conferences in Liverpool on February 4th– read more here



Transforming our Economy’ Conference in Newcastle Saturday 18th March 2017, details TBC

Annual ‘State of the Economy’ Conference in Birmingham Saturday 20th May 2017, details TBC

‘Transforming our Economy’ Conference in Bristol Saturday 8th July 2017, details TBC

‘Transforming our Economy’ Conference in Cardiff Saturday 28th October 2017, details TBC

Speaking about the idea – floated by Benoit Hamon during the socialist primaries of the French presidential elections – Mr McDonnell added:

“Interestingly, [Narendra] Modi’s government has brought forward a report in India as well about the need to develop basic income ideas and again see how they can implement it over a period of time. All of a sudden it’s become… an idea whose time may well have come . . .

“We’re exploring it. We think there are elements of it that we can bring forward as first steps towards a basic income that people can support.

“I was involved in the early campaigns many years ago on the development of child benefit – at that point in time there were all sorts of anxieties about whether you could bring forward a benefit for everybody that wasn’t based upon an assessment of need and we won the argument. I think child benefit is like one of the foundation stones of a future basic income”.





Posted on February 14, 2017, in New Economics, West Midlands New Economics Group and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Basic Income has to be part of something bigger, a Green New Deal, as was proposed at Beyond Austerity, and as has been proposed by DiEM25.

    Post-capitalism, we could see the economy and employment diverge.

    Do we want a world of serfs working for apps, Uber, task rabbit, Deliveroo, Wheelys, atomised workers bidding against each other in negative auctions to drive wages below the minimum wage, of zero hours, bullshit jobs, of workers standing in the market place, the literal job market, hoping to be offered a job.

    When a worker offers his labour, it is a perishable good, if not sold today, it cannot be sold tomorrow.

    Or we can have a world of open source, peer-to-peer, sharing, collaborative commons, open coops.

    A Universal Dividend is a better option than a Basic Income. We all share in the created wealth, which in the future will be created by robots.

    As Yanis Varoufakis correctly states, wealth is not created individually, then appropriated through the tax system by the state, wealth is generated collectively, then privatised. If we collectively generate wealth should we not collectively share that wealth?

    We also have to address the political space.

    Nor should we consider the political space as separate and distinct, we have to collectivise the political space, follow the example of Spain, Barcelona, A Coruña, ordinary citizens seize control of their local Town Halls, open to full public participation, then network these citizen-controlled Town Halls across Europe.

    No sharp boundaries between the political space and work space.

    Decide Madrid, a software platform for citizen participation, would in the normal way, have been outsourced to external consultants, instead it was developed internally as open source with public participation, it then can be shared with other citizen-controlled Town Halls.

    If we created local area community owned local electricity grids these could be part-owned by the local municipality. Into which feed renewables guaranteed a fair price. Consumers pay a fair price. Any surplus generation fed to other local grids via a publicly owned National Grid. Any ‘profit’ ploughed back into the local network or used to fund local community projects. The Big Six would not be able to compete and would go out of business.

    View story at


  2. Probably the best way to ‘fund’ universal dividends is a levy on the privilege of the exclusive use of land/location use and secondly a levy on the exclusive use of resources embedded in (eg oil & gas) or passing through (renewables/hydro/solar) the location.

    These levies may then be pooled and dividends paid automatically without touching government. The innovation is that these would not be paid in bank credit money such as $, 4 or £ but in credits returnable in payment for the levies.

    So a land dividend would be paid in $/€/£ denominated land/location use credits which would be acceptable in payment for rent by a landlord and secondly an energy dividedn would be paid in credits returnable in payment for heat/cooling, power, transport and so on.

    In this way, the universal dividend would not be hoovered up in rent increases by rent-seekers and inflation would be avoided.


  3. I have already suggested a massive windfall tax on oil, gas and coal, deal with tax dodgers (see above references),

    This would raise money in the short term, but not long term, as hopefully most of these industries would be put out of business.

    Basic Income would not have to be high, not if move to open coops, sharing, open source, collaborative commons.

    Always though come back to how will it be paid for. That is why what has been put forward by Yanis Varoufakis and DiEM25 of a Universal Dividend has merit.


  4. Thumbs Up to the UBI !

    It is excellent to see Labour is seriously considering the introduction of the Universal Basic Income. But it is only the beginning of something which is far more important, and could ultimately revolutionise the world. Here, I refer to Transfinancial Economics


  5. Editor: for those not on Facebook, Robert Searle’s comment:

    Thumbs Up to the UBI !

    It is excellent to see Labour is seriously considering the introduction of the Universal Basic Income. But it is only the beginning of something which is far more important, and could ultimately revolutionise the world. Here, I refer to Transfinancial Economics


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