In the city where Adam Smith developed the free-market theories that inspired Thatcherism nearly 300 years later, a young Labour politician is pursuing an economic vision that takes a drastically different approach to “the wealth of nations”. Councillor Matt Kerr, an anti-poverty specialist on Glasgow city council, has been exploring how people become enslaved by poverty – and how they can escape it.
A meeting in Glasgow last month with Guy Standing, the radical economist who founded the Basic Income Earth Network inspired Kerr to seek cross-party support to pilot a “universal basic income” in parts of Fife and Glasgow. He acknowledges that these are very early days and that there are many obstacles ahead, but the move makes him the most senior incumbent politician in Britain to contemplate a radical scheme that only a few years ago was considered beyond the political pale.
The universal basic income concept is so simple you are tempted to ask why it has never been seriously looked at before. It offers something for everyone across the political spectrum. It works on the premise that individuals are guaranteed a minimum regular payment unconditionally.