John Knight's October 2020 Talking Politics column for Macclesfield Express

6 October 2020

During last year’s General Election, the media poured scorn on the Green Party’s plan to spend £100 billion a year on tackling the climate emergency.  Measures would have included building 100,000 energy-efficient homes each year, revolutionising our transport infrastructure, a widespread roll-out of renewable energy and creating hundreds of thousands of low-carbon jobs, including insulating people’s homes.

Less than a year on - in what now feels like another world - three times that amount has already been found to pay for the UK’s response to the coronavirus pandemic (it is tragic that so much of that money has been spent unwisely; no wonder Track and Trace has performed so badly, run by financial consultants rather than public health professionals).  Despite government dithering and ineptitude, the early days of the crisis saw communities pull together, making sure the most vulnerable were looked after.  The NHS, vilified by the Conservatives since its inception, starved of funding and weakened by decades of stealthy privatisation, once again came to be valued by society, as did other other caring professions.

With the ending of the Furlough scheme set to throw millions into financial jeopardy, we urgently need a Universal Basic Income to eliminate poverty and reduce much of the bureaucracy of deciding who is and who isn’t eligible for welfare payments.  Replacing a punitive benefits system that treats claimants as “workshy failures”, UBI - together with flat income tax - would guarantee everyone a minimum income, allowing the sort of life-choices - study, creative work, career-change, caring for loved ones - now only available to the better-off.

Highlights from this week’s Green Party conference:

As Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy once wrote: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.  On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing”.

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