The Green Party has dropped two key policies after they failed to stand up to scrutiny by the media following a surge in public support for the party.
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett has announced that British citizens would not, under a Green government, be able to join terrorist groups after all, whilst her colleague Caroline Lucas MP announced that plans to hand every citizen £72 a week regardless of their income status were to be dropped.
Ms Bennett came in for widespread ridicule following a car crash interview on the BBC’s Sunday Politics just over a week ago, in which she confirmed to presenter Andrew Neil that the Green Party’s policy documents state “it should not be a crime simply to belong to an organisation or have sympathy with its aims, though it should be a crime to aid and abet criminal acts or deliberately fund such acts.”
When quizzed on whether that meant people would be allowed to be members of al Qaeda or ISIS, she replied “Exactly. What we want to do is make sure we are not punishing people for what they think or what they believe.”
However, yesterday Ms Bennett rowed back on that statement, describing ISIS and al Qaeda as “hideous organisations”, the Times has reported. She added “If you are involved in them, support them in any way, then you are participating in inciting violence, that’s a crime, rightly, and should be pursued to the full extent of the law.”
During her interview, Ms Bennett had also attempted to defend a “citizens income”, awarding every person in Britain £72 a week. Mr Neil quizzed her repeatedly on where the £280 billion required to fund such a policy would be found, but she first floundered, then assured him that the policy would be “fully costed” in her party’s upcoming manifesto.
Her inability to defend the policy led to suggestions that the party needed to go away and do their homework if they wanted to be taken seriously. However, she did attract some rather unusual cheerleaders in the form of libertarians, who have been arguing for a different form of citizens wage – the negative income tax – as an answer to the problem of welfare traps for some time.
Sam Bowman, deputy director of the libertarian think tank the Adam Smith Institute defended the policy in the International Business Times, writing: “Many free marketeers, including Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, favour a form of welfare known as a “Negative Income Tax”. This would replace existing benefits aimed at alleviating poverty like tax credits and jobseekers allowance with a single automatic payment that is tapered off according to earnings.
“The intention is to eliminate “benefit traps” that exist when people stand to lose more (or almost as much) in benefits as they would gain from working pay and hence disincentivise work. By eliminating complexity in the system we can eliminate perverse incentives too.”
He goes on to explain how a negative income tax works, commenting “This Negative Income Tax might sound a lot more restrained than the Green Party’s £280bn splurge, but in fact there is not much difference between the two ideas, at least in principle.
“Natalie Bennett’s big failure (beyond not knowing any of the numbers behind what she was proposing) was to not make this clear, and indeed many basic income supporters do not seem to have recognised this.
“It would be a shame to let one bad version of the policy – and one bad advocate – put us off what could be a big improvement to Britain’s benefits system.”
Nevertheless, yesterday Ms Lucas announced that the policy was being postponed, announcing “The citizen’s income is not going to be in the 2015 election manifesto as something to be introduced on May 8th. It is a longer-term aspiration, we are still working on it.
“When we come to publish our manifesto in March, you will see the workings out that we’ve got. This is not a policy for the next general election, it is lifting the living wage to £10 an hour by the end of this parliament . . . challenging the austerity of the other parties . . . what we need to be doing is investing in jobs rather than cutting jobs.”