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9 February 2015

Green deputy leaders contradict Caroline Lucas: Citizens’ Income will be in the manifesto

Last week, the Green MP Caroline Lucas called the Citizens' Income policy a "longer-term aspiration", but the party's deputy leaders insist it will be on their 2015 programme for government.

By Ashley Cowburn

This article was originally published on the New Statesman’s sister polling site, May2015. Follow it on Twitter @May2015NS

The deputy leaders of the Green party have dismissed claims that their flagship economic policy of a Citizens’ Income has been ditched from the party’s 2015 election manifesto.

Shahrar Ali, one of the party’s two deputy leaders, told the New Statesman yesterday: “I don’t really want to go into the interpretations and the ins and outs of what people have said, but let me be clear about what is the case: the Citizens’ Income is part of the general election manifesto for 2015. That is a fact.

“I think the key point – which is a point of contention – is when it’s [citizens’ income] going to implemented within that term and how much it’s going to cost. Those are facts, which still need to be determined.”

The Citizens’ Income – or basic income – intends to pay every British adult £72 a week, regardless of income. But in recent weeks the policy has been attacked as unrealistic and un-costed.

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During a grilling on the BBC’s Sunday Politics with Andrew Neil – described by some as a “car crash” – Natalie Bennett, the Green party leader, said that the popular Citizens’ Income pledge will, “be fully spelt out in our fully costed manifesto released in March.”

But last week, the Citizens’ Income appeared to have been withdrawn. Caroline Lucas, the Green party’s only MP, and former leader, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The citizen’s income is not going to be in the 2015 general election manifesto as something to be introduced on May 8.

“It is a longer-term aspiration; we are still working on it. The aim is absolutely, to be able to give everybody a guaranteed, non-means tested income, because that means that you can get around the poverty trap.

“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.”

A Green party adviser on economic policy told the New Statesman following Caroline Lucas’ interview on Today“She was being realistic. Citizen’s income is very much a Green policy and has been for many years. Caroline was saying we’re not going to get it in government. So it is an aspiration for now, but still very much a Green party policy.

Speaking yesterday alongside Shahrar Ali, Amelia Womack, the other deputy leader of the Greens, added: “We have a lot of people at the moment who are really excited that we’re talking the citizens’ income. It will be in the manifesto.

“I think that one of the things we need to acknowledge is that it’s a holistic approach; we’re not just going to introduce citizens’ income on its own. It’s a number of policies that will work together and I think that some of the media haven’t acknowledged that in their approach.”