With an early general election called for 8 June, it is vital that the Liberal Democrats offer a radical policy platform to the country. Europe will obviously be a central issue in the election campaign. However, it is not enough just to be an anti-Brexit party. The Lib Dems must once again be an anti-establishment party, which draws on the radical liberal heritage of Mill, Lloyd George, Beveridge and Grimond.
Here are five radical policies that will transform Britain and gear it more towards opportunity, empowerment and social justice.
1. Support a Universal Basic Income
The universal basic income is the progressive idea of the moment. It has been advocated by a range of radical academics from Stuart White to Rutger Bregman. The idea involves giving every citizen an income of at least £100 a week. It's an ideal solution to many of the job insecurities brought about by economic globalisation and technological development. It would also give individuals the opportunity to work more flexibly and give them the ability to be more creative and to take more entrepreneurial risks. The basic income would obviously be expensive and could be paid for by rolling much current welfare spending into it and by increasing taxation on the richest. New forms of taxation (see policy 4) could also be used to pay for it. It is currently being considered by liberals in Canada, Finland and the Netherlands.
2. Abolish Benefit Sanctions
If the Liberal Democrats are to defend the rights of the poorest members of society then they must oppose benefit sanctions. The sanctions are applied to those claiming jobseekers allowance (JSA) and can lead to JSA payments being stopped for between one and three months at a time. They force people into going to food banks and getting into debt. They are a Draconian injustice designed to stigmatise the very people who need the welfare state the most. Benefit sanctions advance social hardship, hunger and mental illness; these are some of the very giant evils that Beveridge sought to overcome.
03. End Religious Discrimination in Faith School Selection
Only last month, the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference passed a motion calling for discrimination on the grounds of religion to be phased out of the selection process of state-funded faith schools. It is fundamentally illiberal to institutionally discriminate against someone on the basis of their religious background or lack of religious background. This policy will ensure fairness across all state-funded faith schools and allow all children the opportunity to succeed in them regardless of their religious viewpoint.
04. Introduce a Land Value Tax
Britain in the 21st century continues to have vast inequalities of wealth. We need to radically rethink how we collect taxation from those with the broadest shoulders. We need to tax more wealth gained through property ownership, not just through income. Liberals for over 100 years have riled against the unearned income gained from land ownership. A tax on land value could help to pay for new social housing or for our struggling NHS or even help to pay for a universal basic income. This could either be applied when land is sold or it could be applied annually on wealthy landowners, following regular land value assessments. The Government would in essence charge wealthy landowners for the wealth gained through owning land.
05. Create a Federal Britain
It’s time for people across the country to "take back control" from Westminster. Britain needs a radical federal settlement that will distribute political power across the nations and regions of the UK. It is becoming increasingly clear that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland need home rule powers. Across England too there is a need for each region to have its own federal assembly with policy-making powers. England is very centralised, something that will not be addressed through an English Parliament. Federalism must be enacted at the regional level at the very least. From electoral reform to Lords reform, the Liberal Democrat have always been the party for radical political change. It's time to break Britain's overcentralised state and spread power across the whole of the United Kingdom.
These five policy ideas will transform Britain's economy, society and democracy. If the Liberal Democrats aim to be the party that will reshape the progressive centre-left then these are the policies that it needs. The Liberal Democrats should not exist to preserve the established order of British politics or the economy, they should exist to tear it down, make it fairer and put social justice and democracy at the very heart of it.