To each according to their need?

An editorial in The Independent asks if needs-based welfare has run its course.  Should the contributory principle (the basis of Beveridge’s social insurance) make a come back?

In the longer term, the Government should also canvass views about a more contributory benefits system. Much current popular resentment reflects a feeling that there are people getting something for nothing, whether they are new migrants or those who have never worked. Over the years, the role of contributions has been reduced, and greater emphasis placed on need. This shift may now have run its course. A return to more contributory benefits might at once make the system seem fairer to all, without discriminating against new migrants.

We absolutely agree that that “the Government should also canvass views about a more contributory benefits system”.  Re-building the welfare system for the kind of society Britain is today needs to start with grown-up conversations about what people believe is workable and fair.  For a Westminster political class that’s grown out of touch with the public, this could be a great way to re-start relationships.


Why did you come along?

“I’m here out of a mix of intrigue and frustration.  And because I love Lego!”

One answer given to York’s One&Other magazine when they asked people why they’d come to ‘Building the Conversation last month.

See the full article – and a quick report on the following evening’s York Conversation, hosted by Claire Fox, here.

Building the Conversation

As we prepare for the next Moot (Tuesday, 7.00pm), we’re looking back at our October activity in York.

Check out the video  – Building the Conversation – to see Andy Chapman explain how we used Lego to get people thinking about the future of welfare, using Lego to express their ideas.

Moot points

“Powerful Conversations between people who don’t have power”

The National Conversation is about finding new ways to get people talking about politics.  Whether that means bringing people together in a room – or using social media to get people together online.

A key tool we are using  is Google Hangouts.   Basically, it’s a kind of ‘social’ video conference that’s really good for holding online conversations.  We call these conversations “moots”.

Moots give us a lot of flexibility.  People can take part as full ‘see-hear-speak’ participants.  Or watch and comment / ask questions live.  Or catch up on a moot after it’s happened on the National Conversation YouTube channel.

We’re delighted to be working with Mick Fealty on the National Conversation moots.  Many of you know Mick from his work on Slugger O’Toole.  Since founding and running Slugger, Mick has become a leading thinker and do-er on all kinds of new social platforms.

Check out Mick’s Big Society Network article on the Digital Lunch format he is pioneering to learn more about the potential of Hangouts to make conversations happen.

Moots kick off in week-commencing 15 October.  We’ll post full details here and on the National Conversation web site.

UPDATE: the first National Conversation Moot will be on Tuesday 16 October at 7.00pm.  Details of how to join – or just watch – coming soon.

Niall Ferguson brings Beveridge to 2012 Reith Lectures

In the last of the 2012 Reith Lectures, historian Niall Ferguson shared his thoughts on the Beveridge Legacy.   Key quote:*

“The effects of the welfare state as it expanded its scope, as it offered security from the cradle to the grave were in many respects quite unintended. I do not think that Beveridge envisaged the sink estates of Central Scotland, the North of England, the East End of London when devising the welfare state during World War II. And we have to recognise the extent of the failure.”

Do you agree with Ferguson?  What is the extent of the failure?  And what can do about it?

* You can hear the whole lecture, and find a transcript, here

Has National Insurance had its day?

Seventy years after the Beveridge Report, how we fund welfare remains a controversial issue.

Today the 2020 Tax Commission floated the idea of a 30% flat tax (starting on incomes of £10,000).  Backed by the Institute of Directors and the TaxPayers’ Alliance, the proposal would see an end to National Insurance.

Beveridge saw National Insurance as the key to funding his welfare plans.  You received your benefits in return for “paying your stamp” into a special fund.  (Even though things didn’t quite turn out that way: as Nye Bevan said*: “the great secret about the National Insurance fund is that there ain’t no fund.”)

Does the 2020 Commission’s proposal represent a step forward?

* hat tip to John Phelan, one of our co-founders, for unearthing this interesting quote.

Parties need to engage the grassroots to tackle cynicism

Labour needs to find new ways to connect with voters at the grassroots, according to the party’s general secretary Iain McNichol in an interview with The Guardian.

Key quote from McNichol:  “We need to get people engaged and break down the cynicism that you are all the same. It is one of the most dispiriting things I have come across on the doorstep. People just repeatedly say: what is the point of voting?”

Countering cynicism – and getting people engaged with politics is what the National Conversation is all about.  We believe a frank and open conversation – around topics that touch everyone in the UK – can help all the parties re-build voter trust.