Owen Smith — the sole challenger to incumbent Jeremy Corbyn in the upcoming election for leadership of the UK Labour Party — has come out in opposition to universal basic income in remarks at a press conference.

Labour Party leadership candidate Owen Smith was asked about his views on UBI at a press conference in London on Monday, September 5. As reported in The Independent and Business Insider, he replied to the question “Could you see yourself fighting a general election advocating UBI?” as follows:

Honestly, no. I’ve looked at the arithmetic and I cannot see that this works. I’ve looked at three or four reports… it’s a lovely sounding policy but it’s another example of John McDonnell, and Jeremy Corbyn I’m afraid, not being credible on economic policies.

Smith later added, “I don’t think talking about universal basic income, however attractive an idea it is, is the answer.”

Smith announced his candidacy for leadership of the Labour Party in July, shortly after resigning from his post as the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (the official Labour critic of Secretary of State for Work and Pensions from the Conservative cabinet).

Corbyn, the incumbent, has recently expressed interest in exploring UBI. His campaign manager, shadow chancellor John McDonnell, has been a long-time supporter of UBI. McDonnell has urged the Labour Party to consider endorsing UBI as official party policy–a position that he recently reasserted, following a report on the topic from the Fabian Society.

A YouGov poll published on August 30 shows Corbyn leading Smith 62 percent to 38 percent among those eligible to vote in the Labour leadership election (sample size 1236, weighted selection from party members, registered supporters, and union affiliates).


Ashley Cowburn, “Universal basic income ‘not a credible’ idea, says Labour leadership contender Owen Smith“, The Independent; September 5, 2016.

Adam Payne, “Owen Smith has totally shot down universal basic income“, Business Insider; September 5, 2016.

Reviewed by Cameron McLeod

Photo: Owen Smith (2013) CC BY-SA 4.0 Wykehamistwikipedian 

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About Kate McFarland

Kate McFarland has written 512 articles.

Former lead writer and editor of Basic Income News.