14.5 million living in poverty

in the world’s fifth largest economy

until a global pandemic forced our chancellor

to spend £69 billion on a word

none of us had ever heard of.

Furlough showed universal basic income to be

a fundable possibility, at £67 billion net cost

paid for through reduced corporate tax breaks

and subsidies. Just 3.4 percent of GDP 

to make absolute poverty extinct.

When the first unconditional money

hit mum’s bank account she cried

with eyes that could now see a future.

But trusting it took time. You’re not supposed to eat

normally just after a fast or you’ll be sick. 

So we let relief drip into our days. 

First in seconds, dancing round the kitchen

feeding shopping into starved cupboards

now bulging till their doors wouldn’t shut.

Then in minutes, a river that brought mum 

home two full days a week. She began 

helping me with my homework.

Grades went up. A well fed mind imagined

going to university, freed from the urgent need 

to leave school early and start earning.

Knocks on the door brought not fear

but friends. Neighbours came to chat,

share ideas, our street hadn’t felt this alive

in years! Revitalised by breathing in 

something other than stress and anxiety.

Minds to the right: tick

for smaller, simpler government; tick

for healthcare appointments reduced

8% by better physical and mental health; tick

for greater purchasing power from the ground up.

Minds to the left: tick

for greater community engagement; tick

for people secure enough to believe in a future; tick

for human ingenuity previously capped 

by the poverty trap freed to help create

a society no longer chained to poor

wages for sourcing, making, selling poor

quality goods that return to poor

countries forced to burn, bury, breathe poor 

quality air. Instead, the choice to say no

from a new sense of security, dignity, universality 

we can do better. 

Harula Ladd