Nick is in prison for the first time; having plead guilty for possession of cannabis with the intent to supply, he's now facing a new charge of failure to pay outstanding council fines. "The weed was fair enough, even though it was just selling to mates and that," he says. "But I've literally got no idea what these fines are about. I think they're just doing it to get me out of my flat, so they can give it to some immigrant." Nick continues to say that he thinks as long as the UK is part of Europe, any kind of universal income would be "like begging even more immigrants to come to our country."
I try and change the emphasis of the question and ask Nick whether a regular basic payment might help him work out what he'd like to do with his life, perhaps let him find a job that he finds enjoyable rather than having to worry too much over hours or the pay packet he'll bring home each week. "What, so some Romanians can have all the proper jobs? Fuck that right off. Anyway, what's the point in getting excited about something that rich people would never let happen anyway?" he says.
To hear prisoners reject the policy on principle as a "shit idea" is baffling given how it could at least offer hope for them and their families to live less chaotic, far more stable lives. But if John McDonnell is concerned about persuading the rich to vote for something like this, he evidently also needs to consider how the less well off will respond, too.