Labour heavyweight Alan Johnson has urged Jeremy Corbyn not to back the “fantasy politics” of a universal basic income.
The former home secretary said the “just about managing” will soon be the “just about sinking” if the government does nothing to tackle poverty.
But he said a universal basic income - which sees all citizens handed a regular, unconditional sum of money - is not the answer.
Instead, the government should raise all benefits so people can pay their bills without hitting the breadline, he said.
In his first major speech since stepping down as an MP this year, Johnson said he was “baffled and disturbed” such a pledge was not in any party’s manifesto.
Speaking at a Joseph Rowntree Foundation event, he added: “Despite a 35% rise in prices this decade, child benefit will have increased by only 2%; housing benefit no longer covers the rent, heating allowances fail to meet the cost of fuel and crisis loans that used to provide emergency access to cookers or beds have been comprehensively shredded.
“Why don’t we resolve to ensure this works properly before looking for solutions in the expensive world of fantasy politics.”
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has set up a working group to look at how a universal basic income could be implemented.
Corbyn has also told HuffPost UK he would “look at it very seriously and very carefully” and he could “see the headline attraction” of the policy.
Johnson, who once had a huge row with a Corbyn supporter live on air, hit out at Corbyn for failing to make a direct manifesto pledge to unfreeze benefits.
Labour said its pledged reforms would “in effect” see benefits rise, but it was not clear how or by what amount.
Johnson said: “This year inflation is set to hit 3% but the freeze on working age benefits will continue and would probably not have been unfrozen to any great degree if Jeremy Corbyn had become Prime Minister.
“In essence therefore, whilst the focus was on threats to pensioner’s income, both main political parties in the election supported a real term pay cut for the working age poor.
“With wages stagnant, the ‘just about managing’ are soon to be the ‘just about sinking’ yet their predicament barely figured in the election beyond platitudinous references to the need for ‘fairness’.”
It is not the first time Johnson, who led Labour’s remain campaign in 2016, has clashed with Corbyn.
He said the Labour leader was “useless” in the party’s push for EU membership and also once told The Times: “[Jeremy Corbyn] is totally incompetent and incapable of being the leader of a political party and he knows it.”