By Jon Crooks
Britain is stalked by hunger caused by low pay, growing inequality, a harsh benefits sanctions regime and social breakdown. Yet failed Labour candidate, Will Straw, in an open letter along with 7 other Labour Party candidates who failed to win their seats at the election, is today quoted as saying…
“Despite Labour’s vocal campaigning, people rarely wanted to talk about the bedroom tax unless they were directly affected. Instead, they wanted to know what Labour would do about the family down the street on benefits who’d ‘never done an honest day’s work in their life’ or why some families jumped up the housing ladder. It might make us feel uncomfortable and it might be unfair, but the public thought that we were on the side of people who don’t work.”
This is what we’re up against. Some families can’t afford decent food and others are so poor they can’t afford to switch on the gas. Many families don’t even have the ability to make their own food because the kitchen of their private rented flat contains only a microwave. That’s before we even consider how the number of people living on the streets is on the increase.
The government needs to be confronted over the prevalence of homelessness, food banks and the scale of deep poverty in the UK, but because of the diversive rhetoric that has turned people against the poor of this country, with lots of help from our poisonous right wing press, we’re facing an uphill battle.
Our government and the corporate press rattle on about getting people into work, but they ignore the fact that for some, this just isn’t possible no matter how hard they try. Yet they are punished rather than helped.
Benefit-related problems are the single biggest reason for reference to food banks. From April 2000 to June 2014, a total of 3,063,098 people received an average of 2.04 sanctions each. Furthermore, the cost of food, fuel and rent has increased since 2003, in a trend unprecedented in post-war Britain. These fundamental changes in the relative prices in budgets of food, utilities and rent have blown sky-high the comfortable post-war assumption that our wages system and our benefit system guarantees a minimum which most of us would regard as tolerable.
The stats available from The Trussell Trust are staggering and yet Food Banks now go largely unreported.
We also have more working poor than at any other period of history. Welfare isn’t just for the unemployed. And The Tories are making the working poor worse off too by reducing working tax credits.
It’s time to look again at the state of our country and to review the fundamental values that led to the creation of our welfare state. As a G7 country, there is no excuse. We should be moving towards a hunger-free Britain. Why doesn’t the state take over distribution of free food to those who need it? Why can’t we provide accomodation for all those who need it? It can be done, if there was the political will.
It isn’t like we can’t afford it, despite what Cameron and Osborne will have you believe. How about we make some large reductions in the £93 billion of corporate tax relief and subsidies instead of making £12 billion of cuts to welfare.
“Austerity is a political choice not an economic necessity. There is money available – after all, the government has just given tax breaks to the richest 4% of households.”
At least one of our elected representatives can see the truth for what it is.
This article was edited with a correction on 1st August 2015.