There is a new kind of poverty in Britain. It is made by politicians, and could easily be ended by politicians. The people enduring this government-enforced poverty are not on low incomes: they have no income whatsoever. They sit in dark cold homes with no money and no food. For them, budgeting and belt-tightening would be the luxury option.
Today (20th January 2015), MPs will debate the future of the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system. Those who speak in favour of renewing Trident, at a cost of almost £100 billion, will no doubt say Trident is essential to protect UK citizens at some point in the future. Yet last week, those same MPs voted to commit the next Parliament to austerity, which is killing UK citizens here and now.
MacMillan Cancer Care recently reported that in 2015 there will be 2.5 million people living with cancer in the UK, due to improvements in survival rates. MacMillan warned that this would place "huge pressure on the NHS". What wasn’t mentioned was the pressure it could also place on the social security system.
As we enter an election year perhaps the real issues may be smuggled onto our television screens via comedy and entertainment, whilst the news media which is supposed to inform us simply keeps the debate within certain parameters.
I’ve been re-reading ‘A Christmas Carol’, and the way it resonates with present day Britain is quite remarkable. As Christmas approaches, Scrooge sits in his counting house, as he does every day, obsessed with his accounts and balancing the books, untouched and unmoved by the poverty all around him.
With growing numbers of working people struggling to survive, immigration is often blamed for suppressing wages. The police raid on a factory in Rochdale where immigrants were allegedly forced to work for £25 per week, reminds us that there are exploitative employers willing to take advantage of immigrants. But it could also be argued that government policy plays a major role in suppressing wages.
Media coverage of the Feeding Britain report left me feeling dismayed, as the central, indeed the only issue, the scandal of people going hungry in 21st century Britain, was obscured by a shoal of red herrings.
The scale of public spending cuts proposed by UK Chancellor George Osborne is shocking, but we shouldn’t be surprised. Not because such savage cuts are necessary, but because to many in government they are desirable.
Autumn Statement: low pay and 'terrifying' cuts to come
In 1904 Winston Churchill (then a Liberal MP) said that the Conservative Party stood for "cheap labour for millionaires". In his Autumn Statement today (3 Decemeber) the current Conservative Chancellor did nothing to dispel this image.