What has the UK become, how have we sunk so low? Poverty and food banks are now an everyday part of many communities.
I’m not religious in any way but the recent high profile BBC News story about what a Pastor and Priest have been doing to help the utterly desperate in Burnley disturbed me profoundly.
The fact that in one of the richest counties on earth they have to do it should shame us all. We’ve had government after government which are for the middle incomed and wealthy with the poor getting litte more than crumbs off their table. In recent times footballer Marcus Rashford has stepped up to call for change particularly with regard to feeding children but more benefits/increased benefits will only be yet another sticking plaster, it won’t deal with the core problem of poverty.
After 40 years in politics I am convinced that Universal Basic Income is the only real solution to poverty. Politicians, who oppose UBI whilst hiding behind a lack of willingness to find a way to fund it, are actually saying we will not be doing anything useful about poverty and are leaving those who can’t survive via our mean spirited benefits system for charities, volunteers and churches to look after.
Sadly, the Burnley story is being replicated across the UK whilst the well off and our leaders in Westminster spend time picking ridiculous trade fights with the EU over Brexit. But when we get all the independence, prosperity and opportunities promised by those who promoted and voted for Brexit how much of it will filter down to those most in need? If it’s little or nothing then what have we been fighting for; just to make the rich richer and poor poorer? Developing a society based on a significant percentage of that society having to live in abject poverty is hardly something we should be aspiring to yet it seems to be where we have arrived.
I am profoundly depressed by how we expect those with nothing to live off almost nothing. Growing an ever greater number of people who are destitute has been the result of political decisions and political indecision but we’ve been voting (or at least a significant number of us have) for politicians who have been in charge of this growing poverty crisis for many years now. Is it not time to chuck out those politicians who simply want to manage, ignore or even punish those in our society who are the most in need? Oh and please don’t assume that all the problem politicians are Tories because poverty is an issue that many politicians want to ignore and they get away with it bacause the poor often don’t or can’t vote.
Bootle Crest. This version is fixed to the wall of the Council Chamber in Bootle Town Hall.
The Liverpool Echo has the story on its web site – see link above
Quote from the Echo article – ‘More people are struggling to pay their debts in Bootle than anywhere else in the north west.
New research reveals the scale of the debt crisis facing the town, which has the fifth highest levels of insolvency in Britain’.
Debt must be up there with poor health (indeed it is a significant cause of ill health) as being a blight on the lives of people. Many politicians have tried to fix the position of the poor, because debt and poverty go hand in hand, but still our society has a significant proportion of it where poverty is an everyday thing.
Our welfare system designed by William Beveridge (and tinkered with by government after government) forms the basis of the safety net to assist those with little yet problems of poverty still persist. Maybe it’s time for a new war on poverty as it will always fuel debt.
Here’s what Beveridge was trying to do, all be it in the first half of the last century:-
Surely poverty is the greatest social challenge to the UK yet no prominent politician has obviously led a campaign to address it in recent times. Indeed, it was not so long ago that senior politicians in the Labour Party were all but falling in behind the Tories in attacking the poor in an attempt to gain votes from the middle classes. And of course even some Liberals (what would Beveridge have thought of them?) were sucked into what almost became a shameful mainstream political movement against those on welfare.
The longer that poverty and causes and consequences of it are political no go areas for major party politicians the more the poor will be exploited by UKIP and the the far right for their own purposes. It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee all you supposedly progressive politicians, especially those of you who take far too much notice of the rabid right wing press.
I recommend a read of the article on Iain’s blog site that the link above takes you to.
I particularly liked this:-
The job of a leader is not to do everything himself or herself but to bring together a team who make our message new in this generation. S/he should not confine themselves to party members but draw on the best people who want a fair and free society. People who can say with us (and the authors of the Yellow Book) that they ‘believe with a passionate faith that the end of all political and economic action is not the perfecting or the perpetuation of this or that piece of mechanism or organisation, but that individual man and women may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly’
Indeed, and they must be the aims of every Liberal. But thereby hangs the division between the Labour party’s version of socialism and how people like Iain and I define Liberalism. You see Labour want to create institutions to control people at a national, regional and local level. They want people to back Labour at all costs whereas we Liberals want to set people free from institutions that decide what is good for them. A fair and free and open society values and encourages political and social diversity it does not package it up so that local or national political rulers can hand out services, favours and power to their mates who are in their club.
And its not that I don’t understand why the Labour Party is so controlling of nature. I realise they are a product of their birth from the trade union movement which had to fight so hard to free workers from appalling working practices and they needed almost blind loyalty to achieve that. Trouble is things have moved on and I, as a long-time trade unionist, can see how badly the trade union movement is adapting to change. Labour adapts to change poorly too but as it does, if painfully slowly, the tensions between it and the trade unions, who gave it life, are very real.
There is room for a new political consensus on the left and Iain is right in thinking that Tim Farron could/should be a leader of it from the Liberal wing but despite all Labour’s attempts to change it can’t shake the shackles of being stuck with a deep wish to control and patronise via all-powerful leaders.