On Tuesday, Lee Anderson, Conservative MP for Ashfield, rose in Parliament to launch a rant against those facing growing food insecurity due to the growing cost of living crisis. A Labor adviser until 2018, he claimed there wasn’t ‘this massive use of food banks in this country’ and blamed ‘generation after generation’ who ‘can’t cook properly’ and ‘can’t budget”.
The degraded spectacle of a Tory MP denying the undeniable came into the debate in the House of Commons following a Queen’s Speech which failed to set out a single measure to mitigate the biggest drop in the level of life in 70 years. Whether to “eat or heat” is now a dilemma faced by millions of elderly, unemployed and welfare recipients, as well as a growing legion of working people whose wages continue to fall in the face of the rise in inflation.
Anderson’s scornful remarks came on the heels of a Food Foundation report which found more than 2 million adults in the UK went without food for a day in the past month. There was a 57% increase in the number of households that reduced food expenditure in the first three months of the year, with 7.3 million adults facing food insecurity.
The Trussell Trust – the UK’s largest food bank with a network of 1,300 people across the country – noted that 14 million people already live in poverty in the UK, 4.5 million of whom are children . Even before the cost of living crisis, a decade of austerity had already created a situation in 2019 in which there were more food banks than McDonalds branches in Britain – 2,000 compared to 1,300.
Policy chief Sumi Rabindrakumar said the independent, “Research from the Trussell Trust and other independent organizations is clear: the need for food banks in the UK is linked to lack of income, not food.”
Anderson’s claim that poor personal budgeting and eating skills are responsible for food insecurity, not social inequality, is exposed by his claimed solution. He boasted that a food bank in his Nottinghamshire constituency had shown people how to produce a meal for 30p. The commentary, in the style of a 19th century Poor Law Guardian, makes clear the crushing subsistence level to which the Conservatives are prepared to reduce the working class while demanding that they suffer in silence.
Far from being a lone voice, Anderson’s utter disregard for widespread social suffering has joined a chorus that has been going on for weeks now, from the prime minister down. Last Tuesday, Boris Johnson gave an interview to Hello Brittany where he was put in the hot seat by the example of a 77-year-old woman who had reduced her meals to one a day and traveled all day by bus to keep warm. Johnson responded by implying that she owed him a debt of gratitude for introducing the all-day bus pass when he was mayor of London.
Michael Gove, the Cabinet Secretary and Secretary of State for Leveling Up, gave a totally bizarre BBC interview on Wednesday in which he misimitated a series of accents while mocking government criticism for not announcing an emergency budget to deal with the cost-crisis of life. He said Treasury was correctly telling everyone to “calm down.”
There have been other right-wing screeds. Tory MP for South Ribble Katherine Fletcher claimed the unemployed were “sitting on benefits”. She launched an attack on the Resolution Foundation think tank, which had estimated that an additional 1.3 million people, including 500,000 children, would remain in poverty this year due to the government’s refusal to restore the £20 weekly increase in Universal Credit. welfare payments put in place during the pandemic.
Britain’s ruling class leads a society that has become even more divided along class lines during the pandemic. Britain’s billionaires saw their wealth increase by 21.7%, an overall increase of £106.5 billion, according to the Sunday time Rich list 2021.
According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2018-20 the richest 10% of UK households, comprising the upper middle classes and the super rich, owned 43% of total wealth. The bottom half of the British population held a meager 9%. The wealth of the top 1% of households averaged over £3.6million, 230 times more than the £15,400 or less for the bottom 10%.
It is not the result of policy failures, but of conscious policy decisions that have encouraged a massive transfer of wealth to the rich through government bailouts of corporations and quantitative easing to the tune of billions of pounds, designed to protect private wealth while public health was sacrificed. . The working class continues to bear the brunt of the virus and is now being forced to foot the bill for the ruling class through a surge of exploitation.
Even the limited measure of a one-time windfall tax on energy companies has been discarded as workers face colossal debts. In April, every household in the UK was hit with a massive 54% rise in their energy bills, followed by a similar rise in October. With inflation hitting 10%, UK households are facing a devastating £2,620 rise in bills and other costs. Meanwhile, British oil giants Shell and BP announced record quarterly profits for this year of $9.1 billion and $6.2 billion respectively.
The fact that the Johnson government does not feel compelled to make concessions to alleviate the growth of inequality and absolute poverty – even from the point of view of self-preservation – is the greatest accusation against the Labor Party and the unions. The anti-social ramblings of the conservatives have received a totally ineffectual and muted response from these organizations. This is not just a case of the government being “out of touch”, as the Trades Union Congress and the Labor Party claim; the British ruling class is criminally out of control – and Labor and the TUC have left the working class defenseless in the face of this rampage.
To the extent that Labor has presented outlandish objections to the Tories over the past two years, this has been based on providing only ‘constructive’ criticism in the name of national unity and on the fraud of doing appeal to the moral conscience of Conservative members. .
The Partygate crisis should have been the writing on the wall for the Johnson government, but it would have meant opposing the whole policy of social murder from which the disregard for lockdown measures stemmed. Instead, with nearly 200,000 dead from the policy of mass infection, trampling on scientific and medical advice, the Labor Party is parroting the mantra of “living with COVID” with all public health measures dropped. This under conditions in which the increasing number of deaths is completely ignored, not to mention the danger of new variants.
Although there is no money to alleviate social hardship or a depleted and overwhelmed national health service, military spending is on the rise. Just this week the government announced new military aid to Ukraine, bringing total funding to £3billion, second only to the US. The Labor Party continually seeks to outflank the Conservatives in its demands for an escalation of the NATO proxy war against Russia and further increases in military spending.
As the Socialist Equality Party explained in its statement “The working class must mobilize to bring down the Johnson government”, the Conservatives and Labor confront the working class as one hostile entity, a common party of herd immunity, austerity, social reaction and war. . He concluded:
“Above all, controlling the pandemic, defending the livelihoods of working people and opposing militarism and war requires the unification of the working class of each country against the common enemy, unleashing the strongest social force power of the world in the struggle for socialism. There is no shortcut. The working class is entering decisive battles and needs a new leadership, the Socialist Equality Party”.