Some people will defend anything.
That’s why, on the day Jacob Rees-Mogg called food banks “uplifting” while volunteers there said they couldn’t stop children starving, commenters tried to defend him and attack This Writer for pointing out his cruelty.
“I dislike the man but this is not a true representation of what he said,” claimed one. “Press in the country are a disgrace. Very little real journalism left.”
“If you need to lie to get your political point across, maybe you should take a look at your point,” stated another.
My point was that Mr Rees-Mogg said he found it “uplifting” that children were starving because food banks could not feed them. I say that point is accurate.
In his LBC interview, he said “I don’t think the state can do everything… It tries to provide a base of welfare that should allow people to make ends meet… but on some occasions that will not work.” We know that statement is not true.
Firstly: The citizens of the UK do not ask the state to do “everything” for them.
Secondly: While we do pay our taxes on the understanding that the state should “provide a base of welfare that should allow people to make ends meet”, the state under a Conservative government has consistently refused to do so since 2010. That is common knowledge; you only have to look at my recent story about the Universal Credit taper to see evidence of it.
Thirdly: If it does not work on some occasions, then the government is not doing its job properly and should make way for one that does.
In short: If state schemes are not providing enough for people to pay their way, it is because the minority Conservative government – of which Mr Rees-Mogg is a member – is refusing to provide enough support.
That, of course, is why food banks have proliferated; why they have become necessary.
Mr Rees-Mogg, in his interview, claimed that the huge increase in the number of food banks was because the Conservatives had publicised them, allowing Job Centres to refer benefit claimants to them – but this has been refuted by food bank charity the Trussell Trust as follows:
Trussell figures show that, far from triggering a flood of referrals, the decision had little direct effect on food bank activity. In 2016-17, just 5% of referrals to Trussell food banks were from jobcentres, a proportion that has remained virtually unchanged for at least the past three years.
Charities said that year-on-year increases in the volume of charity food given out in the UK over the past decade were driven largely by welfare reforms, benefit delays and sanctions that had left low-income people in financial crisis.
Of course, five per cent of referrals still represents an increase in the actual number, because the number of food bank visits has skyrocketed over the last seven years in which we have had a Conservative government; but we can clearly see that the effect of Job Centres being allowed to refer people to food banks is negligible.
So we are left with food banks trying to provide for increasing numbers of people, with a finite amount of food – there were desperate calls for more from food banks that were running out of supplies over the summer, remember.
It is in this context that Mr Rees-Mogg says the “charitable” efforts of those who run and supply food banks are “uplifting”.
Regarding charity, I am reminded of a comment on another political website: “Charity merely sweetens the stench emanating from the sewers of capitalism.”
As for it being “uplifting”, I find myself in agreement with Chris Price of Pecan, who said, “What he [Mr Rees-Mogg] is saying is that it is great that people are in poverty and that we are here to help them. It is a very unchristian thing to say.”
Harsh words for a man who recently claimed his Christian beliefs meant he could not support abortion or same-sex marriage. But then, Mr Rees-Mogg was pilloried for that remark as well – most effectively by Iain Rowan, who said he thought “being a committed Christian meant following the teachings of Jesus, rather than standing at the pick-and-mix counter in a sweetshop, only choosing the fizzy snakes”.
And that’s what Mr Rees-Mogg was doing with his comment about food banks. He was happy to say how “uplifting” it was that they existed.
But he won’t talk about how “uplifting” it is for children to starve because food banks can’t help them and the government won’t. And that is why his defenders are wrong.
Charities have reacted angrily after the Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said the rapid increase in food banks showed a “rather uplifting” picture of a compassionate country.
Challenged by a caller to a radio phone-in about the rapid rise in food banks, Rees-Mogg argued on Thursday that they fulfilled a vital function. “I don’t think the state can do everything,” he said. “It tries to provide a base of welfare that should allow people to make ends meet during the course of the week, but on some occasions that will not work.
“And to have charitable support given by people voluntarily to support their fellow citizens, I think is rather uplifting and shows what a good, compassionate country we are.”
Garry Lemon, the head of media and external affairs at the Trussell Trust, Britain’s biggest food bank network, said: “We agree that the work of volunteers and voluntary organisations is uplifting, but food banks are an emergency service and whilst they do all they can to offer support to people in crisis they cannot solve structural problems alone.”
Chris Price, the executive director of Pecan, which runs the Trussell Trust-affiliated Southwark food bank in south London, said: “What he [Rees-Mogg] is saying is that it is great that people are in poverty and that we are here to help them. It is a very unchristian thing to say.”
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