Flowers and cards from the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and his staff left near a Westminster tube station exit [Image: Isabel Togoh/PA].

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has left a moving tribute to a homeless man who died outside Westminster Underground station, close to the Houses of Parliament.

Mr Corbyn and his team are said to have been on good terms with the man, having regularly brought him hot food from the Portcullis House canteen. He was said to have had an “engaging personality in tragic circumstances”.

After learning of the death, a Labour spokesperson pointed out that MPs who walked past the man every day should have been working to make him safe – and didn’t bother: “He died outside the very building that should have saved him. We are heartbroken.”

Mr Corbyn himself left a floral tribute and a card at the place where the man died. The card read: “This should never have happened. As a country we must stop walking by. Rest in peace.”

The contrast between attitudes could not have been made clearer than by the fact that Windsor and Maidenhead Council was considering measures to fine rough sleepers, charging them amounts they would never be able to pay for cluttering up the streets of the Tory-run borough.

The Tory council in Windsor and Maidenhead was set to consider the plan at its February meeting – but it has now been withdrawn on the request of council leader Simon Dudley, who first called on police to use the Vagrancy Act to clear rough sleepers off the streets.

According to The Guardian, a statement said: “The leader of the council, following feedback from stakeholders, the public and elected members, in discussion with lead members has requested the paper titled Rough Sleepers Support and Anti-social Behaviour Strategy is withdrawn from February cabinet to allow further work.

“The further work will result in two papers to March cabinet to ensure there is no conflation of the council’s separate objectives of supporting rough sleepers and refreshing the approach to tackling anti-social behaviour.”

It is hard to tell whether the decision to withdraw the punitive plan against rough sleepers followed or preceded the death in Westminster.

It certainly seems unlikely that the Conservative Party would want the bad publicity associated with the passing of such draconian measures shortly after such a high-profile death.

But the issue still remains.

Rough sleeping in England has increased for seven consecutive years, with official figures showing 4,751 people slept outside overnight in 2017.

The number of children in England stuck in hostels and other temporary accommodation has risen to more than 120,000, according to government figures.

The Conservatives claim to have a plan to cut these figures – but This Writer has commented previously that they seem to be relying on exactly what happened in Westminster: Rough sleepers dying out.

They seem to think that they don’t have any responsibility for the situation, even though their policies have clearly caused it. And their only solution is to punish their victims still further.

It has been proved that providing homes for the homeless is cheaper than leaving them on the streets – and preventing homelessness in the first place is the cheapest option of all.

So we have to ask why the Tories insist on causing the situation in the first place.

Conscious cruelty?


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