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Chris Skidmore: He once said austerity wasn’t so bad because people weren’t dying in the streets. Now they are, and he is conspicuous by his silence.

The Conservative Party’s vice-chairman responsible for policy once said his party’s austerity cuts were not as bad as had been claimed because people were not “lying dead in the streets”. Now that people his party forced onto the streets have started to die, what does Chris Skidmore have to say?

Mr Skidmore, co-author of the Tory screed Britannia Unchained, which infamously claimed that British people were among the “worst idlers in the world”, has been challenged over his claim after the death of homeless Gyula Remes, who had been sleeping rough on the street just metres outside the Houses of Parliament. Mr Remes was a kitchen assistant at Charing Cross Station but was still forced to sleep rough.

He is the MP for Kingswood, which borders Bristol where a survey to count the number of dead homeless people is currently being carried out.

It is a good question, and one that should be put to Mr Skidmore at once. We need to hear his answer – especially as he is now responsible for Conservative Party policy. As Tory policies on homelessness have failed, how does he propose to prevent any more deaths?

That question was put to Housing Secretary James Brokenshire by Shadow Housing Minister Melanie Onn before Parliament went into recess for the Christmas period:

Mr Brokenshire passed the buck, saying it was the responsibility of Westminster City Council to see that “lessons are learned and applied”. We’ve all heard that line about lessons being learned before, of course.

He did say that Office of National Statistics figures show 597 homeless people died in 2017 – an increase on the previous figure of 449. While Mr Brokenshire said his government was “focused and resolute in our commitment to make rough sleeping a thing of the past”, the facts show that it isn’t doing enough.

Meanwhile, Sky News editor-at-large Adam Boulton seems to think he has the answer to the problem of people dying outside Parliament: Move them on.

Out of sight, out of mind, is it? Charming.

Oh, and while people are dying on the streets in the fifth-richest country on the planet, its prime minister has been visiting an exclusive shop where a handbag could cost more than many houses.

So much for “compassionate Conservatism” on her watch!

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