Does anybody care that, according to Jeremy Hunt’s own projections, by 2026 his government will have made us all much worse-off than we were in 2019?
Gordon Brown does – apparently. But the reaction he received from some people when he wrote about it in The Guardian suggests that they think he’s responsible.
Maybe it’s true that his New Labour governments didn’t make the changes that were necessary after 18 years of Thatcher and Major-style neoliberalism, and paved the way for a further 15 years in which the Tories have been able to destroy what was left of the way of life that had made the United Kingdom worth inhabiting.
But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have anything worthwhile to say.
His factual points are all worth taking in because they contribute to a State of the Nation-style snapshot of what the UK is today. And it is horrifying:
271,000 homeless people
400,000 children who sleep without a bed of their own
14 million condemned to damp or substandard housing
7.5m UK households in fuel poverty
Food prices in the shops have risen 18% in a year, with many basic items shooting up by twice as much – baked beans up 35%, ketchup up 39%, tomato soup up 73%
9.7 million adults already skipping or cutting back on meals
Six in 10 adults unable to afford other basic essentials
A record 2.1 million people are using food banks
There are 14.4 million living in poverty, including 4.2 million children, the vast majority of whom are in families where the breadwinner is on low pay
As Brown put it at the top of his piece,
Poverty will last until doomsday if this Conservative government is all that confronts it.
The so-called “budget for growth” [is] more accurately titled the “budget for growth in poverty”
The point of his piece was that cleanliness is the next thing the Tories have rationed, with hygiene poverty leading to the rise of so-called “beauty banks” to run alongside the already-infamous food banks.
He was calling on retailers and manufacturing companies to offer up surplus goods and to consider special production-line runs of unbranded toiletries to ease the crisis.
But this is just – as current Labour leader Keir Starmer would put it – “sticking-plaster politics”. It’s putting a plaster over the wound but not healing it.
Businesses can certainly do much more to ease the crisis that the Conservatives have deliberately created to distract the young and the poor from their strategy to divert public funds into the hands of the old and the rich.
They can provide better pay and conditions, and opportunities for career growth that make it worthwhile. These tactics will reap huge rewards for them as, freed from the stress of poor health due to bad nutrition and harmful work practices, and unburdened by the mental ill-health caused by continually having to find ways to make ends meet, employees’ productivity will soar.
That is the best way out of the hole Hunt has dug for us. Indeed, it is the only way, as his government is absolutely determined not to help.
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