After a Christmas/holy-bastard-where-have-all-the-hours- gone hiatus, during which we have seen the death of Nelson Mandela, storms battering the living fuck out of bits of Britain, dead bodies popping up left right and centre and the continued absence of Iain Duncan Smiths smug, empathy-less and eminently punchable fucking head on a spike outside Westminster, I am back in the saddle and ready to expletive my way through 2014.
Christmas this year reminded me a bit of Comic Relief. Not in that my mum rocked up in a spangly jacket and made Thatcher jokes, but in that it showed us that we have every reason to be joyful in our lives, whilst simultaneously making sure that there is always room to acknowledge that the world can be a shitty, hate-filled and unreasonable place. Christmas encouraged us to put aside time for understated solemnity that acknowledges that while we scoff our turkey, moan about terrible Christmas jumpers and spend time with people we love, there are others in the world that aren’t so fortunate.
Years ago this pause for thought was exclusively reserved for ‘The Starving in Africa’, ‘The Lonely’, ‘The Elderly’. Today our pauses can quite easily turn into a couple of hours as we factor in an additional 500,000 people to think about. These are the regular users of Food Banks who didn’t fill up their trollies with inexplicable dates and bumper packs of smoked salmon. People who are living so close to a financial knife edge that they don’t eat so their children can.
Five Hundred Thousand people who were not using Foodbanks last year.
That alone is an overwhelming statistic. So please feel free to break out into a cold sweat and lie in a darkened room. You might also want to take a quick slug on a bottle of Rescue Remedy if you didn’t know that the Red Cross is distributing food aid in the UK. It’s nice that you give enough of a shit for this to shock you. I give a shit too. In fact, 150,000 people gave enough of a shit to sign a petition asking for this appalling state of affairs to be debated in parliament. And it happened! Power to the People!
Or not, as it turned out.
Be warned…from this point onwards my little peanut head might start whizzing around 360 degrees and wailing like the flashing light on top of the Police Squad! car. I literally struggle to get the words from my brain to the keyboard.
Slough MP Fiona McTaggart spoke about her constituency. She was expressing concern that the local branch of Tesco has increased its security to tackle the fights that are breaking out over discounted food. People are literally fighting for cheap fruit and vegetables. Fighting. Having to be pulled apart. Physically hurting each other in order to buy cheap produce. Regularly. In Slough. Stomachs aching with hunger while traditionally the smell of chocolate hangs heavy in the air from the local Mars Factory.
I hope at this point you are feeling pretty shitty about the big slab of cheese and biscuits you polished off during Sherlock. I know I am. That makes you inherently a kind person. And you’ll probably now be making a mental note of everything you have in your cupboards that you can reasonably donate to your local foodbank. Or you’re wondering if you really need that tenner nestling in your pocket. That’s good. That’s human kindness. There’s a lot of it about…but it scares the living shit out of me how little of it actually exists in government.
No-one could have predicted the MPs responses to Fiona’s statement. A statement that was damning on so many levels – these people were fighting to buy food. This wasn’t a clamour for a freebie or the argy bargy of mummies elbowing each other for the best discounts during the Next Sale. This is hunger and protecting your family. Two of the most basic human instincts.
The elected Members of Parliament, sat in the chamber, received this information and laughed.
They also jeered. Some of them couldn’t even be arsed to continue with the debate and walked out.
This all happened in December, which in the speedy world of That Internet basically means that it feels like it happened sometime in 1564, but it’s plagued my mind that no-one has taken these indisputable cunts to task. Like the most despicable playground bully, they laughed at people for no other reason than they need help. And then, only yesterday I watched Fergus and Judith Wilson justifying their decision to evict nearly 200 tenants because they are on benefits, stripping people of their homes because, for whatever reason, they need help. Universal Credit is insistently rolling out despite the spiralling cost of implementation and the fact that every fucking person in the known universe thinks it’s a shit idea. Which leads me neatly back to Iain Duncan Smith, who brazenly strolled out of the Foodbanks debate, despite being the bastard responsible for creating it.
A man who spends tax payer’s money delivering something that we neither want nor need. His absolute disdain for everyone except the wealthy, though utterly repugnant, is actually nothing less than we have come to expect from a man married to a barons daughter and who owns several properties. All the voodoo dolls in the world won’t change that (although it won’t stop me from trying and neither should you). I have a mental image of IDS sat on his sofa in the eighties watching Lenny Henry et al stoically, only rousing to shout “SCROUNGERS!” at the telly when he watched the montages of dying children. What should ultimately put the fear of god into everyone (government included), however, is that many many people in the UK are only two missed mortgage payments away from disaster and Iain Duncan Smith and his colleagues feel that it’s completely acceptable to unashamedly whistle and stroll away like nothing is wrong.