Food bank debate – political point scoring and nothing changes.

ranty head
Yesterday MPs met in the house of commons to debate foodbanks, following a petition raised by Ms Jack Monroe.

Or did they?

Let’s read the actual motion.

That this House notes that the number of people using foodbanks provided by the Trussell Trust alone has increased from 41,000 in 2010 to more than 500,000 since April this year, of whom one third were children; further notes that over the last three years prices have risen faster than wages; further notes the assessment of the Trussell Trust that the key factors in the rising resort to foodbanks are rising living costs and stagnant wages, as well as problems including delays to social security payments and the impact of the under-occupancy penalty; calls on the Government to publish the results of research into foodbanks commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which Ministers promised would be made public in the summer of 2013; and further calls on the Government to bring forward measures to reduce dependency on foodbanks, including a freeze on energy prices, a water affordability scheme, measures to end abuses of zero hours contracts, incentives to companies to pay a living wage and abolition of the under-occupancy penalty.

Jack’s petition simply said:

Debate UK hunger and rise in foodbank use

That’s kind of different from that motion.

There’s no way that government MPs from either Conservative or Lib Dem are going to allow a motion through that calls for them to freeze energy prices, change employment legislation, bring in a living wage and abolish bedroom tax. Whatever you call it. So to some extent the debate is reduced to political point scoring as MPs reportedly giggle about the plebs fighting over reduced fruit and veg. (Check the hansard for poor people in Slough. Although there’s no note about giggling – that may be a twitter/media insert.)

What could we have debated? Could we have got the government to admit that increasing reliance on foodbanks in 2013 is disgraceful? It’s not big society for families to be relying on charity to feed their children. Particularly if many of those families are actually in work. Or when the charities pick and choose who is deserving. But as the government suppresseddelayed a report into food bank use, we don’t really know what is going on, and aren’t likely to any time soon.

Could we have discussed the tax system which allows companies to pretend they are making no money, and therefore pay no tax, while benefiting from a workforce subsidised by the tax payer? This even has MPs recommending an Amazon boycott, although quite frankly, the practice is so widespread that that seems a little pointless. (This article is on but interesting reading if you can fight your way past the adverts.) Perhaps we could have looked at whether the under occupancy subsidy (yes, bedroom tax) really does compare like with like in social and private renting (short answer: no) and what the actual purpose of it was (save money v free up blocked housing – clue it does neither)

All in all, I find this type of debate wearing. The two political extremes crash on undisturbed in their orthodoxies, people who are attending foodbanks don’t experience any change in their realities, and those of us in the middle froth ineffectively about the out of touch political class. We need a debate all right. We need a debate about why a group of politicians mainly indistinguishable from each other can potter on destroying people’s lives on a whim while doing nothing about the structural inequalities in society that keep people struggling to with decisions on whether to eat or heat. We need to work out whether minimum wage, living wage or basic income is the way to actually promote a fair society. (I’m tending more towards basic income daily.)

We need to discuss whether printing money and giving it to the banks is really the fairest way to boost the economy, or whether distributing it around the population might work a bit more effectively. And we need to discuss why we have basically no politicians who want to do any more than tinker around the edges while taking home their expenses that the rest of us have to pay out of salaries.

You know, I’m beginning to suspect Russell Brand is right. And it massively hurts me to say that. But perhaps voting for any of them does just let them crash on in the pretence they have a mandate when I don’t remember ever voting for any of this, and I’m not sure any of the rest of you do either. I’m heading towards writing “not in my name” on the next ballot paper I see, and at least then I’ll feel that they can’t even pretend they have my collusion.

What do you think?

About Jax Blunt

I'm the original user, Jax Blunt I've been blogging for ten years, give or take, and if you want to know me, read me :)


  1. I read a news article today which said that Tesco had to put extra security on when it comes to putting gout the discounted food.
    Claire Toplis recently posted…Days Come Days GoMy Profile

  2. I am increasingly impressed by Russell Brand. Never imagined that would be something I would ever utter, let alone admit to on the internet!

  3. I really do not recognise this version of the UK as the same country that I grew up in. Personally I support the basic income idea, in principle, as I do not believe that anyone should need food banks. How is change to happen? As you say the current political parties just shuffle the chairs around at each election and very little changes. Maybe you could start a new one?
    Looking for Blue Sky recently posted…Top 5 Personal Achievements of 2013My Profile

  4. Piers Tewfik says:

    The Tory party will call out and blame Labour for an ever increasing number of atrocities. however this large debut we suposidly have was born from when Gordon Brown bailied out the banks with taxpayers money,a notion which the Tory party supported **** its exactly what they would have done. So when the cypher of the deputy work and pensions minister once again reeled out the standard line once again why does no one say “ERM hang on a secound” if Labour could dispell this myth it would increase their chances of being elected and show the goverment for the evil collection of overprivalidged ********* they undoubtedly are. I wonder if the reason Labour arnt trying to defend themselves is because the miserey that is being heaped upon the British people is all part of the plan that they are all in it together, and the occasional odd towards socailisem is just a smokescreen and misderection to when they start whoreing themselves out to the electorate in 2015. The debate about food banks speaks volumes about the unbelievable contempt they have towards the poor in our once great britain, the very idea that they find fights over discount food something to chuckle about makes me sick to my very core, and that Ian Dunken Smith would not even hear the debate out shows a total lack of concern to the plight of the very people whose interest he is supposed to be working in. We must realise by now that the Government only care about you if you have a seven figure bank account if you do not then you are ******. Come the next general election you have a choice to you vote for the blue Tory party the yellow Torry party or the red Tory party real change is off the table and will continue to be this way until blood literally flows through our streets

    • I think that the concept that this is all stage managed behind the scenes is one that should be explored much more thoroughly. It certainly goes a long way to explaining why certain topics just don’t get discussed.

  5. There is so much to say though – I think when people hear about food banks they have a very different impression than reality. We collect regularly for our local food bank – almost everything donated is own brand / value stuff – sometimes those are decent, often they are poor immitations of something tasty / nutritious. You can’t just turn up to the food bank – one of a very limited number of “professionals” needs to spot that you are in dire need and refer you, or you need to go to one of those and ask. They check on financial details too, so there is no blagging an easy meal, if you’re at a food bank then you *really* need the help. But the help you get isn’t a luxury hamper of goodies – it’s basic food stuffs, and then only enough for a few days (think it’s 5 days?) and you are limited to the number of parcels you can be given in a 12 month period (think it’s 3.)
    This isn’t a lifestyle choice, or an easy option, this is literally stopping people going with out any food at all.
    I am certain, given the way they talk about it, that most MP’s have no idea at all about how desperate a state it is to be in.
    Have you also seen the stats about malnutrition hospital admissions rising dramatically? – doubling in the last five years? Surely symptomatic of the same things as food bank use.
    And lastly, the debate was really poorly attended, and so many of those that were there to start with sloped off . . .

    • I think people don’t want to think about it. I think politicians don’t want to accept the reality of this situation so they don’t listen, or snipe about trivialities or point score. And I think the general public can’t think about it because it’s too scary.

  6. I just can’t believe that the people who lead this country are so damn ignorant about the lives of the people who live in it.

    In the last few days I’ve really been reminded that most of us are only one or two steps away from the breadline with the news that a family from school are being made homeless tomorrow as their house is being repossessed. Two years ago they were the stereotypical family, then the dad lost his job, they split and now this. They will be put into emergency housing for Christmas with a food parcel from the Salvation Army.

    How has this happened? How is it allowed to happen?

  7. I fully hope and expect to see the next general election completely eradicate the Lib Dems as a political party- they have gone against all of their principles and stood by while all of this has happened on their watch and done nothing. The people that voted for them didn’t vote for this. The best you can say about the Tories is they have done what could have been expected of them in a worst case scenario but the Lib Dems? For shame.

  8. Got to agree with you.

    I got very caught up in the Twitter responses, partly from fury, and also helplessness. What the **** can we do? For me seeing how many other people are angry about the issue does at least give me a glimmer of hope that there’s growing awareness, particularly when even a couple of Conservative tweeters shared their disgust at the open mocking of politicians towards the poor, but ultimately our petitions are either ignored, brushed off, or co-opted. (And it pissed me off to see the constant “hard working people” vs “skivers” lie being pushed in many people’s comments, too. Hardly a mention of disabled people!)

    **** knows what we can actually DO, though. It’s not like demonstrations and protests get us any further – if they’re big enough they’re shut down by the police, and most of the people directly affected by these issues are too busy/poor/exhausted/disabled/vulnerable to protest.

    • I think we need to start thinking positively about group action. But yes, I agree that most of the people who need the changes are putting all of their energy into just surviving.

      ps do you like my new comment filter?

      • Yes, I agree re: group action, and the thoughts you posted on twitter – edible & transition towns, etc. I find it really hard to think positively about all this because I’m impatient and it feels like it takes so long for those thing to have an effect on a large scale, and because my local transition movement feels quite inaccessible to me due to depression & social anxiety problems; but ultimately they are the way forward. We certainly can’t rely on the asterisked up political system to do much good.

        • Yes, that is the drawback with collective action. The fact that it’s got to be done collectively. Difficult when you find people difficult, for whatever reason, and I find groups massively challenging. And no, the political system is definitely past its sell by date, just wish it would realise that and fade away.

  9. You are right to condemn point-scoring. On the one hand, the present government seem indifferent to the plight of the less well-off (and that’s being polite!) On the other, a different party* got us involved in highly expensive military action (in terms of money AND human life) questionable both as to validity and effectiveness. You cant use the same money twice. #fact (as we say on Twitter.) You may care to cross-refer to my short blog here:
    *One or two spoke out; their words were dismissed as misguided, or worse.

    • Isn’t there somewhere something about how if a person wants political power they shouldn’t be given it? I reckon we should sack the lot of them and come up with a representational system a bit like jury service.

  10. Paul Trembath says:

    There’s a little bit of jeering in the background about the reduced food section in Slough a little after 07:30 here:

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