The New Victorians: tinned tuna and Tory grandees

FIND A BETTER WAY: some people on benefits receive less than the weekly amount reserved for an MP’s breakfast allowance (Photo: Craig Maclean)

by Sandra Webster • At our branch last night, we had a discussion about Dickens and his reasons for writing A Christmas Carol. This book was written just at the time Queen Victoria’s marriage to Albert changed our narrative of the festive season.

One comrade reminded us of how Dickens as a child and his family were forced into a debtor’s prison. He thought ironically that it was written in the hope that such inequalities would not exist today. How shocked Dickens would be about the ever-growing inequalities still faced by many.

There are so many reports about Universal Credit (UC) and its impact—like the father who has received no money for weeks, selling his possessions and admitting he was considering illegal acts to get his son a gift.

After all it is ingrained into us that Santa only visits good children. This ten-year-old’s only crime was to be born to poor parents.

Recently, social media was awash by many Tory MPs urging us to give to food banks—’Merry Christmas and a cheap tin of soup to you, while I get my photo taken and commend the Trussell Trust.’

Why then vote for such a heinous, evil system? The Voice reported on UC from its very beginnings, and the links between the Tory party and the Trussell Trust making money out of poverty.

Many people think food banks have always been here—in reality, they opened their doors about ten years ago in the UK.

We may have read about soup kitchens in the 1930s—go to Paisley on a Friday night nowadays, and you can see a queue of people, including children, waiting for food. Food banks have become part of our landscape.

This is another move towards the Americanisation of entitlements; a move towards food stamps. The narrative continues that the poor cannot be trusted; they are not deserving. Let them eat tins of tuna.

Many people currently claiming UC will not receive any payment until after Christmas. It was reported yesterday that people “transitioning” will not receive the meagre £10 Xmas bonus that some people receive.

People on income support receive less than the weekly amount reserved for an MP’s breakfast allowance. Fine speeches are easy without the worry of providing food and heating; basic human rights and needs.

Amber Rudd, the sixth minister to hold the ‘poisoned chalice’ of entitlement reform, said she had seen UC transform lives.

Perhaps her reading material for the holiday period should be that of the United Nations Inspector Alston, who described the impact of benefit reforms on real people, while condemning ministers about being in denial of UC’s effects.

This is happening in one of the richest countries in the world. He fears Brexit will accelerate the process. Remember, this is not about saving money but ideology; a Thatcherite project, long in its creation. It is not completed yet but will impact on those who need the most support.

My wish for next year is that unions and those in receipt of UC work together to put an end to UC.

The SSP have a crucial role in this; to be active in our neighbourhoods, to show there is a different better way which starts with a more equal society. A kinder, fairer place where wealth is distributed.

I know you too dream of a place where the poverty we are facing is resigned to the history books. This is a war that must never happen again, and we have the tenacity to demand real change.

The next few days may be days that shake parliament—we must demand and be leaders of change. The Voice has reported on these measures since the epiphany of Iain Duncan Smith on the road to Easterhouse.

There is more we must do in the New Year, and I urge you comrades to ask for information, give training and tell your stories. Your voices must be heard.

I finish on wishing you a peaceful holiday and ask you to prepare for the coming storm. Take care!

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