Rage against the machine: homelessness, hunger and the message of Christmas

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Yesterday in Parliament, I spoke in two debates: one on homelessness and one on food banks.

In the first debate, I began

It is a thorough and utter disgrace that anyone should be homeless in the 21st century in our country. It makes me wonder whether the welfare state safety net has any meaning whatever when people are out there, dying on our streets—and I do mean dying on our streets, because on Christmas day in 2006, Josie Razzell died in the stairwell of Easton Street car park in High Wycombe. She died of exposure. As a result, the Churches in High Wycombe came together in a story similar to that told by my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr Sanders). They were determined to ensure that never again would anyone die of exposure on our streets.

Read the short speech in full here. Later, I spoke in the debate on food banks:

The quality and quantity of welfare produced by the state has not been good enough for a very long time. It is astonishing and shaming that the welfare state can tax and spend so much, and yet leave people hungry. Some 12,000 children in Buckinghamshire live in income poverty, and one in five children in Wycombe go to bed hungry—that increases to one in three in some parts of my constituency. It is a scandalous indictment of the safety net that is the welfare state that this happens. But I am proud of the One Can Trust, run by Sarah Mordaunt, Kate Vale and more than 100 volunteers in Wycombe, which steps in with emergency food when the state fails.

The rest of that contribution is here.

For a long time, I believed it was enough to vote Conservative and get on with making a living and a life. I saw the scale of taxation, state spending and politicians’ promises and believed the welfare state was working. Too often it fails those most in need. It did when I was a child, it does now and it always will.

Even as the welfare state falls short, we cannot afford it. Already welfare states across the developed world have resorted to direct money creation – quantitative easing – to suppress interest rates so they can keep borrowing. It is wrong, it is counterproductive and it cannot go on forever.

The state may be populated like every other human endeavour by both virtuous and flawed, compassionate and indifferent individuals but it is in the end an instrument of power constrained by rule following. As I indicated in the first speech, there is another way. It is the unwanted solution, the one which is seized when all else fails. It is founded on love for neighbour and, often, love for God.

This Christmas, I hope many more people will hear the message which goes beyond the story of the birth of Christ and sets out the narrow road to real life. Both debates showed how much it is needed.

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Comments & Responses

2 Responses so far.

  1. Carol Wotherspoon says:

    Brilliant contributions – I thank God for you……be blessed

  2. Steve,

    Both contributions are excellent (though I do not share your faith in a God), and your understanding of the root causes is sound.

    I would say that there is another, crucial factor that needs to be addressed if the cost of living is not to continue spiralling out of control—and that is energy price.

    For nearly 20 years now, it has been the policy of each successive government to make energy more expensive, to appease the shibboleth of “global warming” or, latterly, “climate change”.

    The entire world economy operates on generated energy: as such, every rise in the price of energy increases the price of every single thing that we buy.

    Domestically, 80% of our trade and commerce is internal, and no government has been quite as assiduous as the UK in forcing up energy prices—indeed, this government has pledged to accelerate this trend. As such, it can come as little surprise to any Parliament (or MP) that everything has become more and more expensive.

    If you want to make people better off—and, indeed, take the sting out of Red Ed’s mantra about the “cost of living crisis”—then you and your fellow Tories need to reclaim energy policy from the LibDems, and start to dismantle the absurd tax and subsidy schemes that are driving people into poverty.



    P.S. Then you can move onto the problem of trying to keep the lights on.