Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

British left vulnerable to hunger after welfare reforms, warns Justin Welby

Initially I read the above Guardian headline as referring to the “British Left” being vulnerable before realising that it was about something far more serious – or something that should be more serious.

Archbishop of Canterbury claims benefit sanctions and bureaucratic delays in welfare mean government is partly to blame for ‘tragedy’ of hunger.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned that government policies on poverty and welfare reform have left too many people in Britain unable to feed their families. …

Welby also urged a widening of the political debate around welfare away from the pillorying of people dependent on benefits to one which recognised the value of social security as an expression of a national belief that “we are one people with care for all”.
The Guardian, 10 December 2015 : British left vulnerable to hunger after welfare reforms, warns Justin Welby

It is serious, but “Archbishop warns about poverty” is hardly news – is it?

What we have to ask is why is this situation not just a constant but actually getting more severe?

There are food banks in most towns – even comfortable market towns. As the state pulls out – closing Inland Revenue Offices, closing A&Es, abolishing District Councils, the charity shops and food banks have moved in.

So Why? Why do we see this situation?

We have – unfortunately in my view – voted consistently for an Americanisation of our society – stressing independent self-reliance over community and social insurance. Either, we have voted for a brand of Conservatism very different from that of the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s, or we have voted for a brand of Labour that apes the Conservatives in so many aspects. The Coalition government waged a “language battle” on those the Conservatives now seek to persecute – clever raw politics, done “in our name”.

We might ask “why” again. Why have we voted in this way?

Some, including myself, might try and dispute whether we really have voted for the wretched governments that we have endured for at least the last 30 years – which in the name of reform have wrecked so much of the society that we knew but put little other than income inequality in its place.

It’s true that only 24% voted for the current shower (an inadequate term for a government that is part vicious, part uncaring, and part incompetent) but we show no signs of wanting to change the system that creates this situation.

Reform of the voting system could address this lack of mandate issue – but the right reform might also address the paucity of choice that most of us have.

We need the electorate to genuinely elect MPs (i.e. have a genuine choice from a range of candidates reflecting the diversity of views in that constituency) we need voting reform:

  1. Transferable voting to remove the fear of split votes and allow parties to permit contrasting candidates to stand – and effectively abolishing all the noise and aggro over de/re-selection – it becomes a non-issue. (Additional benefit: MPs will look to their electorate and not their selection committees for support.)
  2. Multi-member constituencies (combined with transferable voting) meaning that a constituency will elect MPs who will represent the diversity of views in that constituency. (Additional benefit: perhaps the majority of us will identify politically with at least one of our representatives.)

Perhaps if we had a genuine choice – and votes that actually counted – we might find a greater diversity of candidates and could vote for something other than Quick-Americanisation or Creeping-Americanisation. Then we might find that our parliament (!) actually supports the idea of social solidarity and we may again find “we are one people with care for all”.

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One thought on “British left vulnerable to hunger after welfare reforms, warns Justin Welby

  1. Pingback: Yet another faction | Outside the marginals

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