The Tories’ hunger games

16 January 2014

Last night I went to hear Chris Mould of the Trussell Trust speak at my local church. The scene appeared to confirm every myth Tories tell about themselves.

Though it does not make a great noise about it, the Trust represents the Anglican conscience at its active best. On their own, without state support or any of those nanny bureaucracies the right so deplores, the churches have organised more than 400 distribution centres to provide emergency food aid to desperate people. The men and women, who check that clients are truly in need, and hand out food, nappies and sanitary towels, are volunteers, motivated by a concern for others rather than money or recognition. They are a social service as well as the last line of defence against hunger. They try to sort out their clients’ problems with landlords or the Department of Work and Pensions, whose minions appear to view the arbitrary treatment of the needy as a useful way of keeping down costs. The public donates virtually all the emergency supplies- an act of spontaneous generosity that deserves more recognition. Think about it. Hundreds of thousands of people have responded to the social crisis Channel 4 will not report by freely giving at collection points at schools and supermarkets. On two days in July, shoppers were inspired by an appeal by Tesco – which is not the monster of anti-corporate fantasy – to donate 3.5 million meals.

Without wishing to descend into hyperbole, we are witnessing a vast movement of charitable giving from below, which in my more mellow moments can make me rather proud to be British.

The Right ought to be delighted at the mobilisation of Burke’s “ little platoons”. But Iain Duncan Smith hates them. As I wrote in the Observer at Christmas, Mould wrote to

…Duncan Smith asking if they could discuss cheap ways of reducing hunger: speeding up appeals against benefit cuts; or stopping the endemic little Hitlerism in job centres, which results in unjust punishments for trivial transgressions. In other words, a Christian charity, which was turning the “big society” from waffle into a practical reality, was making a civil request. Duncan Smith responded with abuse. The charity’s claims to be “non-partisan” were a sham, he said. The Trussell Trust was filled with “scaremongering” media whores, desperate to keep their names in the papers. But he had their measure.

Oh, yes. “I understand that a feature of your business model must require you to continuously achieve publicity, but I’m concerned that you are now seeking to do this by making your political opposition to welfare reform overtly clear.”


It’s got worse since then. Mould had a call from the Daily Mail saying that DWP spin-doctors were telling journalists the Trust had fired him for annoying Duncan Smith. Mould hasn’t been fired, and the Mail didn’t run the story. But the fact remains Duncan Smith’s “people” now regard the best of small “c” conservative England as enemies who must be smeared.

Meanwhile Duncan Smith has not repudiated an extraordinary statement by his junior minister Lord Freud – one of those Widmerpoolian figures, who achieve power by their sheer insistence on promotion – that food banks were run off their feet simply because ‘there is an almost infinite demand for a free good.’

For the record, you cannot get a food parcel unless a police officer, social worker or Citizens Advice Bureau says you are in desperate need. For the record again, a survey for Netmums of 2000 mothers found, 1 in 5 regularly go without meals to feed their children, 16% are being treated for stress-related illnesses and one third are borrowing money from friends and family to stay afloat. Teachers have reported that thousands of children are going to school hungry, exhausted and poorly clothed. A study by Tesco estimated that one in five people was going hungry.

I could go on, but why don’t you judge for yourself and volunteer to work in your local food bank, and see if you meet Freud’s frauds.

The low reasons for Duncan Smith’s behaviour are obvious enough. He is a minister whose career is on the line after his incompetent handling of IT projects. If he were to admit that there was widespread hunger in Britain because of the incompetent behaviour of his staff , he would be toast. Not all Tory MPs are the same. Conservative Home published an interesting piece the other day saying that many many know well how bad life is getting in their constituencies, and wanted Duncan Smith to stop treating charitable Christians as enemies. That said, there is an element in the right, in the media as well as the Conservative Party, which cannot bring itself to admit that poverty exists, or accept that the needy are anything more than scroungers.

Mould told me he had agonised about whether the Trussell Trust’s charitable work let the state off the hook. His admirable answer to the old problem was that you must help the despairing while campaigning for reform. But he still has doubts. The worst moment came when the director of one think tank told Mould he had saved Duncan Smith’s hide. If the Trussell Trust had done nothing, he said, the visible poverty in Britain would have been too great for even this hard country to bear. Cameron would have had to have fired Duncan Smith.

Look now at how Duncan Smith repays the Trussell Trust’s favour. Truly in the Work and Pension Secretary’s world, no good deed can go unpunished.

PS: Isabel Hardman reports in this week’s Spectator that Duncan Smith plans to relaunch himself as a “compassionate conservative”. Well that should be a laugh.

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  • GentlemanPugilist

    I live in a constituency that was described as one of the most impoverished in the UK during the last decade. Less than a mile from my home is an area in which a man’s life expectancy was said to be lower than an Iraqi’s! Around 40% of people are reported to live on benefits here.

    What amazes me is how most people seem to smoke, and how drunkenness and drugs are locally, and correctly, in my opinion, perceived to problems when people are unable to afford to eat? A single Jobseeker’s Allowance claimant receives, an admittedly paltry, £71.70 per week to live off. However they also have their rent paid, receive Council Tax Benefit, free prescriptions and if they have children they also get Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Child benefit. I know of somebody who receives more than £800 per month in CTC, having five children. If one cooks from scratch, or shops carefully, it is possible for an individual to eat healthily on as little as £25.00 for food – quite easily if you buy large bags of rice, onions, porridge and make use of frozen veg and meat.

    Yes people are now being sanctioned, but those I know who’re subject to one have lived off ‘the brew’ their whole lives and have never had any intention of looking for work. They expect to be able to idle around, and been furnished with life’s necessities courtesy of the taxpayer. They also make nuisances of themselves and many are habitual criminals.

    I’m not a Tory. I work full time and live on a low income, despite being a graduate, I cannot afford a car, and haven’t had a foreign holiday for five years. I also go out drinking about once a month. Believe me, I know how hard things are. But I object to paying taxes to fund people who have no interest in working, and often menace and annoy those who live nearby with their anti-social – sometimes violent behaviour – the welfare state is supposed to be a safety net, and not a lifestyle choice. Believe me, if my area is anything to go by Benefits Street is nothing unusual.

  • RedMiner

    Iain Duncan Smith is the greatest calamity to afflict the poor in Britain for decades, perhaps centuries. I see his victims every day, good people, hard working people until the incompetence of the last administration saw them cast into a job’s market where they must compete with agencies recruiting cheap labour direct from the continent without advertising in Britain. Now IDS and his media represents them with the small number of low life toerags who have always existed and always will – these are now presented as typical of Britain’s working class. Any distortion, any lie is now permitted to excuse the grotesque poverty gripping parts of Britain to the extent the Red Cross was distributing food parcels over Christmas for the first time since the second world war. Everyday, people of all political persuasions come together to try to ameliorate the worst effects of this incompetent, toxic oaf.

    What a disgrace. And what is Iain Duncan Smith’s response: to humiliate and denounce anyone who dares challenge his sociopathic self-belief. A young woman who went to court to have sanctions declared unlawful was roundly trashed by a powerful minister, who dismissed anyone who expects a wage for working as some kind of pernicious idler – that will be most of the population then.

    Now he badmouths the Trussell Trust, which has connections to the Conservative Party itself, retreating ever further into his fantastical DWP bunker as good people everywhere cope with the fallout of putting such an inadequate man in charge of such important tasks.


    • David Lizewski

      I’m one of those low lifes pal, come and say this tom my face…

  • alabenn

    Some charity boss said the food banks were feeding 5 million people, this the latest stick to beat the government with is nonsense, if this were anywhere near the truth it would be one of the biggest industries in the country, it would have its own transport network, it would have huge distribution centres in the middle of towns and cities with branches in villages through out the land, the car parking would be a major problem and that would just be for staff
    Even one tenth of that would be a considerable industry.
    If there was a distribution centre for free ice skates in the desert some people would take up the offer.

    • David Lizewski

      It’s the only industry that has grown under the tory scum.

  • Cymrugel

    I interviewed IDL the day after the Tories got their backsides kicked as labour romped back into power.
    He was addressing a meeting of the Tory women of York – a formidable group of highly intelligent women and not people to be messed with.
    The silly man arrived an hour late. Sat down and languidly crossed his legs and answered questions with a look of bored condescension on his face until finally they lost patience and ripped him a new one.
    The man is a fool, lazy and none too bright,.
    He is unfit for ministerial responsibility of nay kind and in my view probably unsuitable to be an MP at all.
    He is completely disengaged with the reality of people’s lives.

  • Raw England

    That generous and kind spirit, Nick, is, US, the native English people trying to help each other as our precious island is destroyed by totalitarian Leftist politicians and immigrants, by which I mean all non whites (you fit in somewhere in that spectrum).


  • Jane Young

    This Government is so cloth-eared that even something in the Spectator won’t touch them, because they choose not to see the truth. I’m not saying other Governments are better, but I think it’s a long time since we had a Government determined to deny something as worrying as the levels of absolute poverty we’re seeing in the UK today. If the Tories are elected in 2015 I truly fear for our country – but none of the mainstream TV stations will report any of this at all, so those who don’t experience the poverty and hardship will be unaware of its existence.

    • notme3

      Absolute poverty was abolished decades ago. This isnt about poverty. Its about people not being able to cope with change in their lives. This can be improved by making it a simpler and quicker system for people to slip in and out of welfare and work.

      It isnt people on welfare who need their help, its rare they are short a few fat cells, its people who are finding themselves unexpectedly without any income for two weeks.

      • GentlemanPugilist

        Absolutely. Many benefits recipients are inclined to squander their payments in the first few days and then be forced to survive off a few pounds. At one time it was easy to get a Crisis Loan, which they’d pay back at a few pounds a week, but that has now been stopped.

        The fact is I have to budget in order to make ends meet, and those on welfare should have to do so too. The state has to stop nannying people.

  • ProperDave

    I live in a northern town that’s been an unemployment blackspot since at least the 70s. I know people who are constantly skint, and are always going on about the loans they’ve taken out, or their status with regards to the DSS, or the latest special offer at Asda, or what they managed to pick up in Poundland. For work reasons I’ve also lived in Woolwich and Barking, both of which have large immigrant communities, in the past few years. Oddly, I have never heard anyone – not a Facebook friend, real-life acquaintance or unemployed member of the family – mention food banks. So either I’m moving in the wrong circles and oblivious to this particular social phenomenon, or it’s a weird Guardianista obsession that’s never going to play on the doorstep.

    • ollieclark

      As I understand it, people are usually very embarrassed about having to use a food bank and are unlikely to tell anyone about it.

      • alabenn

        So these are so secret no one knows where they are or how to contact them.
        If so how are they busy, the idea that the police and social services forward the names to food banks is improbable as no one hardly ever comes across these services.

    • Matthew Blott

      “I’m moving in the wrong circles and oblivious to this pressing social phenomenon.”

      Sounds about right mate.

  • Shorne

    It’s at times like this I find myself wishing I could believe what is written in the Bible is what will happen;

    41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

    42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

    43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

    44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

    45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

    46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

    Matthew 25

    • notme3

      The Church only asked for 10%, the government is currently getting close to 40%.

  • Dada

    If only you knew how food bank vouchers actually operate. Some NHS workers who are supposed to be handing them out are using them for themselves. They are not controlled or audited: it is a bit like if bank did not control it’s cash machines – soon the workers in the banks would help themselves.

    Trussell are self serving rentiers who are of course propagating their own agenda and a bit like Hezbollah in that respect. Beware also Colin Mould Ltd – Trussell pay him money but it is not clear for what.

    • monty61

      Maybe you should look up the meaning of the word Rentier. Then edit this pile of pish. Hezbollah? What on earth are you smoking?

    • ollieclark

      If you know of NHS workers defrauding the Trussel Trust it’s really your moral obligation to report them.

    • Mark Scott

      You are Ian Duncan Smith and I claim my food bank voucher.

  • Anita Bellows

    The government could dispel any untruths, myths about foodbanks by publishing the report DEFRA commissioned. But this report has been sleeping on the shelves since June. I wonder why?

  • Mr Kendal Mint Cake

    To suggest there is poverty in the UK is insane; yes there’s poverty of ambition, poverty of morality, but to suggest people are starving is just plain nonsense. We are the fattest nation in Europe, how can this equate to people starving? Real poverty is in the slums of India and Bangladesh, not in the squalor that many choose to live in in the UK.

    • Chris

      You seem to be under the impression that everyone in the country is the same person. And that person has money.

      The existence of rich people and poor people aren’t mutually exclusive. Just because someone’s doing alright, doesn’t mean someone else isn’t homeless without a penny to their name.

      Is this a joke? Have I just been trolled?

    • Liam Rees

      People don’t choose to live in poverty and squalor. That is such an ignorant comment to make. People get thrown out of their homes or jobs, are rejected housing by the council and are forced to live on the street with no income. No income, no home, you need a home address to apply for work and JobCenter and any other means of getting help tend to ignore the homeless. You can donate to helping people in poverty abroad but there are still people starving here whether you deny it or not. “Charity starts in the home”.

      • notme3

        no one is forced to live on the street, unless they have either ignored help offered to them, or abused it.. What rubbish.

      • GentlemanPugilist

        Just wait outside any pharmacy in the Glasgow’s East End at around 9.30 am. There’s always a huddle of people waiting for their Methadone. Walk the local high streets and count the bookies, off licenses, pubs and kebab shops. 40% in my area are on benefits. They spend their money on the wrong things: it’s a lifestyle choice.

    • gladiolys

      Does anyone really choose to live in squalor?

      • Fergus Pickering

        Many people make the place they live in extremely squalid through sheer bone-idleness.. So I suppose they are choosing to live in squalor.

      • GentlemanPugilist

        The pavements here are awash with litter and dog faeces. It’s vile. I imagine their homes aren’t especially clean.

    • monty61

      ‘We are the fattest nation in Europe, how can this equate to people starving?’ How naive. It’s the epidemic of cheap, nutrition-free rubbish food, loaded with processed junk, sugars, damaged fats – often the only food the poor have the money or the skills to get hold of – that causes the obesity in the first place.

      But that aside, the point here is that there are many people with no cash reserves, who can be tipped by events such as a delayed benefit payment into near starvation. Didn’t you read the article?

      All this while successive Governments sold off social housing and now subsidise private landlords directly from taxation (or worse, borrowing) via housing benefit to the tune of £40bn a year. It’s enough to make you weep.

      • notme3

        if you have little food, eating food high in fats is the best thing to do. The reality though is something different. Lazy fat people on benefits eating junk food because they are unable to fit a cooked meal within their diet.

        Contrary to the myth. Buy your fresh fruit and veg from aldi/lidl and it will end up far cheaper than that pizza you just ordered to stuff into your ugly fat face along with those of your ugly fat children.

        • monty61

          You clearly know nothing about fats.

          Yes, nice middle class kids brought up on fruit and veg and omega3 rich fish enjoy it, look forward to it, and most importantly know what to do with it. Poor people brought up on a poor diet don’t have a clue, they didn’t get it at home and they certainly didn’t learn about it at school.These things are inter-generational. Cheap, comfort food is what they know and it’s what they eat. When you have a future to live for, then you take care of yourself. If you can’t see one, why should you bother? I’m all for personal responsibility but there are limits of what can be expected. (This is why a degree of regulation – ‘nudges’ in the current jargon – can be beneficial).

          Why is it the more rabid nutters on this forum and others have no compassion or understanding that not everything can be reduced to such simplistic fallacies? It’s getting more and more like America every day where every socialist or is ‘evil’ (as opposed to someone they disagree with who has a different perspective), everyone on benefits is ‘lazy’, and greed is not just good but compulsory.

          The converse of the American dream – which promises success for hard work – is that failure is always and everywhere seen as personal rather than (in many cases) almost predestined due to poverty and circumstance of birth. As a conservative realist – as opposed to a blinkered, dogma-enslaved idiot – I get very annoyed by this kind of simple-minded nonsense.

          • notme3

            You are quite wrong. I was brought up on a council estate in the 80s, we had a ‘veg van’ come round and deliver fresh fruit and veg every week. Most of our meals were home cooked. In the first ten years of my life i cant remember us going out for a meal more than once or twice.
            Dont excuse lazyness. It takes very little to learn how to cook.
            A saying i remember from my mum’s friend, that there would never be an occasion that she wouldnt put food on her childrens plate.

            “If you have a bag of potatoes and eggs, you can always have a meal ready”

            I have *no* sympathy. None, zilch. It isnt inter generational, the capacity to over indulge on comfort foods is a symptom of growing prosperity amongst those at the bottom, not poverty.

      • David Lizewski

        Most of those fatties are middle incomers, thats how.

    • Raw England

      You’re a non white (AKA non English), I presume.

    • Cymrugel

      This is nonsense.
      It is specious to talk of there being no poverty in the UK because its not as bad as India or Bangladesh. If we wait till things get that bad we will have failed as a society.
      No-one should be going hungry or without basic shelter, education and medical care in 21st century Britain.
      the current situation is a national scandal that should shame everyone in the UK, regardless of political persuasion.

      • GentlemanPugilist

        One of the consequences of globalism will be that our economies will adjust until they’re in equilibrium. Whilst the average Indian and Chinese person’s lifestyle’s will improve, our living standards will decline. Current standards are maintained through debt. It cannot continue indefinitely.

  • Hugh

    “It’s got worse since then. Mould had a call from the Daily Mail saying
    that DWP spin-doctors were telling journalists the Trust had fired him
    for annoying Duncan Smith. Mould hasn’t been fired, and the Mail didn’t
    run the story. But the fact remains Duncan Smith’s “people” now regard
    the best of small “c” conservative England as enemies who must be

    Yes, very small “c”, though. Chris Mould is a member of the Labour party.

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