Yesterday I did something I have never done before – I tuned into the House of Commons on TV and watched a debate in action. Wasting a few idle moments on Twitter, while sipping on a coffee and munching on Danish butter cookies, I spotted a tweet concerning the food bank debate. Then I spotted a few more. I went to the ‘trending’ page and was faced with thousands of angry tweets discussing MPs laughing at poverty, MPs so brazen in their disdain that people in modern day Britain are starving. One tweet urged people to turn on the TV and watch it unfurl further. I was compelled to, and instantly felt disheartened.
|Imagine facing this on Christmas day|
The House of Commons seems like a rowdy sixth form social room at the best of times, but now the atmosphere I was watching was simply unpleasant. The shouting, the jeering, the general contempt that seemed prevalent, it all made me feel sick. Anyone who can smirk while discussing men, women and children going hungry has a stronger stomach than I do, as the idea of children going to bed with empty bellies turns mine.
I’m lucky, I have a well-stocked kitchen, and if we got snowed in it’d be a few weeks before we’d go hungry – but not everyone is so blessed. How many of those MPs have ever gone hungry so their child can eat instead, how many are in the terrible – but very real – situation of having no family and friends to call on when times get tight. None I assume, but it’s increasingly common. I daresay I would never starve as I have loving family and friends who’d feed me if I couldn’t feed myself, but what about those with nobody to help them. The elderly and isolated, young adults from the care system with no extended families, couples who moved away from family for job prospects that have since disappeared and they can’t afford to move ‘home’.
I instantly thought of the MPs’ pay rise. At a generous 11% this is an additional £7,600 a year, but there is still discussion of whether this is enough or too much. I have no doubt that MPs require a fair salary, but the incredulity to suggest that an extra £7,600 is measly when it’s compared to the fulltime minimum wage salary of just over £12,000 just doesn’t add up. So the MPs, who’ll be earning over £70,000, believe that the fulltime workers struggling to feed their families on just over £12,000 are being lazy by approaching food banks? Or they’ve somehow failed at life? I doubt those hungry people need MPs to tell them that, I’m sure they feel that they’ve failed every time they open their empty fridge (that’s if they’re lucky enough to have a fridge, or even a kitchen to call their own).
With just over a week to go until Christmas, TV is repeatedly showcasing the big four supermarkets’ festive feasts, reminding people to eat, drink and be merry. Well the MPs were certainly merry during the debate, and they’ll undoubtedly be eating and drinking on Christmas day too. Ultimately, it’s a travesty that the debate became a debacle, because this is what it boils down to: people are going hungry and it’s getting worse.
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