Michael Gove: in denial about families who use foodbanks

September 15, 2013 1:51 pm

This week the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, added himself to an unglorious list of Tory frontbenchers who are effectively poverty-deniers. When asked by Luciana Berger in Parliament about food banks, he replied that having visited a food bank, he thought that families were accessing them because of their own decisions as they ‘are not best able to manage their finances’. By playing the blame game it sounds to me that the ‘nasty party’ has shown its true colours and Ed Miliband is right to brand Gove an ‘absolute disgrace’ and call Cameron a ‘two-nation’ Prime Minister.

Oxfam has estimated 500,000 people in the UK now rely on food banks and data from the Trussell Trust suggests that more than 50 per cent of people access food banks because their benefits have been paid late, cut or stopped. Benefit sanctions and abolishing crisis loans are pushing more families over the edge financially. In the Citizens Advice Bureau’s submission to my London Assembly inquiry into food poverty earlier in the year, they made it clear that people on low incomes are extremely well practiced in managing their finances prudently. I trust the CAB’s judgement more than I trust Michael Gove.

Under the Coalition prices have outstripped wages 37 out of 38 months Osborne has been Chancellor, and in fact the one month which is the exception was due to bankers bonuses. The Coalition likes to use the rhetoric of household finances when making its economic case. However the Government itself does not have a good track record of predicting how much money UK plc will have, as predicted economic growth of 6.9% has amounted to just 1.8%. We saw a narrative of comparing the UK to Greece just after the election and now the more bullish statements of recovery as the election approaches; this together with patronising statements about those in poverty is an attempt to hide the cost of living crisis.

I have met people on and below the breadline who are so desperate that they have to resort to food banks. These are not the undeserving feckless or extravagant poor of Gove’s imagination, but people pushed to the edge by a combination of factors not least by government policies that are failing those on low incomes both in and out of work.

This week the government has also been criticised again about the bedroom tax. Anyone knocking on doors will know the bedroom tax is hurting people hard – if you only have £20 for food in a week, being charged an extra 14% for one room and 25% for two rooms is a significant increase in your rent. A single mother at a food bank told me she had £20 a week to feed herself and her son, so what does Gove expect her to do when £20 is used up by an unexpectedly high electricity bill? The problem for people on extremely low incomes isn’t about cutting back on luxuries, it is about the essentials. It suits the government to think that people who can’t buy essentials can’t budget for fairly obvious reasons.

When you contrast this with a Cabinet which when elected in 2010 had 23 out of 29 members who were millionaires, it shows just how out of touch Ministers like Gove are. Gove’s words follow Lord Freud’s statement that the growth of food banks was due to supply not demand. I have repeatedly asked the Mayor of London if he will visit a food bank and he has refused to do so – however if Boris eventually does get out of his office I suggest he goes with an open mind and not adopt the same patronising attitude as his good friend Michael Gove.

Earlier this year, DeFRA announced a research project in to emergency food aid on the back of sustained questions about the rise of foodbanks. The understanding was that this was intended to be published fairly quickly yet the publication has been delayed and delayed. This may be because it is not just the UN Rapporteur who is saying the coalition’s policies are hurting people, it is entirely possible that their own research may just be saying this too.

Gove’s attitude shows a lack of comprehension that we need to challenge – it is both insulting to families accessing this support and convenient for the Coalition to place blame elsewhere to let themselves off the hook.

Latest

  • News Ukip General Secretary compares the NHS to Hitler’s bunker

    Ukip General Secretary compares the NHS to Hitler’s bunker

    Ukip’s General Secretary, Matthew Richardson has called the NHS “the biggest waste of money in the UK”, the Sunday Mirror has uncovered. Richardson was speaking to right-wing activists in Washington DC, and went on to compare the NHS to Nazi Germany. He said “A number I couldn’t possibly imagine when I was younger is now the amount of money that is owed by my country… of course, at the heart of this, the Reichstag bunker of socialism, is the National […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Scotland “The best deal for Scotland is a People’s ScotRail” – Murphy announces rail plans

    “The best deal for Scotland is a People’s ScotRail” – Murphy announces rail plans

    Jim Murphy has announced his preference for a non-profit organisation, People’s Scotrail, running Scotland’s railways. The Scottish Parliament will gain extra powers – devolved through the Smith Agreement – that include allowing a non-profit organisation to bid to run Scotland’s railways. Murphy has backed this idea. This comes after the SNP awarded the contract to a firm run by the Dutch Government – despite Scottish Labour calling for a halt to the ScotRail franchising process until the Scottish Government had more powers post-Smith Commission. Jim […]

    Read more →
  • News Dear The Sun – we spotted Ed Balls for you…

    Dear The Sun – we spotted Ed Balls for you…

    There’s a story in The Sun(£) today that suggests Ed Balls has been “sidelined” by the party ahead of the election campaign. The Murdoch-owned red-top even went as far as asking people to “spot the Balls”. Now since we never knowingly shirking a challenge, we’ve set out to find out where Ed Balls has been this week. In truth, it wasn’t very hard, because even a quick scan of Twitter, the papers or blogs would suggest the Sun are talking cobblers about the Labour Party (for […]

    Read more →
  • News Scotland David Hamilton MP announces he’s stepping down in May

    David Hamilton MP announces he’s stepping down in May

    David Hamilton MP for Midlothian has announced he’s stepping down in May. Hamilton, who was born in his constituency, and has been the MP there for 14 years is a former miner. He has spent his career campaigning to help ex-miners  get compensation for medical conditions caused by to their line of work. Prior to becoming an MP, Hamilton was also a councillor in Midlothian for six years. He currently serves as the Scottish Labour Whip in the House of […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Labour and Oxfam are in total agreement about tackling inequality

    Labour and Oxfam are in total agreement about tackling inequality

    This year, Oxfam’s Winnie Byanyima was one of the six chairs of the World Economic Forum in Davos, where she raised inequality as among the biggest issues facing the world. In fact, Byanyima, representing a large, well-respected, independent organisation, is pushing the exact line that Ed Miliband has been making his own – and that David Cameron recently halfheartedly echoed. What’s more, when it comes to how to tackle inequality, Oxfam and Labour are in total agreement. Indeed, Oxfam’s seven-point […]

    Read more →