Sister Rita Lalley Centre
Poverty and Exclusion

Foodbanks will achieve much more if we stop seeing the government as the problem

 

If you need any insight into the realities faced when running a foodbank, look no further than the Lalley Centre as featured on Sister Rita to the Rescue all last week on BBC1. Sister Rita, the nun who ‘stars’ in this five-part series, runs the centre based in Collyhurst, Manchester, which is recognised as one of the most deprived areas in the country. It is funded by the Roman Catholic charity Caritas, and thanks to the no-nonsense approach of Sister Rita, it is clearly doing an outstanding job bringing in food donations from local suppliers and retailers and dishing them out as fairly as possible to those who turn up on the doorstep in need of help.

Sister Rita is also responsible for Iain Duncan Smith trialling the placement of Job Centre staff in foodbanks, following a meeting with him in London this summer. If anyone doubts that the repeated messages from those on the ground running foodbanks about the way that benefit changes and sanctions are leaving many in a precarious state of vulnerability have been noticed by those in government, then the case of Sister Rita proves otherwise.

Whether it was some Catholic resonance or Sister Rita’s charm, the response from IDS was immediate, and within weeks an advisor was visiting the Lalley with the authority to overturn sanctions if they deemed they had been imposed unfairly. Some may see Iain Duncan Smith as a heartless ogre, but despite stating she had no great love for this government, Sister Rita was impressed by the man she met.

This is one of the great frustrations of the entire situation regarding hunger and food poverty in the UK. It is undoubtedly an issue affecting a significant proportion of our population, but as it has increasingly become a political football over recent years, separating fact from half-truth or non-truth has become difficult. During the first episode of ‘Sister Rita’,  the narrator states that an estimated one million people have used foodbanks. This is most likely taken from the Trussell Trust who say they fed 1,084,604 people nationwide through its network of over 400 foodbanks in 2014-15. It might make for an attention-grabbing headline, but it is also misleading and their website explains why if you dig deep enough. That figure refers to handouts and not unique users. We simply don’t know how many of these are repeat visitors because until now this data hasn’t been collected. Nor do we have any idea how the number of people in this country going to bed hungry has changed over the years because, again, this has never been measured. Sister Rita’s explanation for the increased use of her foodbank since it opened seven years ago is simply the news spreading by word of mouth. The number of residents in Collyhurst struggling to make ends meet has been high for a lot longer than that.

The closest we can hope to get to an accurate picture of the UK-wide problem is to examine the picture painted in the Feeding Britain in 2015-16 report presented by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. This is a document loaded with facts, figures, analysis, criticisms and a hefty list of 68 recommendations. It also paints a somewhat unfamiliar picture of the landscape. It sees foodbank use beginning to fall nationally; that fewer benefit claimants are receiving delays in payments or sanctions, and that the situation should further improve as other government strategies currently in the pipeline begin to take effect.

The benefits system is still far from perfect, with far too many being penalised unnecessarily, but this report finds plenty to praise the government for alongside the more expected points of criticism. Blame for the causes of hunger is spread across a complex and wide array of situations: alongside welfare payments being withheld, supermarkets are shamed for disposing of hundreds of thousands of tons of perfectly edible food each year which could be put to much better use – ie feeding the hungry. Energy companies are criticised too for penalising those on low incomes. And many of those asking for food handouts are shown to be lacking in basic budgeting skills, making their situation worse through poor lifestyle choices.

One of the most striking statistics of the report focuses on smoking. It cites research which establishes that alongside the 2.3 million children classed as living in poverty due to parental income, an additional 432,000 are drawn into that bracket due to the costs incurred by their parents’ smoking. In total, it is estimated that 1.5 million children are living in circumstances of severe financial deprivation which is exacerbated by parental smoking.

So the glaring and uncomfortable conclusion is that government intervention to fix the problems is never going to be enough: hunger and poverty will remain with us. and, like the poor, foodbanks will always be with us. But they could be far more than a temporary sticking plaster if they develop the operational model described in the report as ‘Food Bank Plus’, where they host trained welfare officers and other professional assessors and pastoral facilitators to allow the causes of poverty to be better addressed. The good news is that this is increasingly happening, and the results are impressive. 65 per cent of those helped by a welfare rights officer during their first visit to Birkenhead’s main foodbank were able to resolve their problems there and then, meaning they no longer had to rely on emergency food parcels.

As it stands, the drive behind this particular movement to tackle poverty is firmly in the hands of Christians. The overwhelming majority of foodbanks are run by churches and Christian organisations. The Trussell Trust alone has 42,000 volunteers working at its centres. At least half of the authors of Feeding Britain are Christians, and it was funded by a donation from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Charitable Trust. This ought to come as no surprise, given the Bible’s consistent exhortation to serve the poor and fight injustice.

But the Bible also has plenty to say about truth and tough love. Poverty is an acutely political issue. 47 Bishops and 600 church leaders wrote to the government last year demanding action on the food poverty ‘crisis’, but there is a growing realisation that bashing the government has limited impact. Antagonism (from all sides) needs to be replaced with a genuine desire to work together to support, offer advice and then tackle some difficult cultural and ingrained habits of those requiring assistance. And we also need organisations such as the Trussell Trust to be honest in the ‘facts’ they present and the evidence-based rigour and reliability of their research.

Foodbanks are a response to a dire situation, and very many people have reason to be thankful for all that they do. But they are only a start and not the solution. If they are going to be able to make a lasting impression in the alleviation of poverty, we need plenty of Sister Ritas with soft hearts full of compassion, but also hard heads that see the truth of the situation and know which battles to fight.

  • Anton

    “supermarkets are shamed for disposing of hundreds of thousands of tons of perfectly edible food each year which could be put to much better use – ie feeding the hungry.”

    Government might blames the supermarkets, but it is actually government regulations which force supermarkets to dump food long before it ceases to be edible. We need a commonsense system of “buy and eat the stuff in this section at your own risk”.

    As for the cost of cigarettes driving smokers’ children into poverty… that is a bland phrase meaning that parents choose to buy cigarettes for themselves rather than food for their children. Rather than raise (or drop) the tax on tobacco, or take the children from the parents, how about some form of non-pecuniary punishment for parents who do that?

    • Bob

      Don’t current neglect laws already cover it? If parents don’t feed and clothe their children, social services will take them away. Aside from that, there isn’t much they can do. Spending money on cigarettes instead of xboxes and iPhones isn’t exactly neglect, although I wouldn’t be surprised to find some loonier social workers trying to argue that it is.

      • Anton

        Taking children away to be put in care homes where the rich and powerful come for weekend recreation to do unmentionable things to them… O sorry, that never happened. I’d have the parents thrashed. Mosaic Law mandates corporal and capital punishment and financial reparation. One of those three might be appropriate here…

        • Bob

          We’re not governed by Mosaic law. You might like us to be, in which case you’d better get voting (and campaigning) for the Mosaic Party and hope you win the next election. I don’t think it’s likely, but miracles can always happen.

          As the law stands, children who are taken away from their parents may be put into a care home or they may be fostered. In both cases there’s always the possibility that bad things will happen to them, although one assumes the likelihood is lower than if they stayed at home.

          And as for the parents, corporal punishment under our current system is not an option. Even if it were, I’m not sure that thrashing a bad father is all it would take to turn him into a model of paternal propriety. The child would still be saddled with a deadbeat dad. Only by removing a child from the influence of such a person can you hope to improve his lot in life. And if you take the child away, you have to put it somewhere.

          There are no perfect solutions for family breakdown. Just imperfect ones that can only alleviate rather than eradicate the suffering of children.

          • Anton

            Actually I’d like us to be governed by the moral laws in the Mosaic system, ie those governing interpersonal relations. Why? Because human nature hasn’t changed since then and God understands it better than anyone else. Obviously the Mosaic ceremonial laws are only for a covenant nation, which Britain isn’t (no matter what pieties are in the Coronation Oath), and the sacrifices are out of date anyway. I wouldn’t even impose those laws unilaterally if I could, because they were voted for by the Israelites by acclamation – God gave them the choice. But in a democracy they are what I’d lobby for. Divine precedent – there is none better.

            I obviously agree with you that bad parenting has no ideal solution. But if you thrash someone for buying fags instead of children’s shoes then I reckon they’d think twice before doing it again.

  • len

    I assumed that foodbanks were for the unemployed or those’ down on their luck’ living on the streets but there seems to be those in work (on low pay) who are using food banks to supplement their low wages(no fault of the Government who have no control at all over wages ? )’A new survey by parenting website Netmums and Trussell Trust conducted in March 2014 and released this week reveals that more working families are struggling to make ends meet
    A survey of 2,178 working families conducted by Netmums in March 2014 shows that one in five working parents have had to choose between paying an essential bill or putting food on the table in the last 12 months.
    A huge 78 per cent of parents in working families have cut spending over the last 12 months. 56 percent admit to having to buy cheaper, lower quality food.’ (Which can lead to problems with obesity and other health issues) (full article http://www.trusselltrust.org/foodbank-figures-top-900000)

    • skeetstar

      Len, any definition of what constitutes an ‘essential bill’. Are we talking Sky Sports, mobile phone contract, car tax? I have seen users of a foodbank bring their pets with them when they collect food parcels, they also contact their freinds on some of the very latest mobile technology. I also saw a family car parked opposite the food bank run by our church and have the strongest suspicion that the driver was inside collecting a food parcel. It looked to me like these folks were prioritising their spending differently and thererore qualified for extra handouts.

      Would love to know what actually constitutes an essential bill.

      What is lower quailty food? Is it food unfit for human consumption? I shop at Lidl and Aldi at times and the food is cheap, but of merchantable quality. How does the report define ‘lower quality’ food.

      I tried clicking on the link but there appears to be some sort of technical fault.

      • James Bolivar DiGriz

        The linked page is at
        http://www.trusselltrust.org/foodbank-figures-top-900000

        Len had the closing bracket touching the URL so your browser, correctly, interpreted that bracket as part of the URL.

        • skeetstar

          Thanks James, I scanned the document, but couldn’t see any definitions.

        • len

          Thanks for that………

      • len

        Seems you have no problem with ‘essential bills’ or you might have some idea what I was talking about?.

        • skeetstar

          Len, I know exactly what essential bills are, I have managed my family budget through good times and bad. However, I know from first hand experience, that for some folks buying cosmetics, new clothes, alcohol and cigarettes are the first priority once their benefits are received, and then they find that they don’t have any money left for rent or electricity.

          I would contend that for some people, the issue is not the amount of money available, but the way in which they choose to spend it.

          • James Bolivar DiGriz

            @skeetstar

            I think that you mean people like the family described here
            http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-16812185
            NB You need to click on the triple bar signs in order to see the family’s comments.

            Personally I don’t think that “24 cans of lager, 200 cigarettes and a large pouch of tobacco” (which is presumably used for joints) and Sky TV are essentials.

          • skeetstar

            James that is exactly it, alcohol, cigarettes, Sky TV, mobiles, and Friday night at the pub are sacrosanct, but the hard choices this family has to make is between eating and heating..

  • Busy Mum

    When we collected our daughter from uni last year, I watched another student transfer bread, beef mince and vegetables from the fridge to the food waste bin…and then retrieved it after she had gone. My daughter confirms that her peers are extremely wasteful…. In a nation that no longer regularly says grace at the meal table, what do you expect?

    And children living in ‘poverty due to parental income’ is a red herring. Another daughter’s friend is entitled to all the freebies going due to ‘parental income’ and the school (i.e. the taxpayer) pays for said friend to take part in every single residential trip, to purchase ‘any revision guides she needs’ etc etc; the school will also buy shoes for children who are wearing the ‘wrong’ ones but plead poverty.
    Meanwhile, my children get one residential trip each – and that’s a push – and make do with hand-me-down revision guides. The friend is getting an iphone6 from her ‘poor’ mum for Christmas this year. As my (mobile phone-less) daughter said to me, ‘How does that work?’

    • Sybaseguru

      It works exactly the same way that my kids had to share houses when they left University, despite being on the National Avg wage. Their work shy peers were busy getting a house each thanks to housing benefit.

      • Busy Mum

        I know – it’s incredibly frustrating. The above-mentioned friend will automatically qualify for an extra £1000 taxpayers’ money when it comes to uni time, simply because her parents have split up, whereas my daughter lives with both parents….. This daughter will be considering alternatives to uni, which is rapidly becoming the preserve of the ‘disadvantaged’.
        My eldest daughter is incurring fees of £9k pa in order to take part in highly specialised scientific workshops with other students who can barely speak English. Presumably the tutors were bound by law to admit a certain quota of ‘English as a Foreign Language’ students.

        • CliveM

          Overseas students bring in a lot of money to the University. It’s an economic necessity for universities.

          • Busy Mum

            True, though I wonder what the reaction would be if my daughter were to ask for a partial refund due to ‘feelings of frustration’ or ‘inability to maximise learning potential’…?!

          • CliveM

            As students are now expected to pay their own course fees you could threaten legal action if you are not being given the ‘services’ promised and paid for!

          • Busy Mum

            Unfortunately, my daughter doesn’t have any of the necessary qualifying features to be classified as a victim of any sort…I am convinced that any legal action would therefore be unsuccessful.

          • sarky

            Errrrm christian????

          • Busy Mum

            Christian is the one thing I cannot make my daughter; I will have to leave that in God’s hands.

            And Christians – nominal or real – are not victims according to the govt. I am sure that even you cannot see a positive outcome if a white, indigenous girl from a stable family challenged a group of Asian/ Arabic foreigners in the science lab to please, just speak properly so that I can follow what is going on…

          • sarky

            So your daughter is not a christian?

            Anyway, shouldn’t she be concentrating on the lecturer and not the other students?

          • Anna

            Yes, but why waste the chance to enjoy a pity party.

          • sarky

            Lol 🙂

          • Busy Mum

            My daughter is not one of those pathetic self-pitiers – what makes you think that? If she was, she would be getting a prize for ‘perseverance in the face of difficulties’ or for ‘achievement in the face of adversity’ or something…

          • Busy Mum

            This daughter is a nominal Christian…..and she knows it, so would not go around trying to convert others.

            I said that this issue is in workshops, wherein students discuss things among themselves, do experiments etc, not in lectures.

            Having said that, during lectures she does her very best to concentrate on what the lecturer is saying because a) many of her lecturers are foreign too and are not always easy to understand and b) the foreign students do not understand the lecture either and spend the time jabbering away to each other in their own tongue to the distraction of the other students who have already got their work cut out trying to understand the lecturer.

          • sarky

            Hmmm, sounds like excuses to me.

          • Busy Mum

            Excuses for what?

          • sarky

            Struggling.

          • Busy Mum

            She’s not struggling.

          • sarky

            So what’s the problem?

          • Busy Mum

            She is being taken advantage of.

          • sarky

            Really?

          • Busy Mum

            Yes – because so many others whine and complain and then get given extra time in exams and be subject to lower expectations for which they are then praised….’doing so well despite the difficulties’…..she is expected to put up with things for which other people get special treatment. The authorities know that her work ethic will enable her to achieve what they are obliged to hand to others on a plate.

          • sarky

            Like Anna said, definate pity party.

          • Busy Mum

            No – she has never said that it’s unfair – she knows life is unfair and that I will have no time for self-pity. I am just telling you the facts of what I know is going on.

          • sarky

            Just checked – she definately did!

          • Sam

            Busy mum,

            Don’t worry . Christian unions are on university campuses trying to do converting and proselytizing to all, without worry. As my niece knows.

          • sarky

            What!! You mean christians have infiltrated the ‘safe space’!!!

          • Sam

            Dude

            I understand we’re holding up the second coming by not converting, but thankfully my niece knows her Judaism and won’t get converted to Christianity.

          • sarky

            Phew!!!

          • Sam

            I know we’re a pain in the assets for being so stubborn !

          • James Bolivar DiGriz

            To be somewhat pedantic, students are now expected to pay a relatively small contribution towards their own course fees.

            Overseas students pay something like £30,000 pa. However this is highly variable as the fees are related to the cost of the course. So arts & humanities cost less, engineering & sciences more and medicine even more.

          • The Explorer

            Linus could be back already. See previous thread.

          • CliveM

            Oh dear! Yes, the pidgin english is a bit on the forced side, not entirely convincing.

            I think we will need to keep an eye on this one.

            Sadly the judges seem absent, with only one with a decent excuse.

          • Pubcrawler

            One of the previous incarnations also used the ‘What is Linus?’ formulation, rather than ‘who is?’ That struck me immediately.

          • CliveM

            Yes I wondered about that.

            Obviously he finds himself strangely attracted to us all.

          • Sam

            Dude

            Having clients in the far east, none of them write or speak like fu Manchu…. however the giveaway will be how polite this chap is going to be .

          • CliveM

            We have the Swedish Chef with Jon, now we have Fu Man Chu!

            Who btw was always polite!

          • Sam

            Dude

            I actually liked the movie:
            https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=33mJRSKipbw

          • CliveM

            You should read the books. Very of an era.

          • Anton

            It’s a distraction; just reply to what’s said.

          • CliveM

            Ps I also had my doubts about Jon Sorensson.

          • The Explorer

            Yes, I wondered that myself, and Jon seems to have disappeared as well. If I doubt that it’s the same person it’s that Jon would upvote from time to time. Can you imagine Linus ever upvoting a Christian? On the other hand, Linus might be versatile: in which case, his name is Legion.

          • CliveM

            Well I think the inspector would suggest he was very flexible.

            Problem with these sort of sites, you can get very distrustful.

          • sarky

            As he’s French would that be ‘foreign legion’?

          • Pubcrawler

            The Légion Étrangère is for non-French soldiers, so no.

          • The Explorer

            Very good. The thing is, is he French (or half-French) in practice? He’s also claimed to be fully English, taken a Maori name, and is now posing as a Japanese. You’ve got to hand it to the guy: he’s the most talked about person on the Blog.

          • Taikan 戴冠

            百骸九竅の中に物有、かりに名付て風羅坊といふ。誠にうすものゝかぜに破れやすからん事をいふにやあらむ。かれ狂句を好 こと久し。終に生涯のはかりことゝなす。ある時は倦て放擲せん事をおもひ、ある時はすゝむで人にかたむ事をほこり、是非胸中にたゝかふて、是が爲に身安からず。しばらく身を立む事をねがへども、これが爲にさへられ、暫ク學で愚を曉ン事をおもへども、是が爲に破られ、つゐに無能無藝にして只此一筋に繋る。西行の和哥における、宗祇の連哥における、雪舟の繪における、利休が茶における、其貫道する物は一なり。しかも風雅におけるもの造化にしたがひて四時を友とす。見る處花にあらずといふ事なし。おもふ所月にあらずといふ事なし。像、花にあらざる時は夷狄にひとし。心、花にあらざる時は鳥獸に類ス。夷狄を出、鳥獸を離れて、造化にしたがひ造化にかへれとなり。

            Sorry I know not to say this in English.

          • The Explorer

            Waste of time, old chap. I’ve no idea what it means, and I’m too busy to run it through Google Translate.

          • Uncle Brian

            Clearly a 外人. In other words, a 偽の.

          • Anton

            Your Grace? Are contributions to this blog accepted in any language? Might I suggest English or Latin only?

          • Pubcrawler

            Don’t think so: different MO, different objective.

          • CliveM

            Your probably right. I could never convince myself fully, nor get rid of a niggly feeling about him.

            We may never know.

          • CliveM

            Im thinking this new persona and Jon Sorensson seem to have a similar MO?

            Same tedious observations about UK society etc?

          • Pubcrawler

            Insufficient data so far, but to me they don’t ‘smell’ the same.

      • Anton

        Any society that incentivises sloth in those ways is not going to last very long. But be careful what you wish for…

  • Orwell Ian

    like the poor, foodbanks will always be with us.

    Why? Foodbanks are a recent phenomenon. There are many reasons why they are now in existence and I hope that we are not going to lamely accept their existence in perpetuity. A major root cause is Corporatism. Government in grovelling obeisance to the EU, backing business but not allowing a free market to operate. The result is a booming economy at the expense of a tanking society. Politicans have been screwing their own voters to enrich moneyed backers and international corporations by importing cheap foreign labour en-masse, reducing employment opportunities for the indigenous, depressing real wages of those in work and ensuring that pensioners have a near zero interest rate from which to enjoy the meager fruits of their life savings.

    Government has a lot to answer for in the matter of foodbanks and I will not be letting them off the hook anytime soon.

    • bmudmai

      Because people were never without food or hungry in the last 6 millenia… Hunger is a modern phenomenon caused by capitalist corporations…

      • Sam

        Dude

        “Hunger is a modern phenomenon caused by capitalist corporations…”

        I agree. Russia under Stalin was a capitalist corporation. As was China’s Mao Tse-tung “great leap forward”. And Pol Pot with his Khmer Rouge….. not to be left out is that bastion of free market enterprise north Korea. Which isn’t starving at all…..

      • CliveM

        Your having a larf right?

        That cannot be a serious post. Any of it.

        • carl jacobs

          I agree. That has to be irony. Jack would be so proud of me right now.

          • CliveM

            Maybe he got it set up to test you. Probably worry that you might regress in his absence.

          • carl jacobs

            No. See. The whole “Jack would be proud” comment was itself ironic. I was gently mocking his idea that Americans don’t do irony. Because of course we are the experts about irony.

          • CliveM

            Your being ironic again.

            Good for you, keep practicing!

        • carl jacobs

          Although the situation in Greece is a direct result of EU policy and the need for Germany to sustain exports.

          • CliveM

            Hmm yes, but also domestic cronyism and an unwillingness to pay taxes.

        • bmudmai

          Haha, indeed it was in jest.

  • Coniston

    Regarding energy charges: at present the cost of a low consumption of energy is charged at a fairly high level, but if you use (and perhaps waste) a lot of energy the unit cost goes down. Surely it should be the other way round – low use of energy should be low cost, so that people on low incomes can heat their homes adequately. If you use a lot of energy unit cost should rise.

    • James Bolivar DiGriz

      The higher overall unit cost for lower consumption is an artefact of the standing charge being bundled into the first N units. The static costs have to be paid for somehow.

      Higher usage may bring about a lower average unit cost but it will also attract a higher overall bill. So there is no real incentive to waste energy.

      “If you use a lot of energy unit cost should rise”
      Why? If I work hard, earn a lot of money and buy, say, a steak three times a week no-one is suggesting that the third steak should cost more per lb than the first one.

      Similarly, if I work hard, earn a lot of money and buy a bigger house that takes more gas & electricity to heat & light, why should I pay more for, say, the 1,000th unit than I do for the 999th?

      • Bob

        The more energy you use, the more you contribute towards the production of greenhouse gases, the more you should pay.

        You may not believe in global warming, but the people in charge do, and they make the rules. You can complain about it. While you pay.

        Think of it as a skeptic’s tax.

        • Sam

          Dude

          We could have an atheist /agnostic tax !

          • Bob

            Yes, we could!

            But we don’t.

        • Anton

          “The more energy you use, the more you contribute towards the production of greenhouse gases, the more you should pay.”

          That is already true under a flat-rate system.

          • Bob

            Not so if the point of energy pricing is to dissuade excessive consumption in order to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

            Everyone needs to use some energy, but making excessive use of it as cheap as necessary use encourages consumption. Raising the price of energy consumed over a certain limit will limit consumption.

            That’s the theory at least. There’s a point at which pricing plays no role in restricting energy consumption because some consumers can afford to pay whatever it takes in order to keep on consuming. But most of us are not in this position. Most of us have to limit our consumption because of financial considerations. So a higher price for excessive energy use is an effective way of limiting consumption.

            You may agree with such a policy or not, but it’s logical within its own frame of reference. If energy use really is contributing to global warming, then pricing excessive use of that energy out of the reach of most people makes sense.

          • Anton

            Against that is the fact that normally you get a discount for bulk usage of something. Then you have to establish a threshold above which the price differs. Should this threshold be attached to an individual, or to a building? (Shades of rates vs poll tax!) If the former, do married couples count as one? If the latter, what about multiple occupancy? Business use differs from personal use; what about home-run business allowances? Think it through and it looks like a bureaucratic nightmare (aka excuse to hire more civil servants).

            On top of which it hasn’t actually got warmer for nearly 20 years even as China and India industrialise and the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere continues to rise.

          • Bob

            Whatever the temperatures are doing, global warming is an established fact. In the minds of the people who believe in it, that is.

            And however they decide to qualify and price out excessive usage of energy, then consumers will just have to deal with it as they deal with any other kind of tax.

          • Anton

            Obviously. But the idea that it justifies higher tariffs on higher use can be ridiculed in as many public forums as possible.

          • Bob

            Indeed, but while that may enable you to vent your frustration, it won’t change much. It may even lead to greater disappointment. How many UKIP voters convinced by all the like-minded comments on social media that their party was going to make huge advances in the last election ended up bitterly disappointed when it just didn’t happen?

            Social media is a closed bubble and what appears on comments threads like this one has little or no impact in the real world.

          • Anton

            UKIP are going to get what they want. The point is to get out of the EU, not to get Farage as PM. That side is winning. It’s just a long process.

          • Bob

            If you take out the “don’t knows” from the figures, there’s a 50/50 split for and against staying in Europe.

            Of course it’s early days and those figures could change. But they could go either way.

            I’m reminded of the Scottish referendum. Voters have a tendency to stick with the existing system, especially when those advocating change aren’t seen as a credible alternative.

            All the main political parties will be advocating no change and only the untried, untested and quite frankly just not credible UKIP will be arguing for change. If they win, it will be an historic upset in more ways than one.

          • Anton

            Look at the trend !

          • Bob

            Look at the trend in Scotland! The trend pointed towards an SNP victory. It didn’t happen.

            Something more than a common garden trend is needed when it comes to seismic shifts in politics and government. When faced with a choice between the status quo and a leap into the unknown, electorates err on the side of caution.

          • Anton

            Well I reckon we’ll be out within a decade, and that’s an estimate not just wish-fulfilment.

          • Bob

            I guess we’ll see just how prescient you are then.

            I make no predictions. I just look at how electorates tend to behave when faced with important decisions.

            Leaving Europe will be a leap in the dark, and electorates tend to dislike leaps in the dark.

            The fact that most of the public figures calling for a “Brexit” are controversial and/or marginal in their appeal adds to the general lack of “convincingness” of their cause.

            Also the fact that such a large proportion of public opinion is undecided does not bode well for the “Brexit” camp. “Don’t knows” tend to opt for the status quo when faced with important choices.

            While making no predictions, all these factors make me think that we’ll be staying in Europe for the foreseeable future.

      • Coniston

        I’m sure this doesn’t apply to you, but your comment rather reminds me of the description of the American who had an open air swimming pool which he kept heated throughout the year – because ‘he could afford it’ he said. He clearly believed in conspicuous consumption.

        • James Bolivar DiGriz

          I certainly wouldn’t do that, because of the way I was brought up I am relatively frugal.

          However I have a moderately large detached house, 4/5 bedrooms. This uses more energy than, say, a 3 bedroom semi. You still have not said why you think that I should pay more per unit than the owner of the 3 bedroom semi.

          And if I should pay more per unit of energy, do you think that I should pay more per unit for everything where I use more than average? And if not why not?

          Bear in mind that, for example, a couple with just three children is larger than average and so will use more of most things than an average family. Using your idea they would be paying a lot more than an average family.

          • Coniston

            Much of what you say I agree with. but would you for instance expect to pay the same council tax as someone living in a smaller property? Some 30 years ago paying the same was considered proper and the poll tax was introduced – which was hardly an overwhelming success.

          • James Bolivar DiGriz

            It would be more constructive if you were to answer my initial question as to why you think that “If you use a lot of energy unit cost should rise”.

            Also why, as seems to be the case, you think that this should apply to energy supplied as gas & electricity but not energy supplied as petrol/diesel, fuel oil, wood, etc, nor to other purchases (steak, baked beans, bread, etc).

            Then I would understand where you are coming from.

            It would also if you would give some information on what the scheme should be.

  • carl jacobs

    The emergence of the welfare state allowed people the freedom to reject family obligations. In effect, the gov’t became the provider of last resort. With the family now a pulverized mass of powder, what happens when the welfare state runs out of money? To whom will these people turn when their “poor lifestyle choices” produce the inevitable fruit?

    • The Explorer

      Indeed. We’ll need a Welfare State for the Welfare State.

      • steroflex

        National debt £1,500 billion and rising. Debt repayments are at least £84 billion a year.

        • Phil R

          You do realise that this will never be paid back. No one will vote for it. Not here or any Western democracy. So at some point, crash! Debt default and l suspect most of us will carry on without much change except no 84 billion to pay each year

          • Bob

            National default on an individual state level implies the sort of economic woes currently being experienced by Greece. So no, I don’t think “most of us will carry on without much change”. We know what happens when the banking sector freezes up. Companies fold for lack of credit, unemployment soars, civil unrest starts to get out of control.

            National default on an international level implies the collapse of the global economic system as we know it. “Carry(ing) on without much change” is even less likely to be an option. Banks will find their balance sheets wiped out, credit will dry up completely, international trade and virtually all commerce will grind to a halt, and chaos will ensue.

            Some may think that’s a good thing, but I hope I never have to live through it. I hope you never have to either.

          • Phil R

            “The global economic system” seems to consist of Governments simply creating balances out of thin air which are offered to the Banks at a low rate of interest. (Zero effectively) This money that does not exist is then sold by the banks to people and businesses at a much higher rate of interest. (To you and me say 4 to 8%, to the poor say 25 to 50%) We use this money that has no intrinsic worth to buy good and thereby (incidentally) keep people in employment exchanging goods (which I accept does have value) for this money that was created out of nothing and so does not actually have value.

            The merry go round seems to work so far. However, now we are told that we need to work harder and longer to pay back the money that the Government borrowed, when we have already seen that the Government can just create more money when it suits them out of thin air!

            I am surprised that things have lasted as long as they have. Certainly nobody is will vote to to pay back this non money.

          • Bob

            All fiat money is made up money, not just the vast sums that quantitative easing has created since 2008. None of our money is backed by commodities like gold or silver any more. Our global currency system relies on the “good faith and credit”. Destroy that by defaulting and the whole thing comes crashing down.

            There are those who say it should and that we should return to the days of commodity money when the currency in circulation was backed by gold sitting in vaults. Perhaps it will come to that, but if it does, we’ll all suffer as a result.

            Nobody will remain unaffected if there’s a global banking meltdown. The idea that we can just carry on as we’ve always done is quite mistaken.

          • Phil R

            Greece had a good go and tested the limits.

            I doubt if it will be the last to try.

            People seem remarkably willing to work longer to “pay back the deficit” that presumably could be wiped by a few taps on a keyboard.

          • Bob

            Greece has been backed by European credit throughout this crisis. And still its economy lies in ruins.

            Imagine what will happen to the rest of us if we have no credit to fall back on. Greece’s travails will seem like a walk in the park in comparison.

            Be careful what you wish for. It may come true, and once the crisis has passed, those of us who survive may be much stronger. But many won’t survive. And their loss will affect us all deeply.

          • Anton

            True. Wealth and money are not the same. A crash of fiat currency does not destroy wealth; it redistributes it. Those who have their wealth stored in fiat currency get wiped out; those who have it stored in tangible assets are longterm unaffected; those who have debts denominated in the fiat currency do well. The outstanding book on the immorality and consequences of fiat currency is The Ethics of Money Production by JG Hulsmann.

          • Anton

            Fiat currency systems have always had finite lifetimes in history. They transgress the fair weights and measures legislation in Mosaic Law.

          • James Bolivar DiGriz

            “National default on an individual state level implies the sort of economic woes currently being experienced by Greece.”
            Utter nonsense.

            In Iceland the banks were bigger than the national GDP and they defaulted (at least one after it had been taken in to state ownership) and after several hard years the Icelandic economy is doing quite well.

            The Greek crisis is being prolonged and exacerbated as they cannot (or are not allowed to) default. A Greek default would have led to ejection from the Euro with the reinstated drachma at a massively lower exchange rate than the one it entered the Euro.

            Defaults always lead to devaluation which makes the country much more competitive in international markets and (significantly for Greece) a great place for holiday-makers.

            Defaults make international purchases difficult, requiring payment in hard currency, so there can be significant problems for a number of years. Normally arrangements are made with the creditors after some time for them to be a %age of what was defaulted on. That and a stable & growing economy normalises international trade.

            Trapped in the Euro straitjacket none of this is available to Greece. Rather they are forced to implement austerity measures that cripple the economy, so that even though the debt might shrink a little in numerical terms is it static or rising as a %age of the shrinking GDP.

            Sovereign debts are not that uncommon, see
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_debt_crises

          • Bob

            Isolated sovereign default does happen. But what was being talked about here was the wholesale default of all national debts. If that happens, the banking system will be wiped out. There won’t be any question of it being harder to borrow for a few years. There won’t be any banks left to borrow from. Sovereign debt forms a major part of their balance sheets. If everyone defaults, banks go under.

            This kind of catastrophe scenario is thankfully unlikely to happen, but if we’re talking about the UK defaulting, then the only credible scenario given the relative strength of our economy is that many other countries will have defaulted before us, and that the banking sector will have been so damaged that the entire world economy unravels.

            The example of Iceland works for a small economy defaulting in isolation. It does not work if everyone is defaulting and the monetary system is in global meltdown.

          • James Bolivar DiGriz

            “But what was being talked about here was the wholesale default of all national debts”
            Well people might have been talking about that but you clearly weren’t when you said “National default on an individual state level implies the sort of economic woes currently being experienced by Greece”, emphasis added.

            If you understanding of the ramifications of sovereign debt default for a single country is as poor as that statement makes clear than your comments on a multiple country default are inevitably highly suspect as well.

          • Anton

            They are trying to inflate it away.

    • dannybhoy

      Nail on the head Carl.
      What governments don’t seem go realise (or perhaps they do), is that if you cater for a certain kind of human need, you end up ensuring that need will grow.
      A good government tries to provide work rather than benefits.

  • Inspector General

    It’s a bloody disgrace the way some lefty clerics go on about our lawfully elected government. Jesus didn’t make a fraction of the fuss over the Romans. Just as well really, as he made it clear he wasn’t going to do anything about it. Suggest said clerics take themselves off and spread the word in China, or North Korea, but we all know not one of them will be leaving the comfort of these shores despite their vociferous objections to democracy’s choice here…

    • steroflex

      Now we have some women in the episcopacy all this is going to change.

  • Inspector General

    On the subject of food waste, a couple of tips from the Inspector for those not in the know…

    First, all provisions meant to be stored in a fridge have a ‘use before end of’ date 1 day earlier than need be. It’s because countless unwittingly run their refrigerators warmer than they should. To check yours, invest in a fridge thermometer (for about a pound). Then add a day to your provisions life.

    Second, for meat that is past it’s quoted date, shove it in the frying pan – you can all but ignore best before dates then. Cook well, and the cooking process therein will destroy 100% of bacteria. Forget about minute steaks on this occasion. Obviously, the meat would otherwise eventually dry and turn in storage, but that would be obvious to anyone with half a wit. It’s how our parents and grandparents managed in the days before cold contraptions were around. And be grateful you don’t have to rub salt into half pigs to keep them for months as great granny would once have done. Or take an axe to a cock, come to that…

    • The Explorer

      Ahem, we think you know who is back. See previous thread, and lower down on this one.

      • Inspector General

        Do you think he’s out unaccompanied…

        • The Explorer

          If he is, I’m certainly not volunteering to be his escort.

          • Inspector General

            Shouldn’t be necessary. He has someone to sodomise him, whom he refers to as a ‘husband’ we can call. Unless he’s run off…

          • The Explorer

            Since Linus is now posing as Japanese, he might have lied about being French, and about having a partner.

          • Inspector General

            When you’re up against a loon, it’s easy to see them as they are….

    • Anton

      Supermarket cheese begins to become edible about a fortnight after the sell-by date.

      • Inspector General

        You are a wag, sir. And no mistake…

      • Bob

        Is supermarket cheese ever edible?

        • Anton

          It is by me. Not the mild generic cheddar, though.

          • Bob

            I suppose it contains protein and fat and must therefore be of some nutritional value. It’s just a shame it tastes like the plastic they wrap it in.

          • Anton

            Blame mandatory pasteurisation for that, not supermarkets

          • Bob

            There are plenty of tasty pasteurised cheeses out there. The problem isn’t necessarily pasteurisation. It’s the supermarkets’ desire to have a cheap and standardised product with a long shelf life.

          • Anton

            Perhaps you have higher standards of cheese than me, but mine are not negligible.

        • James Bolivar DiGriz

          Yes, if you avoid the pre-packed stuff and it has a good cheese counter.

  • steroflex

    Hooray for the Christians!

  • Phil R

    The thing is that food banks do not work just as food Aid (in fact most Aid) to Africa does not work.

    It causes a dependancy culture and it stifles virtue and self reliance. It also masks the root causes of the problem.

    People need pride not food banks. Where I disagree with you all here is that i consider the cause and the solution lies with the Government.

    • Bob

      People need pride?

      I thought pride was supposed to be a sin.

      • Phil R

        Self worth? Whatever you want to call it

        • Darter Noster

          Bob,

          I’m struggling to work out your point.

          Pride as in arrogance is different from knowledge of ones abilities and God given dignity.

          Humility carried to excess is no better than pride, because one is at best self-deceiving and at worst deliberately seeking attention.

          • Bob

            My point is that I don’t believe that pride and self-respect are the same thing. Pride is always wrong. Self-respect is not.

            Sure, theatrical humility is a form of pride. The Pharisees were well versed in that particular sin. But there’s a difference between self-promotion and witness, I think.

          • Darter Noster

            Ok, fair point.

            I think we should take care not to get caught up in semantics, however.

            Knowing that you have done something well, or done the right thing, creates a positive emotional response, which helps us as humans to keep doing good things.

            We shouldn’t be too prescriptive of emotion and motivation.

          • Bob

            Salvation via a sense of doing the right thing, eh?

            The urgings of the heart are often unreliable and can lead to error. That’s why this isn’t really a question of semantics, but rather knowing exactly what is a sin and what isn’t.

            What exactly is pride, and why is it wrong? It may not feel wrong to boast about your successes and preen yourself whenever you’re praised. You may consider it to be self-respect because it makes you feel good about yourself. But feeling good about yourself is not always evidence that you’re acting in a moral manner.

          • Darter Noster

            No, not salvation by it. I never suggested that.

            We get the point, but chill out dude!

          • Bob

            Totes chilled. Clarifying what I believe doesn’t make me angry or strident. But I do think it’s important to point out the shortcomings of an attitude of “if it feels good, do it”. Instantaneous gratification isn’t the shortest path to salvation.

          • Anton

            Great discussion; I’ve been aware of both sides and am pleased to see it argued out by people who’ve thought more. Thanks guys.

      • Inspector General

        Is it really? This fellow takes pride in his high standards…

        • Bob

          St. Augustine said that it was pride that changed angels into devils and humility that makes men as angels.

          • Inspector General

            Did he now? St Augustine is entitled to his opinion…

          • Bob

            Augustine of Hippo, you understand. Not the one from Canterbury. If you’re an Anglican the latter may carry more weight than the former, but then even Anglicans consider Augustine of Hippo as a saint, do they not?

          • Inspector General

            Oh yes. One assumed it was Augustine of Hippo you meant. What is one to do, get on his knees before the great man’s words, or consider the verification of one’s Christian ways that allows for pride.

            In other words, some potentate suffered from excess pride, thus pride is to be denied to all, is it…

          • Bob

            You could just as easily say that because some potentate like Hitler or Stalin committed murder to excess, thus murder is to be denied to all.

            Um … yes, it is!

          • Inspector General

            You are a rather silly sponge…

          • Anton

            The other St Augustine went TO Canterbury (and very reluctantly); he did not come from it.

          • Bob

            I know very little about the Canterbury Augustine, but I would be very surprised if he went to Canterbury and then never, ever left it again. Indeed he must have, because there exists an account of him and King Aethelberht of Kent receiving two British bishops somewhere “south of the Severn”.

            As the point on the Severn nearest Kent is (more or less) Gloucester, which the Interweb informs me is 183 miles from Augustine’s cathedral, then Augustine and Aethelberht (and, one assumes, their retinues, equipages, clothes and even body parasites) being there present would have been considered by the other attendees, as having come FROM Canterbury.

            So there you go. And the lesson is, mess with a practitioner of the ancient art of tetraplyoctomy at your own risk! The skill of splitting a hair four ways is not given to all! And I am not the slightest bit proud of that fact…

          • Anton

            Alright, let’s play tennis. You say that this St Augustine was “from Canterbury”. Where was he born?

          • Bob

            In Rome, I believe. But he didn’t carry out his mission to the English from Rome. He carried it out from Canterbury, which is why he’s identified with the place.

            After all, he isn’t called St. Augustine of Rome, is he?

          • Anton

            And we have Jesus of Nazareth, not Jesus of Bethlehem. But where are you “from”, please; and how do you decide?

          • Bob

            Where am I from? Bikini Bottom, of course.

          • Phil R

            Bob you are deliberately misrepresenting the word pride.

            Do you hate your fellow man so much that you would see him forever living off the scraps others will throw him, simply because he refuses to help himself, in case he feels some sort of pride in what he has achieved with God’s help?

            Do you think that St Paul felt no pride when he preached and God used his words? Do you think the disciples felt no pride that God had used them to heal?

            Everybody needs self worth. Everybody needs to feel that they are useful. Take that away and you lose the man forever.

          • Bob

            I don’t think I am misrepresenting pride. I don’t know how it’s possible to. Pride is pride, and it’s always represented in a negative light in Christian writings.

            If you’re proud of your high standards, then arrogance and a feeling of superiority won’t be far behind. If you believe that high standards are to be strived for, and you do strive for them, and are happy when you meet them, but never “proud”, and always know that no matter how much you succeed at some things, you’ll fail miserably at others, then I think you can start talking about a proper sense of self-worth. But self-worth based on achievements that you crow about is nothing more than pride, and pride is a sin.

          • Phil R

            Yours seems to be an inverse pride Bob

            A pride in not being proud like you judge others to be.

          • Bob

            If you recognize pride for what it is, you can’t be proud of not being proud. Realizing that the truth can no longer be ignored after so many years of refusing to see it, and so much self-deception, is about the most humbling thing that can happen to you.

            Truth is far greater than you, and I’ve come to understand painfully and slowly over the years that you arrive at the knowledge of it not via your own talents, but rather in spite of them.

            I didn’t figure out the truth because I’m smarter or better than anyone else, so I have nothing to be proud of. Quite the reverse. I didn’t figure out the truth at all. I just woke up one morning and there it was staring me in the face and laughing at all my attempts to “figure it out”.

            I spent the best part of my life using the intelligence I do have to explain truth away. I was proud of my abilities even though my abilities were getting it all wrong. That should probably have been a clue. Anything we’re proud of gets in the way of truth. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t be proud of it. The bad branch cannot bear good fruit, after all.

          • ardenjm

            Pride as in self-respect, self-worth, personal dignity is not superbia – the latin word for pride which St Augustine of Hippo (and indeed St Augustine of Canterbury also) would have used. Pride as in the inordinate love of one’s own excellence (to the despising of others) is the sin, not self-respect.

          • Bob

            The trouble starts when terms become confused. Pride is pride. Self-respect is self-respect.

            If you take pride in your high standards, I submit that you are comitting the sin of superbia. Why, because the phrase is self-congratulary. It’s like you’re saying “look at me and how marvelous I am”. That’s more than just self-respect. It’s self-worship.

            If however you merely acknowledge that high standards exist and that you strive to meet them, then I believe that pride is kept at bay. If you dwell on the result and loudly proclaim that you meet your own standards, you’re on shaky ground. Self respect is to be found in the effort rather than the success, in my experience.

          • ardenjm

            The trouble starts when we become univocal about meanings – or when our English language doesn’t equip us with enough words to convey the nuances.
            The French have two words for pride: orgueil and fierté. Whilst they both orginally – 1000 years ago – had the negative connotations of superbia, in every day use today the French tend to use orgueil in the negative, haughty, demonic sense and fierté to speak of ‘taking pride in oneself’ – much like putting your best foot forward, holding your chin up, wearing your Sunday best etc. It’s a shame we only have the one word ‘pride’…. it does, I agree, lead to all kinds of confusions.

          • sarky

            I think you’re confusing pride with self worth.

          • Inspector General

            Pride, in its innocent self is not a sin. But you, a baiter of Christians, are something else altogether…

          • Bob

            Yes, pride is a sin. But you may not be ready to hear that. Perhaps you will be one day. That knowledge is not mine to know.

  • Phil R

    Another connected issue is high rates of interest paid (especially) by the poor.

    It is blatant profiteering and exploitation by the banks and others. The Gov should step in to limit interest chargable to (say) a maximum of 5 times the bank rate.

    • Anton

      Interest charged reflects the risk of default, which is greater for the poor. If they don’t want to pay those rates of interest, they shouldn’t take the loan. The problem in our system is not interest rates but how bankruptcy is done. In Mosaic Law there was debt forgiveness every so often, but if you needed money before then you felt the effects *immediately* – you sold yourself for slavery until the next year of forgiveness. Far wiser.

      • Phil R

        “Interest charged reflects the risk of default, which is greater for
        the poor.”

        Always greater for the poor? They always seem to pay more interest regardless of their chance of default. Why does it need to be in the form of interest? An insurance payment to top up the loan interest would purely reflect the risk of default.

        “If they don’t want to pay those rates of interest, they shouldn’t take the loan”

        It is how I started out making money and I am sure it is how most people do. In my case my first loan was underwritten by my father. Without the loan I would not have had the chance to make money.

        • Anton

          The poor, and business ventures, seek loans for different reasons.

  • len

    “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’(Matthew 25 31)

    And the self righteous will say you were hungry and thirsty because you smoked too much, naked because you didn`t work and in prison because you were a criminal.So basically it was all your’e own fault that you and your little ones suffered and that is the reason we didn`t see the need to help you….

    • skeetstar

      Len, how much help did paul extend to those thessalonians, who were not working, and I would Therefore guess, we’re going hungry?

  • IanCad

    When; as I have recently learned from Anton, it pays nearly as much to work part time as full, then the government is most certainly part of the problem.
    God Bless Sister Rita. We are enjoined to feed the hungry.

    • Busy Mum

      It’s true. I heard of a hospital sister who calculated that she and all the other nurses – full or part time – all had exactly the same household income regardless of hours worked….
      ….we are all going to be very hungry at this rate!

      • Anton

        A collapse of the financial system is the only way to terminate the Welfare State. Such an event does not reduce wealth; it redistributes it. Those who have debts denominated in the pre-crash currency do well; those who have wealth stored in it do badly. The transition period is a test of social cohesion.

        • Busy Mum

          Material wealth aside, the lack of moral wealth suggests to me that the UK would fail the test.

          • Anton

            Yes, I fear it would be more like New Orleans post-Katrina than the Japanese coast post-tsunami.

          • IanCad

            A wise observation indeed!

  • Demon Teddy Bear

    Erm … your grace, foodbanks are NOT “always with us”. They were unheard of until a handful of years ago. Before that, they were remembered as something that churches used to do in the harsher times that had been swept away by the welfare state. Do none of us remember this?

    But now something is very wrong. The foodbanks are the symptom of this. Something has changed; although not, I notice, the disturbing proportion of our incomes seized by the government. As in so many things, we pay, but nothing is done.

    Now we may wonder how many of the foodbank users are in fact illegal immigrants of one sort or another. The country is certainly awash with them, through the connivance of big corporates and treacherous politicians. But I suspect the answer is about 15%, purely because I heard that from a local food bank. But if 85% are British people, then how is this possible? What are we paying all these taxes for – 4 different taxes, now, on payroll alone?

    Certainly the maggots who try to use this to attack a “conservative” government are worthless – rather like those who screamed about taxing fuel under John Major, only to smile approvingly as Gordon Brown loaded all our fuel bills with hidden “green” levies. But we must not be distracted by these people. It is wrong that British people should go hungry in Britain, while the rest of us are taxed to death.

  • John Main

    When the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his autumn statement, effectively declared
    the end of austerity, I resolved to no longer believe in food banks. So please don’t write about them.
    I believe in the sanctity of the foreign aid budget. I believe that HS2, new nuclear power stations, and the Syrian war can all be afforded by the UK state. Such beliefs are incompatible with the existence of foodbanks.