According to the advert commissioned by the charity Church Action on Poverty (CAP), “Britain isn’t eating” – specifically because “of the benefit changes”.
I must say that our beefy masses don’t evince too many unequivocal symptoms of emaciation. In fact, driving through the less fashionable parts of South London, one feels a bit of deprivation diet would do them a power of good.
Of course people in the final stages of starvation swell up too, but that sort of thing only ever happens in countries where socialism triumphs even more comprehensively than in today’s Britain, say the USSR in the 1930s or Ethiopia in the 1980s.
One also gets the impression that, though the poor don’t seem to be hungry, they’re clearly thirsty: not only fast-food outlets but also off-licences are full to the brim and the sales of strong lager, cider and fortified wine are going though the roof.
White Lightning cider, for example, costs £3.79 for a 2-litre bottle. One of those is sufficient to make a grown man publicly abusive – two, and he can count on a most satisfying roll in his own vomit. Granted, £3.79 wouldn’t put a whole family under the table, but that sum can put enough food on the table to keep them well fed.
(I’d be happy to provide any number of pasta or casserole recipes for readers in need, although judging by their e-mails most of my readers are eminently capable of feeding themselves.)
If a family is hungry as well as thirsty, and yet its finances don’t stretch to satisfying both needs, CAP is on hand to provide a solution. The pater familias can get pissed and then stagger for more solid sustenance to one of the food banks CAP is opening at the rate of three a week.
In fact the brisk business those food banks are doing provides the factual basis for the CAP claim that Britain is starving – all because of Tory beastliness only partially mitigated by their righteous, or to be more precise self-righteous, coalition partners.
Half a million people, claims this C of E charity, are using the food banks. The implication is that, if they didn’t, they too would swell from starvation, just like those Ukrainian and Ethiopian peasants, half the population of North Korea or most Africans lucky enough to have liberated themselves from ghastly colonialism but not lucky enough to have a sea of oil sloshing underfoot.
That, of course, is nonsense. Benefits to which our poor are entitled exceed the wages of the lower paid workers, and nobody’s claiming those underachievers are suffering from alimentary dystrophy en masse.
It’s just that the desire to collect benefits (be it money or its assorted equivalents, including free food) always exists in a symbiotic relationship with their availability. If something free is on offer, people these days aren’t too proud to grab it – especially if they are encouraged to do so by bien pensant lefties, like those running CAP.
The more offered, the more and by more it’ll be taken – such is human nature, especially when it’s not leavened with old-fashioned, or rather out-of-fashion, dignity and self-respect.
This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t have food banks. On the contrary, in civilised countries, especially those that used to be Christian, people must not go hungry even if they have no one to blame for this but themselves.
In fact, even a better idea would be to make our supermarket chains use some tax-deductible revenues to provide four or five basic staples free of charge to anyone who wants them. The staples, such as powdered milk, shouldn’t have enough gourmet appeal to attract the better-off – they’d be there to prevent hunger, not to caress taste buds.
A programme like that would cost a fraction of the present perversely promiscuous welfare budget – and it would shut up for ever all those who, like CAP, claim that people in Britain go hungry.
If charity bosses, at least 30 of whom are on salaries greater than £100,000 a year, are really concerned about the plight of the poor, the least they could do would be to offer their invaluable work and flaming conscience free of charge.
And if the charity happens to be Christian, perhaps they ought to remind themselves that the founder of their religion didn’t keep back 80 percent of the loaves and fishes to pay himself, his apostles and their advertising agency.
Such a selfless gesture would liberate enough funds to offer whole underprivileged families a spot of White Lightning to wash their food down. It would also make CAP messages a bit more palatable.