The cost of living and the price of ideology

Graphic courtesy of the Food Foundation

New data from The Food Foundation shows 7.3 million adults went without food in April. Of these, 2.4 million had not eaten for a whole day at least once in the past month.

Yet there is no shortage of food in the UK, or of money.

This is not a ‘cost of living crisis’ but an extreme poverty and inequality crisis. It has grown steadily since the Conservative Party came into government in 2010, and with the rise in fuel prices of the last few months it is now leading to hunger on a massive scale in one of world’s richest countries.

There is no mystery about what needs to be done to address it. As The Food Foundation says, at the top of the list of actions needed are an immediate increase in benefits and the introduction of a real living wage. Any government that truly cared about people’s wellbeing would already have taken these steps.

But to do so would be to acknowledge a truth that is anathema to the Conservative Party: any solution to extreme poverty in a wealthy country such as ours has to involve a major redistribution of wealth.

The only thing stopping this, and measures such as a windfall tax on the record profits of the fossil fuel companies, is right-wing ideology – the same ideology that has led us into this very dark place. All Johnson’s government can offer is ludicrously patronising advice of the sort delivered by Environment Secretary George Eustice last week, when he suggested that people unable to feed their families should buy value brands at the supermarket.

Blaming hunger on people’s supposed inability to spot a cheaper can of beans is insulting enough. But there is a more insidious kind of gaslighting at work, too.

The phrase ‘cost of living crisis’ frames extreme poverty as the result of inexorable market forces. That’s why it’s favoured by the Tories, who talk as if all this suffering is unavoidable, like some natural disaster. At the same time, the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda plays on the false assumption that inequality is some mysterious product of geography rather than of the systematically enabled greed that has driven the grossly unequal distribution of wealth in the UK.

Foodbanks in the UK. Image by

Extreme poverty is rampant in every part of our country, not just the North of England. Cornwall, one of the poorest parts of the UK and with one of the most dramatically visible gulfs between rich and poor, is to receive no money from the government’s ‘levelling up’ funds.

Why? Because this money, pathetically inadequate as it is, has one aim only: to shore up votes in seats that the Tories won from Labour in 2019. And there are none of those in Cornwall.

Extreme poverty and hunger are entirely avoidable. Their imposition on millions of our fellow citizens is a political choice.

To put it bluntly, they are pissing on us and telling us it’s raining.

And here is the man who described foodbanks as being ‘rather uplifting’, claiming there’s a limit to what government can do…ie, nothing for those in real need: