the bloggage where I get a bit political…

Warning. This bloggage may start off a bit warm and fluffy but it has teeth!

Tomorrow I will be performing some of my tricks for a party for people who are being blessed by the local Christians Against Poverty team. They are great people, and so are the CAP team! CAP works “to lift people out of debt and poverty. We offer free debt counselling through a network of 239 debt centres based in local churches.” (from their website)

Earlier this week there was a debate in Parliament on a motion…

“That this House notes that the number of people using foodbanks provided by the Trussell Trust alone has increased from 41,000 in 2010 to more than 500,000 since April this year… and further calls on the Government to bring forward measures to reduce dependency on foodbanks, including a freeze on energy prices, a water affordability scheme, measures to end abuses of zero hours contracts, incentives to companies to pay a living wage and abolition of the under-occupancy penalty.”

There was also call for an inquiry into the circumstances that had led us to this situation in our society.

20131219-221301.jpgRegrettably, or (in my opinion shamefully) the Government voted against this motion. There were some scenes during the debate that made me ashamed. Government MPs shouted, ‘hooted’ and ‘brayed’ as the motion was being put (it was proposed by Labour). Responses from the Government were not delivered by the Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith (who left before the debate had ended) and were at best evasive and at worst wrong (Esther McVey the Government Minister in her response said that there were only 60,000 Foodbank users, for example). Worst of all was when MP’s on the Government benches were actually laughing out loud when a Labour MP was saying that some people were so poor that they were fighting over the discounted items in supermarkets. The Mirror newspaper got rather upset.

The motion was defeated. If you want to know who voted against it, there’s a list here. I am sad to see that my local MP, Sir Bob Russell, was among them. (For clarity and by way of balance I would like to make it clear that he was not involved in the behaviour above, and is a supporter and Trustee of our local Foodbank. His reasons for voting against the motion were to do with the party political nature of the motion.)

The official line from the Government was to ‘welcome’ the rise in Foodbanks. And that rather missed the whole point of the debate. Yes, it is good that people are rising to meet the challenges of poverty and debt in our society (and many are Christians). But rather than welcoming the rise in charitable support why isn’t our Government addressing the causes of this increased poverty? And if there were some aspects of the motion that the Government felt they could not support, why not put in an amended motion that at least addressed some of the issues or promise to do some things to address the issues raised?

If an MP’s house had a gas leak would they open the window to get rid of the smell of gas or would they sort out the problem at source? Well, in my personal opinion, something stinks in our society and those who can do something about it seem content that charities just open the windows and decided not to address the leak.

This is not a party political issue. To amend something I have said before on this bloggage –  when Jesus said, “You will always have the poor with you” the correct response is not to jeer, bray, shrug your shoulders and blame someone else it’s to join forces with those who say, “Challenge accepted!” and do something about the causes of poverty as well as treating the symptoms.

Be blessed, be a blessing

4 thoughts on “the bloggage where I get a bit political…

  1. This is the correspondence I had with Sir Bob Russell by email, which is posted with his permission and at his request, in the order in which they were received.

    Dear Mr Lear,
    My Christian up-bringing was that I should be kind to my neighbours and to support those less fortunate than myself.
    Would it not have been more appropriate for you to have asked for my views BEFORE you publicly criticised me?
    I am astonished that you have been so comprehensively suckered by Labour Party propaganda!
    Clearly you have little knowledge of me and my views, otherwise you would not have written in a manner which gives credence to Labour’s latest political point-scoring gimmicks.
    I will send you separately a copy of the letter I am sending to a handful of others who have equally not appreciated the reality of Parliamentary political Motions. We are talking here about a Labour Opposition Day debate having a go at the Government. It had less to do with the plight of the poor but rather an opportunity for political point-scoring. I am disappointed that you could not see this.
    From Sir Bob Russell, MP for Colchester (and Patron of the Colchester Food Bank)

    [The letter was sent separately and gives a more detailed response but there is insufficient space here to include it.]

    Dear Sir Bob

    Thank you for the letter. I agree that this is more important than partisan politics. But I was disappointed with the Government attitude to the debate which could have reflected more of your attitude in your letter and particularly the behaviour of some of your MP colleagues which seemed to show disrespect or even disdain for those who are most vulnerable in our society. I recognise that the motion was politically charged but am disappointed that the debate which could have been elevated beyond that became a party political football.

    Even if the motion itself was politically loaded I don’t think the Government response to it recognised how strongly many in this country feel about this issue or how frustrated we feel when the poorest in our society are being made poorer while the richest are receiving tax cuts. It would have been possible for the Government to have said that they would investigate the issue further, or to offer some positive responses rather than to score points back.

    I knew which way you had voted because lists are being circulated online showing the division. They are being circulated by those who are supporters of Foodbanks and feel let down by the way that Parliament dealt with this issue.

    Bless you

    Nick

    Dear Mr Lear,
    I think the manner in which the Labour Opposition approached the debate meant that it went the way it did.
    As for helping the less well off in society, Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government have ensured a measure of policies which have eased the situation for many poor people – lifting many low-paid out of paying any Income Tax and bringing in the Pupil Premium as being two good examples. We have also made things better for Pensioners.
    It is a fact that the level if Income Tax paid by the richest in society is higher today than in any year of the last Labour Government.
    I am disappointment that you do not even recognise this basic fact.
    Government and Opposition can trade statistics. What you know to be true is that the economic policies of the last Labour Government took Britain to the brink of bankruptcy. The two Parties in the Coalition Government came together to sort out the mess left by Labour. We are achieving results – 2013 was the year the economy turned the corner……and last month unemployment fell, in Colchester by more than 500 over November last year. I am sure you would wish to share this good news with others.
    I am a supporter of the Colchester Food Bank of which I am the Patron. If you as a Church Leader can criticise me in the way you have then this is extremely disappointing.
    Every week I support the local Food Bank. I do hope that you do as well.
    Best wishes – from Sir Bob Russell, MP for Colchester

    Dear Sir Bob

    I am sorry that you feel I criticised you personally. I expressed my sadness that you voted against the motion, but I don’t see that as a criticism. I am sorry if you do. I was expressing my opinion about the debate as it came across to members of the voting public like myself who feel passionately about this subject.

    I don’t think I have been “comprehensively suckered by Labour Party propaganda.” I am in regular contact (as I know are you) with people who are in desperate need and who are at the sharp end of this Government’s reforms. It is a fact that the Trussell Trust has served half a million people since April 2013, compared with 41,000 in the whole of 2010. That is not Labour propaganda it is based on the Trussell Trust’s own figures and must surely be considered factual (even though the Government response reduced it to 60,000). 150,000 people called for a debate on this issue, which surely represents a much larger concern in the country.

    Perhaps we don’t understand the “reality of Parliamentary political Motions”. But we do understand body language, we can hear jeers and hoots, we can hear laughter when serious points are being made. The fact that those came from the Government benches is not propaganda. It is a sad fact. I do not suggest for one moment that you were involved in that, nor do I suggest that in my blog. If you would like me to make that clearer in the blog I will gladly do so.

    And if we don’t understand the “reality of Parliamentary political motions” and them being about “political point-scoring” we can see when the Secretary of State does not contribute to the debate and leaves early. We read about when the Speaker said he had no power to stop him, but said the view that it was a disgrace there was no minister there “may be widely shared”. (as reported in the Mirror). And we can read Hansard for the record of the debate. And we can see which way the MPs voted. That is not propaganda.

    And while we may not understand the “reality of Parliamentary political motions” but we can see when an opportunity is lost to elevate the debate above the “political point-scoring” and instead treat the subject with the dignity it deserves.

    Again, I am sorry if I have upset you, or if you feel I have misrepresented you, and I am grateful for your responses in your email and the draft letter you sent me. If you would like me to publish any of it as a response from you on my blog I will be happy to do so with your permission.

    Bless you

    Revd Nick Lear

    Dear Mr Lear,
    Ah, as reported in the “Daily Mirror”! As impartial to Labour as “The Daily Mail” is to the Conservative Party!
    I would have thought that a Church leader would welcome how generous folk are to those in need. I do.
    No, I am not upset. Goodness, gracious, no. But I am disappointed to be criticised in the way you did; and then to be asked afterwards to comment on what you had said about me! Yes, I do consider you have misrepresented me. I expect that from political opponents; but not from the clergy.
    I have no objection to you sharing – in full – my responses. If you choose not to then that is your decision.
    Happy Christmas!
    From Sir Bob Russell, MP for Colchester

    1. I have to say, I have supported Sir Bob Russell for a long time now and always regarded him as a representative of the people. however he is clearly in danger of losing touch with the people of Colchester by voting against this motion. For that he is going to be severely criticised and rightly so. There is a massive poverty crisis in this country and the government are turning it into party political ping pong.

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