The Prime Minister claims to be wrapping his arms around the UK but like a malevolent python, he’s squeezing the life out of the country. We must resist this latest incarnation of the Conservative Party. It has presided over more than 45,000 Covid-19 deaths, shambolic privatised test and trace, bungs to chums, disgraceful growth in child poverty and decline in the UK’s international economic standing.
When Professor Alston, on behalf of the United Nations, reported in 2019 that the UK’s safety net had been “deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos” and concluded that poverty was tragic, systemic and the depth of destitution shocking, the government found this so unpalatable that it told him, in effect, to hop it. At its most crass, the government doesn’t care about food insecurity and rising numbers reliant on food banks. Low-paid workers, the self-employed and those on zero hour contracts are being crushed by an unresponsive system of welfare cutbacks, and everyone is being hit by the far bigger damage Brexit is delivering to our economy, countryside and families.
As Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has said, the poorest will be hardest hit. The government may want the church to stay out of politics, but Jesus said, ”suffer the little children to come unto me” and ”love thy neighbour as thyself”.
Congregations have dwindled but churches everywhere are support hubs for the elderly and the young, for the dispossessed and the marginalised. Last week the Church of England said its 16,000 churches had run or supported 35,000 projects even before the Covid pandemic, including 8,000 food banks, 4,500 parent-toddler groups, 5,000 lunch clubs or coffee mornings, 2,700 community cafes, 2,400 night shelters and 2,300 breakfast or holiday clubs for children. This amounts to £12.4 billion in aid to community health and wellbeing.
At a time when there are more food banks than McDonald’s restaurants in the UK, churches have played a vital role in setting up and running the majority of Trussell Trust food banks.
Marcus Rashford’s school meals campaign resonates with the public because he knows what he is talking about, and so do many others in similar circumstances. Our church volunteers know what it is to suffer, and people are thirsty for authenticity. And during this crisis, they have the time to watch and to judge; they are watching and judging.
The wanton destruction of this government is bent on dividing us. We will resist. We choose unity: unity across our communities to build hope and a better future. Covid is disastrous but the economic cost is half that of Brexit. Our young people face unemployment and debt. We cannot let this catastrophically uncaring elitist government wreck their future.
Brighton and Hove has celebrated unity before, and we must do so again. We are together on this planet, and we welcome all those wanting to protect it. We embrace the XR meditators, the 3.5%, Make Votes Matter, Women for Europe and all else ready to resist division and to come together for a better future. On Saturday 31 October we are meeting for a family-friendly, socially distanced demonstration – please bring your creative energy and join us at 12 noon by the Peace Statue, Hove Lawns; you are all truly welcome.