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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Food poverty wars

DURING the war, when complaints were made about the quantity and quality of food rations Prime Minister Winston Churchill said he could not understand the grumbles because the food he was shown would make a perfectly decent meal. He was surprised to learn that it was actually a whole week’s ration – and fortunate in that the press were not present to record his ignorance.

About 80 years later a similar scandal involving food has emerged. This time it involves the food parcels that are supposed to replace the free school meals for poor families, which are presently off the menu due to the pandemic closing schools. The contents of the parcels fell far short of the promise and brought about a welcome but modest change of tack in that it was speedily announced that there would be a return to giving supermarket vouchers, which had been in use during the first lockdown.

The scandal came to light when rightfully ungrateful recipients photographed the contents of their parcels which were then circulated on social media. One was of two carrots, two potatoes, a tin of baked beans, a loaf of bread, and a few other items which would have cost about £5. It soon became apparent that this was not an isolated case, with other people showing off their sparse supplies.

The parcels were supplied by Chartwell’s, part of the Compass group, and were supposed to be worth £30 according to Government publicity. They claimed they cost £10.50 for food, packing and distribution. Even at Fortnum & Mason or Whole Foods you would get a greater quantity of similar types of food.

Although it was uncertain if the food was supposed to last five days as the supplier claimed rather than the 10 assumed by the recipients, and delivery costs have to be taken into account, it is clear that the Tory Government is are more interested in the welfare of big business than in those whom the Victorians thought were the “deserving poor”.

When challenged in the House of Commons, wisely avoiding making a Churchillian comment Boris Johnson was forced to admit it was a disgrace and took the opportunity to put the boot into the ineffective opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer by saying: “I’m grateful by the way to Marcus Rashford who highlighted the issue and is doing quite an effective job by comparison with the right honourable gentleman in holding the government to account.”

It is telling that even a Tory Prime Minister finds Starmer so ineffective an opposition leader that he finds a tax-dodging sportsman needs buttering up.

Marcus Rashford MBE is a footballer who has shot to fame with his Child Poverty Taskforce (of which Chartwell’s is a supporter) by campaigning against “food poverty”. One of the reasons there is poverty in this country is that rich people have “perfectly legal” tax-avoidance schemes in place to avoid their contributions to the Welfare State.

Rushford is one of them. He has two Limited companies that legally employ him rather than his club, which funds his companies. He gets a very small official wage, on which very little tax is paid, but gets shovel-loads on money in fake ‘loans’ that he does not in practice pay back and which are not taxable.

Too many people uncritically applaud this sort of philanthropy from the rich. Just because someone makes a few critical remarks about the Tories (obviously nothing so fierce that the raise eyebrows at the Honours and Appointments Secretariat), does not mean that they are working class heroes or even useful allies.

The abolition of the sort of poverty that makes food parcels a necessity for many in 21st Century Britain depends on a strong labour movement with a powerful Communist Party at its head. At the moment these prerequisites are too small, so the challenge is to develop them and stop being grateful for small mercies from the new rich or landed aristocracy.