Dave drops by and ignores food banks again


Well, well. I hear David Cameron has parachuted into Longbridge today. You know the kind of thing: quick photo opportunity with hard hat, Tory candidate in tow and meet as few local people as possible. We’ve seen quite a few of these flag waving visits from Tory ministers in recent months.

It’s a pity the rest of us couldn’t ask Mr Cameron a few questions during his whistle-stop today, about what his Conservative cheerleaders in Northfield have been saying on his behalf recently.

Take food banks for instance. At a recent election hustings at St Thomas Aquinas School in Kings Norton, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Northfield, Rachel Maclean, questioned figures produced by the respected Trussell Trust, which highlighted that food bank use had rocketed from 61k in 2010/11 to over 1 million in 2014/15 under Cameron’s government. This attracted a sharp response from the Trust themselves – follow the link they tweeted here.

Trussell Trust Tweet

Out of touch you may think, but it was nothing compared to what came next. Just a few days later, the question of why so many local people are having to turn to food banks again came up at another hustings event, this time hosted by Northfield Churches Together. You could see people’s jaws almost hitting the floor when the Conservative spokesperson representing Ms Maclean at the meeting sought to blame increased food bank use on people not having the right “cooking skills” and not being able to manage their money properly. Nothing to do with poverty and low pay, then?

So where do you stand on all this, Mr Cameron? Had you wanted to, you could have visited one of Northfield’s food banks during your visit to see for yourself. There are two within a couple of miles from where you were standing in Longbridge – and there is a young homeless project just down the road too. I could have shown you where they are if your own people were not sure.

But that wasn’t the purpose of your visit, was it? You just wanted to wave the flag to get the votes and then move on, didn’t you? But the food banks are still there and local people are still facing difficulties making ends meet, whether they are out of work, disabled or employed on low pay.

Local people want and deserve something better than a Government who only seems interested in those at the top.

Hopefully they will get that change of Government next week. Most people understand that Britain can only succeed as a country when ordinary working people succeed. It’s a shame that neither Dave nor his Northfield candidates get it. But that’s just one of the reasons why their time is up.

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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