One would think that Boris Johnson would find it hard to resist a campaign to feed hungry children during school holidays. After all, he gave in before - and happily shared the limelight with ManU footballer Marcus Rashford, who forced the issue last summer. And didn’t he just “honour” Marcus with an MBE, for precisely this reason, only 3 weeks ago?!
But no, so far, no meals at government expense this time! Says it all, really, and including about the empty gongs awarded by this very un-classy, class system.
So it is just as well that parliamentary recess has intervened, so that Johnson doesn’t have to face any prickly questions during schools’ half-term. But since there are no school meals right now, given the government’s refusal, it also exposes ministers’ responses, as shameful lies. They say they don’t have to feed the 1.4m kids (plus another million since the pandemic!) eligible for free school meals in England, because £63m was given to councils to sort this out. Except that the £63m was given over 12 weeks ago, to last for 12 weeks and is long gone. And right now, charities, food banks, Marcus Rashford, and the more well-to-do pubs and restaurants are having to distribute food to families who otherwise would have nothing.
But of course it is not just children who go hungry. With the end of furlough, bosses are throwing workers to the wolves. In some London boroughs and deprived parts of the North West and East, applications for Job Seekers Allowance have gone up as much as 300%! But many - especially young workers who are bearing the brunt of the job cuts - don’t qualify for JSA. And anyway, with living costs sky high, rent unaffordable and food prices shooting up day by day, a £20/week increase in benefits, which is all the government has proposed, after a 5-week wait, is gone in a flash.
The “unemployment pandemic”, precipitated by the end of furlough, is a crisis upon a crisis for individuals and families. And in truth, it should really be the final straw for a capitalist system which is based on the constant need to make a “profit” through exploiting workers, pandemic or not.
It was reported that Walsall’s Tory council leader said parents struggling to feed their children should go shop at Marks and Spencer: “let them eat M&S”! Which recalls Marie Antoinette’s answer to the hungry Paris masses in 1789: if they had no bread, they should eat cake instead... Not long after, the revolutionary masses sent her to the guillotine. Maybe today’s government doesn’t deserve physical guillotining for its carelessness. But the class system it defends - based on satisfying the greed of few at the expense of poverty for the many - certainly does.
Borders must be abolished
It’s happened again. Asylum seekers drowned in the freezing Channel trying to reach safety in Britain. And this tragedy is met yet again with a disgusting excess of crocodile tears from politicians like Priti Patel, her French counterparts and Johnson himself, who are in fact responsible for this ongoing, inhuman disaster!
Because that is what it is: inhuman. What kind of world is this, where thousands upon thousands of our fellow men, women and children are forced to flee the horror of war, famine and persecution, only to find themselves in prison-like camps, or filthy informal settlements like the Calais “Jungle”? Where European governments refuse to take responsibility for the critical situation in so many parts of this planet, which drives this growing migration? And in which they and their predecessors have a direct hand?
The excuse that there are no means of support, nor means to house refugees, is patent nonsense. But it is true that those in power refuse to make such provisions. Just as they refuse to provide for the “indigenous” homeless on the streets of Britain, or the 22% of adults (34% of children!) who were already living in poverty before this pandemic. And they throw up their hands in helplessness as the pandemic multiplies those in need.
Yet the lavish handouts to the bosses, the £56 billion wasted on private contracts which fail utterly to deliver Covid-19 testing&tracing, PPE, or elderly care, is ample proof, not only of the “means”, but also the priorities of government. Yes, their priority is to grease further the already greasy palms of their wealthy capitalist friends.
In fact 7 boat people have drowned in the Channel so far this year. Over 2,300 have had to be rescued. But instead of offering safe passage, Patel pledges to make crossings even more hazardous with wave machines, patrols, prison ships, and the navy, under the pretext that she is targeting “people smugglers”.
When there would be no smugglers if refugees could find the refuge they desperately need. In fact Patel’s cruelly “hostile” policy against all immigrants, is yet more proof that politicians like her and the class they represent belong in history’s dustbin.
Yes, borders should have been obsolete by now - and yet backward-looking dinosaurs like her and her Tory peers want to reinforce them, just as they want to float Britain itself away from Europe. Yet, as Covid proves - if such proof was needed - all countries are dependent on each other in this interconnected world. And (once this pandemic is over), the only rational way forward will be for people to be able to move around it, without restriction.