“There must be no doubt that the means for rescuing [the poor] … will require public effort and public funds. Poverty can be made to disappear. It won’t be accomplished simply by stepping up the growth rate any more than it will be accomplished by incantation or ritualistic washing of the feet” - J K Galbraith, Washington DC, 1963.
Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, has concluded a fact-finding visit to the UK by excoriating the Government and its lack of assistance to the poor. To its credit, the Guardian has put his conclusions on its front page today. No other paper has bothered to do so. After all, there is potentially another Curse Of Strictly to report.
As the BBC has reported, “Quoting figures from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, he said that more than 1.5 million people were destitute at some point in 2017, meaning they lived on less than £70 a week or went without essentials such as housing, food, clothing or heating … A fifth of the population, amounting to 14 million people, are living in poverty, Prof Alston said”. The Government’s tin-eared response was all too predictable.
“The government rejected his analysis, pointing to rising household incomes”. Well, Mandy Rice Davies situation, eh? But this is supremely disingenuous: those rising household incomes include those at the top whose incomes have increased at an obscene pace.
Moreover, even the Beeb can’t resist reminding its audience that Alston is FOREIGN: “Levels of child poverty are ‘staggering’ and 1.5 million people were destitute at some point in 2017, the Australian said”. So when the Daily Mail got on the case, the result was all too predictable. First came the allegedly straight news article calling him “controversial”.
The inmates of the Northcliffe House bunker make sure their audience knows “Critics have blasted his tour and said the UN should to be studying poverty in third world countries rather than the UK, the world's fifth largest economy”. And “a Government spokesman said: 'We completely disagree with this analysis’”. No word about food bank usage.
Then comes the “opinion” from failed pro-am ranter Leo McKinstry. “I would argue that Professor Alston and his team, although independent human rights experts, are marinated in progressive orthodoxies, and went into their investigation with their script about ‘Tory cuts’ already written.Dressing up their preconceived notions as new evidence, I believe they have simply regurgitated what they were told by Left-wing activists and lobbyists”.
The delusional McKinstry reminds his readers that the UN “totally ignored the other side of the story - that, for all its flaws, modern Britain is a remarkable success story, combining economic growth with dynamic enterprise and a strong civic infrastructure”. He needs to get out of London more often. Because he’s talking out of his backside.
And the Murdoch Sun, all too predictably, enlists the deeply unsavoury Philip Davies to rubbish the news. But poverty is real, and most of those suffering have no other voice than the interventions of left-leaning politicians and the likes of Philip Alston.
To quote Prof Galbraith once more, “A plea for public funds by the head of Lockheed, Chrysler or a deeply needful bank is instantly heard; the poor man doesn’t ask, for he knows no-one is listening”. Including our free and fearless press.
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