Lee Anderson MP ...
His problem is the gaping chasm separating his opinion from the cold reality facing many in a country governed by the party of which he is a member. So it was when he stood up in the Commons yesterday and pontificated on the subject of food banks. It soon became clear that this was a campaign destined to develop not necessarily to his advantage.
As Adam Bienkov of Byline Times observed, “Conservative MP Lee Anderson says there isn't a massive need for food banks in the UK, it’s just that people ‘cannot cook properly, they can't cook a meal from scratch, they cannot budget’”. Anderson followed that by asserting that a meal could be prepared at a per person, per portion, cost of 30p.
But here a problem entered: it was pointed out to Anderson, and those who willingly shill for him, that not only is it a seriously difficult proposition to get within that budget constraint (for example, I reckon the portion cost of a veg-only spicy daal with crusty bread comes out at around 50p when energy costs are factored in), it was pointed out to The Great Man that it is not possible to consider budgeting when there is no money with which to budget.
As to budgeting, Liam Thorp of the Liverpool Echo noted “Lee Anderson MP, who today said poor people forced to use foodbanks 'cannot cook or budget properly' claimed £222,000 in expenses in 2020/21 - including £4,100 on travel and ‘subsistence' … This was some way higher than the average MP expense claim”.
That £222,000 is on top of Anderson’s MP salary, which is now over £80,000 a year, putting him in the top 5% of earners. And while he has been ready and willing to spout supremely false equivalences as “I grew up in a mining family, I’ll take no lectures from anyone on the left”, others are not so interested in his lecturing them.
And the most damning intervention came from campaigner Jack Monroe, who gave the impression they have heard one Tory lecture too many. “You can’t cook meals from scratch with nothing. You can’t buy cheap food with nothing. The issue is not ‘skills’, it’s 12 years of Conservative cuts to social support. The square root of fuck all is ALWAYS going to be fuck all, no matter how creatively you’re told to dice it”. And there was more.
“You can’t ‘budget better’ when rents are fixed, private rents are extortionate, poverty wages are rife, benefits aren’t rising in line with inflation, energy bills are through the roof, UC payments are deliberately delayed forcing people to take on debts … For a party so keen to push personal fiscal responsibility back onto the most vulnerable individuals, the Conservatives are remarkably reticent to take any degree of responsibility for deliberately pushing those people into such difficult desperate situations in the first place”.
... and the elusive 30p meal
Jack Monroe is someone with real experience of living with very little spending money. For some reason, Lee Anderson, shooting off mouth first and taking very few questions afterwards, does not yet seem willing to discuss poverty, why the country has so many food banks, and his party’s role in all of that, with them. I’ll just leave that one there.
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