Coffee House

Food banks: What would Labour do?

21 February 2014

21 February 2014

Was the church right to intervene in the debate about food banks and benefit cuts? I argue in my Telegraph column today that it was – but that the way the 27 bishops (more have since spoken out to support the letter to the Mirror – and Justin Welby has agreed with their argument that benefit cuts are pushing up food bank demand) intervened says a number of interesting things about the Church of England today.

But there is another interesting question worth asking, which is not what would Jesus do but what would Labour do? As I explained earlier in the week, the party finds these attacks from church leaders very useful at the moment as it feeds into the Opposition narrative about government failure.

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But how will Labour deal with food banks if it is elected into government in 2015? Does it expect the demand to go down?

The party has promised to scrap the ‘bedroom tax’, which makes sense because it is a rarity among benefit cuts in that it doesn’t poll spectacularly well, but that is only one cut. And Labour has accepted that it will need to cut benefits after 2015, although beyond its support for the overall cap on welfare spending and ending universalism for pensioner benefits, it’s not clear what sort of cuts the party will make. Officials in the Treasury and DWP, though, will be working on cuts they can suggest to whichever party arrives in government in 2015, just as they did in 2010.

Given anyone who isn’t trying to spin for the government accepts that there is a link between benefit cuts and food bank demand (although the size of the link is up for debate), Labour will also have to accept that its own cuts to the social security budget would have a similar effect.


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  • http://www.writer201.com @Writer201_w

    People who live semi affluent lives with good jobs are just as guilty of living beyond their means as people who earn far less. Many years ago I found myself in similar circumstances, but never had the convenience of a food bank to get me though my immediate difficulties. My partner works for the local authority and has dealt with welfare claimants who lost their well paid jobs without making any provision for rainy days. Many do not understand the benefits system and only act when their credit cards are maxed out and the bank refuses to extend their overdrafts leaving them with no money to place food on the table. At that stage the local authority after an assessment will issue food stamps to be used at the local food bank. What surprises my partner is the levels of debt these people hold and have lived with for years expecting their well paid jobs and rising property prices to continue funding their lifestyles. So, if Labour has an answer to stop people living beyond their means without resorting to a nanny state, let’s hear it. I do not think we’ll hear anything new.

  • http://owsblog.blogspot.com Span Ows

    comment deleted for use of word ‘naked’? WTF?

  • Rockin Ron

    Looking forward to the first halal only food bank! Or has that happened already?

  • swatnan

    Probably nationalise them. Its a well known fact that privatisation simply does not work.

  • saffrin

    Tax them and put quotas in place, X amount of wimin, X number of immigrants
    Indian 2
    Pakistani 23
    Chinaman 1
    Africam 18
    White Brit 1; on timeshare.

  • Two Bob

    Here is what Labour would do – build on our farmland so we cannot grow our own food…..

  • alabenn

    The Labour party will embrace them, by the time they finish there will only be foodbanks with stocks of flour with added protein ( weevils ) and turnips. party members will be given a potato for their loyalty.

  • Magnolia

    Labour will never cut benefits, they will always increase taxes instead.
    That is why Labour is always a dead end because they always eventually run out of other people’s money to spend.
    The poor need a chance to earn a good wage for their skills.
    That is all.

  • victor67

    I agree that Labour’s policies would only be marginally less toxic to the poor. The narrative of very wealthy people telling other wealthy people to tell the middle classes to blame poor people on benefits(Including the ever growing number of working poor) for all the ills facing the country has sadly been accepted by all the main parties.
    I think food banks are here for the long term.

  • HookesLaw

    What would Jesus do? He said render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, unto God that which is God’s.
    Jesus kept out of politics. He would have made a bad Bishop.

  • Smithersjones2013

    What would Labour do? Nationalise them as part of the welfare state.

    • HookesLaw

      Subsidise them.

  • Jock

    Labour will have problems. They jump on every passing bandwagon. What to do when they are faced with coming up with policies and proposed or implemented actions, as prospective or actual participants – rather than opportunist spectators – will leave them with either unpalatable spending/borrowing/tax commitments, or admissions that their tears were of the crocodile variety.

  • Noa

    Food banks? Labour will nationalise them of course. Then put them into a quango and appoint a top heavy six figure salaried bureaucracy in to run it.
    After which they will appoint a series of unjustly enobled and highky renumerated henchmen and placemen to mi-spend the multi-billion pound budget they will allocate.
    The food banks will then instigate a series of equality driven rules which will ensure the priority allocation of food to immigrants, minority groups and labour voters before feeding the genuinely needy, like the elderly,

    Welcome to Public sector Britain.

  • London Calling

    I think Labour would react the same as David Cameron, carry on with reforms regardless. Paying for food and bills on benefit is a luxury and people do go hungry trying to make ends meet. Compassion for such people is the message from the church in my view. A big society includes everyone after all……………:)

    • Crumbs

      I’m still not convinced. The only evidence of the ‘need’ for food banks is that people are using them. But it you put up a sign saying ‘free food’ and all you have to do to get it is denounce the government and tell a sob story – well, we could be looking back in ten years and saying this was a politically motivated con, which was demeaning to the people who took the food. If you want to make sure that benefits are spent on food rather than tobacco, drink and drugs, you may have to give it in the form of food stamps.

  • George_Arseborne

    Labour is a natural Party to govern the people because they feel for human being . So the question is totally out of context.

    • La Fold

      SHOE MAKERS!!

    • Ooh!MePurse!

      Hilarious. Labour is the natural party for ordering people around and taking ever increasing amounts of money from hard working people.

    • Hexhamgeezer

      Vote down

  • Rockin Ron

    What would Labour do?

    1. Promote a worthy to be a new Food Bank Tsar
    2. Create a range of senior level, highly paid jobs with fatuous titles like Food Bank Co-ordinator, Food Bank Policy Liaison Officer, etc
    3. Find a celebrity or two to promote Food Banks (Two Hairy Bikers, anyone?)
    4. Relentlessly promote the need to eat food
    5. Set up a costly new range of Food Bank Centres across the country to promote healthy eating
    6. Lie about the take up
    7. Set up a Commission to report on how well the Food Bank initiative is going
    8. Invite worthies from Europe to say how well we are doing
    9. Create a new social or medical malady related to not accessing Food Banks
    10. Publish dubious ‘scientific fact sheets’ that are distributed to every house in the country telling us all how wonderful Food Banks.
    11. Discover too late that the Food Bank initiative did not reach the people it was supposed to and only served to further embed greater state dependence.
    12. Just before the 2020 General Election, suddenly discover it has run out of money.

    In other words, substitute Food Bank for ‘SureStart’ and off we go again.

    • Mr Creosote

      Nail…head

      • Ooh!MePurse!

        Absolutely

        • Andy

          Wonder which useless washed up Fascist Labour Party member they would appoint as ‘Chair-person’ and how much will the salary be ??

          • Nicholas chuzzlewit

            Telemachus.

            • Ooh!MePurse!

              Ha ha ha! My guess would be a smug, new liebour, middle class baroness. The sort that have never made a monetary contribution to society. There seems to be lots of them, all utterly useless.

              • Nicholas chuzzlewit

                Agreed. It must be a major logistical headache for Labour to ensure that all of its worthless, brainless, unproductive, mediocre and dishonest followers get the chance to suck on the public teat. It would never occur to any of these people, not that they are capable, to do something wealth creating and productive.

                • Ooh!MePurse!

                  I think that it does occur to them. They knowingly feed on the backs of the wealth producers. They are parasites. They are immoral. I’m not sure what life forms are lower than vermin. Whatever it is, that is socialism. Pure, pure evil.

    • Whizjet

      Your item #12.
      You forgot to add the word “again” after the word ‘money’.
      Otherwise, you are, er, right on the ‘money’.

    • Iain Hill

      Have you ever had to go hungry?

      • Rockin Ron

        I was brought up in the third world in real poverty. My brother died shortly after he was born and I nearly died of malnutrition as a two year old. I have known years of real, grinding poverty including going without food many times. So yes, you could say I have been hungry, so hungry that I needed emergency hospitalisation.

        That is a different degree of hunger to that the food banks cater for today. I am sympathetic to those in real need but it is odd to be told we have so many people using food banks at the same time as we have an obesity crisis!

        My advice to you would be to experience real hunger and malnutrition before asking such patronising questions.

        • Hexhamgeezer

          in other words..Hill you are a snobby cosstted publicly funded w!nker…

  • Colonel Mustard

    What would Labour do? Spin and lie as usual I should think.

  • Colin

    Labour won’t do anything about food banks, it doesn’t have to. The reason being is that its clients and cheerleaders in the media, the public sector, the church and charities won’t organise the kind of co-ordinated attacks on labour that we’ve seen recently on the tories. Food banks, in their current form have been around since 2000. I don’t recall the organised concern from the labour (welfare) party’s stooges then.

    • telemachus

      You say 2 interesting things
      *
      Firstly your list of clients and cheerleaders tells us that majority opinion is with the socialists on this
      Secondly the food banks were set up by the socialists to rescue the few. The problem is that the coalition have led to nearly 2 million going hungry
      *
      You are d*mn right Labour will do nothing about food banks. But we sure as h*ll will ensure the many in our society will no longer need them

      • Andy

        Bullsh*t. Most food banks were set up under the Fascist Labour Party government. Along with a bankrupt State they are yet another of your glorious achievements.

        • telemachus

          Read please
          Set up by us to rescue the few
          But needed by the many as the coalition make the poor poorer

          • Andy

            Like your Concentration Camps.

            • telemachus

              I confess I would be happy to see you in the Gulag

              • Whizjet

                Ah, Mr Kim shows his true colours.
                It’ll be government snipers on the streets next.
                Socialists eh – they know nothing and learn NOTHING.

                • telemachus

                  They know that to achieve the goal of fairness for all sometimes those monopolising the levers of power need to be dealt with

              • an ex-tory voter

                The trouble with your Gulags is that they have an enormous propensity for “swallowing their own”.
                You might indeed see Andy in the Gulag, but you are wrong to suppose you would be observing him from the outside. Useful fools such as you will be some of the first to disappear into the Gulags.

      • statechaos

        You tell us that 2 million are going hungry and yet we are in the midst of an obesity crisis, particularly amongst the poor. it just doesn’t add up.

        • Andy

          Does if you go to McDonald’s.

        • telemachus

          As Andy says from the Gulag, cannot afford healthy food

          • Two Bob

            Or grow it thanks to mass immigration resulting in more and more farmland being covered in concrete…..

        • Iain Hill

          Your ignorance is astounding. Obesity is centred on eating the wrong, cheap food

          • statechaos

            It costs more to go to MacDonalds everyday than it does to buy salad and veg from the supermarket. The ‘wrong,cheap’ food you refer to is in fact ‘lazy’ ready-to-eat food which requires no effort to prepare. Most of the food provided by food banks is in tins and therefore not fresh or healthy.Your ignorance is astounding!

          • Rockin Ron

            Wrong. Obesity arises from eating too much food of whatever quality or price. Too much food and too little exercise. Or are you saying only poor people can be identified as obese?

          • Hexhamgeezer

            No it isn’t

      • Colin

        In the immortal words of Charlie McKenzie:

        “Interesting… Cuckoo…”

      • Whizjet

        It’s odd that you admit the socialists set up food banks, during a Socialist government period that saw such demand rise, along with a loss of social mobility, an increase in the gap between rich and poor, increased state spending, increased state benefits, increased deficit (5% at the top of the business cycle), increased state, corporate, domestic and personal debt – and, funnily enough, the recession to end all recessions.
        Socialism, like Labour, DOESN’T WORK.
        Ask Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea………….
        More cuts please George, as fast as you can.

        • telemachus

          Look Whizjet
          The food banks were set up for the fallout we find in even the most prosperous societies
          The investment in our social infrastructure was long overdue
          The fact of our increasing prosperity now proves we are not wrong
          It is morally repugnant to punish the poor further while giving 5% tax breaks to the super rich

          • Whizjet

            Even though the 5% tax break increased the amount of tax paid. Doh.
            Increasing prosperity???? We’re still hungover from the biggest socialist spending spree, the biggest socialist bust of all time!

            • telemachus

              Mattereth not that tax take increased if those at the bottom are poorer and made to feel poorer as living standards fall

              • Whizjet

                The poor dears – I wish that MY income had the first ten thousand tax free!

              • Ooh!MePurse!

                So, dogma over efficiency. Punish the rich, punish the successful, punish the wealth creators, punish the job creators. All in the name of a failed twentieth century ideology. You lot don’t care about the poor, you just use them, clamber on their backs to take control over those who offend you because of their success. Lower than whatever is lower than vermin.

          • Ooh!MePurse!

            No, it’s not. It brings in more revenue. It is morally repugnant to want to keep the poor poor because it guarantees votes.

      • an ex-tory voter

        One small problem with your plan, you ran out of money. In the words of one of your own socialist ministers “there is no money left”.
        Nothing Labour has proposed or announced as policy will increase tax revenue (as opposed to increasing tax rates for political purposes which we all know does not increase tax revenue). Therefore if revenue is not growing spending must be cut, even the idiot Balls has reached the end of his ability to borrow. Cuts are necessary and in any case inevitable, regardless of who occupies Nos 10 and 11 Downing St.
        As for food banks, they are indicative of a caring and compassionate people willing to put their hands in their pockets and to give their time in order to help those less fortunate than themselves. There is nothing wrong with food banks or the increase in their number.

        The spread of food banks is also indicative that the slow down in the rise of welfare spending has made it more difficult to manage solely on state handouts. It is high time that happened, there is a shrinking tax paying population and a growing welfare state, it had to stop and it has.

      • Two Bob

        Where does food come from? Tell us wise one.

  • BigAl

    If the government gives money to a person so they can buy food it is OK but if it is provided directly as the food product by a third party it is somehow wrong and regarded as a problem. Once again, Labour playing politics with peoples’ lives…..

  • Mynydd

    “But how will Labour deal with food banks if it is elected into government in 2015? Does it expect the demand to go down?” Labour, or any party for that matter, can answer this question, 2015 is the unknown future, whereas food banks are the here and now. If the present government got its finger out there would be no food banks in 2015 to its political advantage.

  • Mr Creosote

    Demand for food banks is self-fulfilling – the more that spring up, the greater the demand. The link to benefit cuts is tenuous, to say the least – people will always make themselves available for a free handout, this is just human nature, though granted it is less than edifying.

    • Mike Barnes

      “Demand for food banks is self-fulfilling – the more that spring up, the greater the demand.”

      Your comment sounds like Lord Freud’s position (that there is infinite demand for free food) and it was completely disproved in a government commissioned report they’ve suppressed since June.

      http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/20/food-bank-review-undermines-ministers-claim

      Key quote “”We found no evidence to support the idea that increased food aid provision is driving demand. All available evidence both in the UK and international points in the opposite direction. Put simply, there is more need and informal food aid providers are trying to help.”

      You are basically arguing that soup kitchens caused the Great Depression.

      Why did food bank usage increase so much following the 2010 welfare changes? Why was the demand for free food not massive before the 2008 financial crisis?

      • HookesLaw

        The report says there is no link between foodbank use and welfare changes.
        If charities can take over welfare then why not? Cut welfare further and cut taxes as well.

        • James Strong

          Well, Hookey, you’ve written my comment for me this time.
          Let’s assume that none of us want people to go without sufficient food. If that is the case then what is the least inefficient way to make sure that nobody goes hungry, what is the best way to avoid long-term dependency and encourage indpendence, and what is the best way to avoid forcibly taking food or money from people?
          For none of those questions is the answer ‘more state intervention’.
          And we must beware of the danger of ‘free food’ diverting effort away from the idea of self-sufficiency and independence.

          • James Strong

            ‘Let’s assume that none of us want people to go without sufficient food’, I write.
            Unfortunately I sometimes question that assumption.
            I know and have known many decent ordinary members of the Labour Party who would agree with my assumption, but they are ordinary members who don’t seek, strive or plot for advanvement.I strongly suspect that there are members of that party in positions of influence and power who would take the opposite view and would like people to go hungry so that they can offer the ‘beneficence’ of the state.
            If I am right on this ,that is an appalling indictment of many of those who rise to power and influence on the Left.

  • Bluesman_1

    What would Labour do? Easy, nationalise and create a quango.

    • CharlietheChump

      Two probably.

  • Tom Tom

    Obviously the Churches are talking about Food Banks – they are running many of them together with The Salvation Army. Peterborough Cathedral has a Soup Kitchen rosta; and there are new food banks being set up all over……..I have donated food to them. The GFC has caused huge problems, especially after savings were destroyed by 0.2% interest on deposits and 30% interest on credit……people ended up spending capital.

    Pay freezes and ridiculous food price increases to pad supermarket profit targets on lower volumes, and utility prices, school meals, transport costs and reduction in Council Tax Benefit making everyone pay 25% even if they have zero income – all have squeezed the working poor unprotected by benefit upratings and indexation.

    The fact is living standards are collapsing unevenly in terms of geography and areas like Yorkshire suffered much more than London from the GFC as the CEO of Asda commented today. Not sure what Labour would do, don’t really care.

    The simple fact is that some Direct Action helps some people and for that Food Banks and Churches and Salvation Army are to be praised. Politicians will simply make things much worse as they always manage to do

    • HookesLaw

      You like to sound clever but talk cr@p.
      Where is the 30% interest on credit?
      No pay freeze? Well all the better to price yourself out of a job.
      Food – yes the floods are going to mean lower food prices aren’t they? And food prices are a world wide problem not just Waitrose’s.
      Supermarket profits have been hit by falling sales and discounting and competition from Aldi and Lidl. Even the Guardian has to admit that.

      • Tom Tom

        Supermarket profits are the highest in Europe, no country generates 5%+ on food.

    • Ooh!MePurse!

      I’m prepared to believe that Yorkshire has been hit more than other areas but please don’t portray us as suffering wretches tearing roots from the moors with our bare hands. I was in Leeds today. As usual packed to the gills with shoppers and coffee drinkers. As usual full of vibrancy and life. Different on the council estates I’m sure.

  • realfish

    ‘….And Labour has accepted that it will need to cut benefits after 2015, although beyond its support for the overall cap on welfare spending and ending universalism for pensioner benefits, it’s not clear what sort of cuts the party will make…’

    It is. Rachel Reeves, for example, confirmed to Andrew Neil that the Sate Pension would be included in the benefit cap. The implications of which, the BBC has not (does not wish to) probed further.

    • HookesLaw

      The country was left a massive structural deficit by Labour. It stretches a point to think they will cut it if allowed back in power. The only people with money available to be confiscatred by Labour are the middle class and that included the allegedly ‘rich’ pensioners. You have been warned.
      But when extremist right wing nutjobs are conspiring to both split and tarnish the right wing vote its quite possible Labour will get back.

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