Socialist Worker

Student nurse slams Theresa May’s ‘disgraceful’ food bank comments

Issue No. 2552

A food bank in Bradford, west Yorkshire

A food bank in Bradford, West Yorkshire (Pic: Geograph)


Prime minister Theresa May is running away from questions and callously indifferent to the malign effects of her policies.

The early exchanges of the election campaign suggest she is far from certain to move serenely to victory.

On the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme on Sunday she was asked to agree it was “surely wrong” that nurses are using food banks.

A record 700 nurses and healthcare assistants applied for hardship grants last year. And the number of nurses using payday loans has almost doubled in three years to 35,000.

A Sunday People investigation revealed that around 6,500 nurses received hardship help in the past three years “leading to more nurses arriving at food banks”.

May replied, “There are many complex reasons why people go to food banks.”

Rubbish. The reason is poverty, low pay and the cruel benefits regime.

Andy Ridley is a student nurse from London. “Nurses have to go to food banks because of the debt and poverty wages resulting from the pay cap,” he told Socialist Worker.

“Even before they got rid of bursaries for student nurses some of us, particularly those with children, were going to the food banks. It’s disgraceful that Theresa May is ignoring this.”

Oxford University research last October found a “strong, dynamic relationship” between benefit cut-offs and food bank usage. It said, “For every ten sanctions applied in each quarter of the year, on average five more adults would be referred to foodbanks in the area.”

The Trussell Trust charity said that the top reason for referrals to its food banks in 2015-16 was benefit delays (28 percent). This was followed by low income (23 percent) and benefit changes (14 percent).

Food bank worker Marianne Williamson from east London told Socialist Worker, “There’s nothing complicated about this. People don’t want to come to a food bank. They come because they are desperate and can’t look after themselves or their children. They haven’t got enough money.

Policies

“May is from another world. The government’s policies have created a situation which she simply doesn’t acknowledge.

“In the end people like this don’t care what happens at the bottom of society.

There’s a growing sense that May is unable to justify her policies for the millionaires and is dodging questions.

In Leeds last Friday, she went to the Shine centre in Harehills, a regenerated former primary school building which now operates as a business and community hub.

Rik Kendell works in the building. He told the Yorkshire Evening Post, “There were no locals in the building other than some Shine staff and an invited congregation of well-dressed Tories.

“Harehills as a community was not represented or addressed.”

In Scotland last weekend May’s visit involved an event in a tin-roofed single-storey building at the heart of a swath of woodland in rural north-east Scotland. Journalists were unable to tweet or broadcast from it.

The event was booked at Crathes village hall as a “child’s party".

May has never liked close questioning or having to openly confront her opponents.

In her biography of May, Rosa Prince writes that in the two parliamentary campaigns she lost, “she declined to take part in hustings with her Labour opponents”. Instead May chose “to focus on canvassing the Tory vote”.

Psychologist Peter Bull analysed a range of interviews last year to identify how politicians evade answering questions.

He found May so evasive that he had to create a new category to describe her tactics—giving a non-specific answer to a specific question.

Bull looked at two interviews May gave on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show and found that she used the technique 90 percent of the time.

She’s still dodging the hustings, but now she’s also running away from the voters and the press.

It’s time to go on the offensive against the Tories.


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