This week I led a debate in Parliament on the statement made by Professor Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur, on extreme poverty and human rights after he visited the UK late last year.
Whilst the Brexit debate continues to dominate political discourse, it is important to remember that under this Government, 14 million people now live in poverty in the UK.
This is a result of regressive and punitive polices, designed to cause hardship and government inaction on low paid insecure work.
In his statement, the professor makes it very clear that when it comes to Tory-led welfare reform measures that “the evidence points to the conclusion that the driving force has not been economic but rather a commitment to achieving radical social re-engineering”.
It has long been embedded in Tory DNA that ‘there is no such thing as society’ and social experiments in rolling back the state always begin with those who need the state the most.
That is why the legacy of every Tory Government is one of deep inequality.
His statement highlights the consequences of the Government’s unrelenting ideological led onslaught that has resulted in the erosion of the social safety net, the hollowing out and decimation of local government and many other key public services meaning that costly and expensive crisis management, as opposed to prevention, is now the norm.
He highlights the rise of food bank usage, the extreme levels of in-work poverty, the rising levels of child and pensioner poverty, the rise of homelessness and rough sleeping as well as the enduring damage that policies, in particular Universal Credit, Work Capability and Personal Independence Payment assessments and sanctions, are doing.
His report also lays bare the hostile environment cultivated by the Government where the Department for Work and Pensions “is more concerned with making economic savings and sending messages about lifestyles” than responding to genuine needs.
This has created an environment that demonises and dehumanises benefit claimants, and a system that locks them into a Kafkaesque nightmare where for some the only escape has been to tragically take their own lives.
People should be in no doubt about the contempt and disdain this Government have for the majority of people they govern.
When met with Professor Alston’s well-evidenced findings, they have dismissed them and stated that they totally disagree with his analysis.
They have not introduced a single one of his recommendations, such as introducing a single measure of poverty or implementing my Food Insecurity Bill that would help alleviate the pain and misery that many are suffering.
Pain that he rightly notes could have been avoided if the Government had the political will to do so, but instead they have continued with tax cuts for the wealthiest and large corporations.
What comes through very clearly in Professor Alston’s report is that this Government does not have a vision for this country that works for everyone.
His statement and the full report to follow this spring should be treated as a factual commentary and a warning for future elections of how Tory governments rip the very fabric of our country apart and cause irrevocable harm.