'Heat or eat is becoming a redundant phrase as many families can afford neither'

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivering his Spring Statement in the House of Commons, Lon

Rishi Sunak delivering his spring statement in the House of Commons - Credit: PA

The chancellor’s month-old spring statement still attracts comment but precious little support. 

The troupe of hollow-eyed, rictus-grinned Tory MPs on Ian Dale, Question Time or Newsnight promoting Sunak’s grudging support for 'hard working British families' attract morbid fascination. Special mention goes to Robert Jenrick’s generous suggestion that Universal Credit claimants should dip into savings.  

We are certainly in a pickle: the monumental tab for Covid spending (and multi-billion fraud) has arrived as pressures on the NHS and social care continue to mount. 

Energy prices are in orbit, pressures on daily shopping baskets are accelerating and there are questions about UK food security. Serious labour shortages threaten the care sector, food, hospitality and farming. 

David Winskill was 'astounded' on his first trip into the City for 16 months

David Winskill thinks Rishi Sunak could have done more to help in his spring statement - Credit: Archant

Plummeting living standards of those on low incomes are starting to lap at the toes of the middle classes. 

The number of children living in poverty (currently 4.3 million) will grow and the qualifier 'absolute' appears more often.  

Heat or eat is becoming a redundant phrase as many families can afford neither. Trussell Trust research reveals that, after rent, foodbank clients have an average of £248 a month to cover energy, water, council tax, food and essentials.  

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And what was the jewel in Sunak’s response? Five pence off petrol duty! 

Public finances were not as bad as expected so he could have done a lot more. So why didn’t he?

Perhaps he gets his inspiration from the past. Here’s part of a review of a history of the Irish Famine by Cecil Woodham-Smith, The Great Hunger: "When the blight began in 1846 the English were totally committed to the principles of laissez-faire economy and that the government should do as little as possible to interfere with markets or the economy. This notion prevented them from offering any sort of meaningful assistance by way of purchasing and distributing food or stopping the exporting of food produced in Ireland and directing it to local relief. Even the assistance they did offer was not offered free but for sale at market prices only. The idea of giving people free food was thought to deny or rob the recipient of self-esteem and self-reliance." 

It is terrifying to think that Sunak, Rees-Mogg and other cabinet members are actively promoting the economic thinking of Robert Peel. 

Trying to resolve the kerfuffle about her non-dom status, Akshata Murty commented: “I understand and appreciate the British sense of fairness…” 

Rishi should ask her to elaborate. 

David Winskill is a local campaigner for Crouch End.