Off to Conservative Party conference, despite them trying to ban me from going…

After speaking on panels and at fringe events on food poverty and the bedroom tax, at the Labour Party conference, Green Party conference, and TUC congress recently, this Tuesday I will be entering unfamiliar territory in Manchester, to address the Tories on the rise of food bank use as the direct result of cuts to welfare and support services.

I almost didn’t make it – receiving an email on Thursday morning from MP Stephen Phillips, the ‘director of conferences’ and a Queens Counsel lawyer earning almost £1m a year outside of Parliament, refusing my conference pass less than a week before the event with no explanation. After a few hours of Twitter outrage and a little intervention from The Sunday People, they ‘reconsidered’ and printed my pass. As one of my friends commented on Facebook: “A U-turn from the Conservatives? Who’d have thought?” Well, quite. The Tories may not like what I want to say in Manchester, but it appears that they cannot stop me from saying it.

And quite rightly too – far from “selling out” by attending the Conservative Party conference, if anyone needs to hear about the devastating effects of the austerity cuts in today’s Britain, they’ll all be there, fresh from their celebrations of the life of Margaret Thatcher and tucking into the free buffets and sniffing around the Manchester Food and Drink festival. People like Edwina Currie, who recently claimed on Twitter that she had “no sympathy” for food bank users because they all have “big TVs and nice dogs.” According to Edwina, turning up for free food is an easy, rational choice – painting a picture of opportunists plundering through donations to top up the Ocado delivery with a few dented tins of tomatoes and some black bananas. The realities of life on the breadline couldn’t be any further from the truth – but I imagine that Currie, Freud et al will not be among the delegates visiting a Trussell Trust food bank in Manchester on Tuesday morning, prior to the Oxfam fringe event on food poverty at lunchtime. In the same vein that saw me temporarily banned from their conference, it seems the Tories just want to keep their eyes and ears shut, and churn out their same old tired soundbites about hard working families.

When I met Ed Miliband in Brighton last week, I asked him what he would do for people like me. Turning the strivers and skivers rhetoric on its head, I explained how single parents with children to support “strive” to find jobs in a seemingly never-ending recession, and the daily grind of not being able to provide adequately for your child as delays and cuts to benefits leave gaping holes where your outgoings should be. Ed started his reply with the usual “in 2015” – and I cut him short. I shouted. Half a million people in the UK are reliant on food banks now. How can they possibly wait another 20 months for something for some bloke that might get elected to potentially make things slightly better? Why can’t they see that they can change things, now?

Labour’s recent pledge over energy prices, and the subsequent climb-down by senior Tories such as Michael Gove who admit that the “big six haven’t been entirely admirable”, proves that with a little pressure and a lot of public support, the opposition can change and influence policy from the other side of the floor. There should be no “in 2015” electioneering from any of the main parties – already Labour councils such as Ashford are showing that they will not be dictated to by the bedroom tax, by refusing to evict any tenants that have been affected. The British public are starting to see through the tired sound bites, as a new ComRes poll in today’s Sunday People shows that 60% of people are against the bedroom tax, 20% aren’t sure how they feel about it, and only 1 in 5 are actually for it.

We need to stand together, that 60%, and make it clear that we do not support attacks on the elderly, attacks on the disabled, attacks on single parents, attacks on the unemployed. Only with unity, solidarity, and a thought for our fellow men and women, can we start to tackle the cruelties inflicted by this Government’s brutal policies. Loss of the Independent Living Fund. The bedroom tax. Cuts to the NHS. Benefit sanctions and delays. Cuts to support networks are hurting real people all over Britain right now – and while the Tories need to be shown the wounds inflicted by their cruel and unrelenting assault on basic living standards, the opposition also need to wake up and realise that they have the power to change things – not “in 2015”, but now.

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe.

Abridged version printed in The Sunday People, 29th September 2013.

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Categories: Blog

52 Comments »

  1. Will be thinking of you on Tuesday and will pray that all goes well for you. Still say you should be a politician, because you never gove up. Go for it, God Bess and love to you and yours.

    Deirdre x Isle of Man

      • I’d vote for you. You have proven you can succeed and over come hhardship no PM for the last 100 years has faced. If our country’s budget is as bad as we are told, I can’t think of anyone better than you to whip it in to shape and guide us. It is so frustrating to have to listen to those who have never faced the choice between buying their child new shoes, paying the water bill, and the bus fare to get to work for the next two weeks. I think you are inspiring and that if only there were more like you.

  2. Try to contact the Tory Reform Group – it’s the moderate wing of the Conservative Party, followers of Disraeli’s One Nation Conservatism (yes, Labour stole the “one nation” term from the Tories). They usually hold meetings on the conference fringe – and are likely to be sympathetic to you and your views.

  3. What a lovely charming woman Edwina Currie is hey?! How those who live in wealth and splendour and privilege berate those who are less fortunate. They have no conscience.

    The whole thing makes me sick and fed up to the back teeth. We need more politicians who have lived in poverty, who have come from Working class backgrounds and people who know what it’s like to struggle and feel hopeless and who have genuine empathy with the mass of us going through the same. We should start to demand that as well, not just expecting the narrow base of London based politicians to save us all. However, Mr Miliband has come out fighting and you know he has rattled a few cages by the way all the Right whingers are coming out of the woodwork and attacking him vociferously and the veiled threats of the power companies that black outs ‘might just happen’ if Ed gets in. Sheisters. liars and profiteers the whole bunch of them!

    It seems also that the bedroom tax may see him off; like Maggie and the poll tax. If he rescinds he, he will be risking the comebacks from those who told him it wouldn’t work, and if he doesn’t, he will add millions to those who will vote against him. The Nasty Party may very well be on their last legs.

  4. bloody hell Jack into the lions den! You know they will try and twist everything you say, possibly even laugh at you, good luck I’ll be with you in spirit as I’m sure many others will be, I’m stunned at your bravery all the time but this is…….I’m speechless. xx

  5. One of the things that REALLY annoys me is how the Labour party and the LibDems have completely failed to act properly as Her Majesty’s loyal opposition – the essential part of making a democracy work. They’re not doing the job. The bedroom tax should have been strangled at birth, which a proper Opposition would have seen to. The attacks on all the weaker members of society should have been seen off with the contempt they deserve. Cameron weaselling out of his promise to protect the NHS should have been hammered in the House of Commons. The trouble is that all the politicians nowadays are people who have never ever had to choose between food and hot water. You’re having to do the job of the Opposition – well done for taking it on! Remember that the Tories are really good at dirty tricks so be ready for it. They’ll be burrowing into your data right now looking for stuff they can use against you.

    • The Lib-Dems are in government, not in opposition as you claim, as part of the coalition with the Tories. Perhaps they would be more effective if they were (though I think only the second party counts as official opposition)- they seem to be doing little to ameliorate the very unpopular, seemingly very Tory policies being implemented by Government.

  6. Wow! You go girl!
    Yeah, make the opposition act like one…
    Good luck! Into the lion’s den…
    I’ll spare a thought for you on Tuesday.

  7. Reblogged this on Thoughts on a Train and commented:
    Good luck to Jack this week as she speaks to the UK’s Conservative Party on food insecurity. I hope you find some receptive ears and failing that, keep generating discussion and popular pressure on the government. We need systemic changes to address poverty and food insecurity both here in Canada and in the UK.

  8. I am so very proud of you and I wish that you all the best.You stand for so many people who have been treated so badly I applaud you your tenacity and dignity in the face of such hard faced greedy nasty politicians who makes me so angry thank you.

  9. Enjoy your time amongst them. Weasel words will swamp you along with well fed smiley faces, the knives will be hidden!
    Have fun

  10. I am not into any one political party over another. However, I pray that yours will be a voice for change, Jack. I am sickened by comments like that from Edwina Currie. I used to be a foodbank team leader and many of the clients we served were from ‘hard working families’! When they weren’t, they were vulnerable people, such as those who had come out of prison or become homeless. A civilised society has a desire to help vulnerable people stand on their own two feet. People don’t miraculously start making ‘good’ choices if you kick them when they’re down. If we actually helped people make better choices, maybe they’d be less likely to make bad ones, and end up in prison, which costs society and the taxpayer an awful lot more. But will anyone listen to common sense and compassion? You will be in my prayers.

    • To clarify – the ‘hard working families’ that were clients at the foodbank are not the same as those making the ‘bad’ choices. Just to be clear! I know from my own experience that you can struggle and strive and still end up in despair.

    • ‘But will anyone listen to common sense and compassion?’ No, because they are all bound by too much ideology on all sides. Yes, it costs a fortune to jail someone for some petty offence, when they then turn around and say we can’t pay a fair wage or help someone get educated. Does it makes sense? No. But who ever said politics was about common sense or fairness or justice, certainly not of the Right wing variety anyway.

    • Well said, Sandy. Thank you.
      Our most vulnerable people now seem to be prey to the toxic stew of willful ignorance, hypocrisy, and class/econonmic bigotry which seems to have overtaken business/government in both of our societies …all in the name of morality no less.

  11. Good luck for tomorrow, Tuesday – I am sure you will have an interesting day. I feel you have been invited (allowed to attend) bcause of your potential to Add Value to the event, and I’m sure you will. You are very different from the (media) stereotype of unemployed and Tories will (should) find it easier to listen to you because of that. See Joanna Biddolph’s note above re the Tory Reform Group – might be some useful contacts.

  12. FFrom one Jack to another Good Luck on your visit to the Tory conference you make more sense than all the polititians put together! They have no concept of the struggles that people have just trying to live.

    • ‘They have no concept of the struggles that people have just trying to live.’ Yes they do; they are creating them in the first place! But they don’t care as long they and theirs are well cared and provided for.

  13. Jack, as you are going to the Conservative Party Conference, you will need to be aware of the edict issued by the new department headed up by IDS Sec.State for Work & Pensions. It is the new Ministry for Information, News Dissemination & Selective Educational Teaching (MINDSET).

    They have insisted that during any addresses, interviews, or statements to the Press, the following words or phrases MUST be used by delegates:

    Benefits, Jeremy Kyle, Kids,Council Estate, Skivers, Workshy, Lazy, 50″Flat Screen TV, Free food, Shell suits,Tattoos, Obese, Handout, Irresponsible, Social drain, poor management, poor parenting, feral, unworthy, feckless, single mothers, neglect, something-for-nothing, able bodied, absent fathers.

    The Department has warned that serious action will be taken against Party members using any of the following:

    Pay Day loans, Expenses, MP’s pay, Bankers, Offshore accounts, Tax evasion, privilege, Eton, feudal, minimum wage, bonuses, lobbying, cost of living, food banks, second homes, bailouts, poverty, hunger, fairness, suicide rate, unemployment, disabled, pawn shops.

    So don’t be too hard on Currie & Freud – they are only following the party line – it beats thinking AND having to draw a very good wage.

    PS. Take care Jack. they may have a stock phrase to counter the terrible curse of ‘Essex Girl’

  14. Good luck on enter ing that den x Bedroom tax – no way to pay it. 2- no other places to go to – already in rent arrears once you appeal and fail or can`t pay in first place – no chance of moving because you need to be have no rent arrears for 6 months – Trap! no way out.

  15. My feelings are these – please don’t try to be an MP! Many admirable campaigning voices are stifled by parliamentary membership. I believe you do far more good by shouting from the outside. You are familiar with the thought that ‘they’ would rather have you inside the tent pissing out! I prefer you outside the tent! Keep up the good work.

  16. I admire you so much for speaking out so forcefully and truthfully for all those people the Tories look down on and are harming. I wish you well on the day, and I look forward to hearing all about it afterwards.
    Good luck.

  17. I hope you got a good reception at the Green Party conference – increasingly, it seems to me that the Greens are the only party who are genuinely concerned with protecting the vulnerable.

    The Labour Party kicked up a fuss and prevented the Greens from advertising at their conference in Brighton (Lucas’s seat), presumably embarrassed by the fact that the Greens are the only ones speaking up for what used to be the Labour Party’s values. Meanwhile Caroline Lucas is getting arrested for trying to stop fracking but the banking industry which blew up the world’s economy, hasn’t seen a single arrest.
    And all the time, our elected representatives are patting themselves on the back for driving our citizens into hunger and desperation, in the name of evaluating who is worthy and who is not.
    Keep up the good work Jack – your recipes are not only thrifty. with their reliance on vegetables and pulses, they are healthy and environmentally friendly too.

    • 19th century values again: the ‘deserving’ and the ‘undeserving’, which is a code word for all the prejudices in the world and then promoting them as some kind of moral value system.

  18. Good luck tomorrow at the conference, Iive just outside of Manchester and welcome you to stop in for a brew and maybe cake (think I’ll have a couple of eggs left) should you feel the need for an ear to bend and rest your feet for a few!

    Your story makes me feel thankful that regardless of how bag things seem, it’s not that bad yet! Thank you for making me reevaluate my priorities and my way of thinking. Glad there is light at the end of the tunnel for you!

  19. Strength and calm to you whilst in the arena. You have an opinion that deserves attention; thank you for telling it as it is for so many people that can’t be heard.

  20. Dear Jack, as I was commenting to a friend here in Spain, there was a time when one went into politics the same way one went into religion, because of a vocation; today, one goes into politics just for one thing MAKE MONEY and have some power, that is why none of them will give a short term solution for people like you. Good luck with the Tories….

  21. Hope you made some impact.

    It’s always the poorest who donate to things like food banks, hardship funds, and so on – they understand what it’s like.

    I’m in Manchester and will be mighty glad when all the Tories have left. Getting sick of seeing pasty faced boys with blue ties wandering around nervously in small groups. Go somewhere else next year lads.

  22. I recall Edwina Currie making a woman cry late one night on five live. The woman’s crime was to be poor which Currie regarded as simply her failure. She is a thoroughly nasty woman.

  23. Well I’d not be concerned you’re speaking at the Tory conference Jack- you’ve been involved with more than one party on the other side of the spectrum so no-one can doubt your credibility!

  24. Come the hour cometh the woman. Lets all pray that the thoroughly nasty condems are out on their ear asap. I think politics should be a volunteer job, we would soon see how much these freeloaders love their country if they were not paid a shed load of money plus expenses. Let them get down and thoroughly out like the majority suffering under draconian measures inflicted by the smarmy ids et al.

  25. How many of you lot are actually ‘working’ class and know these people for what most of them are – irresponsible and feckless exploiters…You are smug people who parade your liberal credentials as proof of a moral superiority. You are the people who would take on board drowning people even though the boat was already full. You are the people who believe in equality and would prefer that we all drown together. People like you will ensure the world will over populate and die because you refuse to grow up and take decisions that might save the planet but not the breeding masses…Long live nature – long live planet Earth…

  26. A round of applause please for this wonderful lady who truly understands how millions of people in this country are really struggling, whilst the Government and their croanies get richer and richer by the day. Keep up the good work Jack, we are all standing with you and supporting you!

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