Last week, I travelled down to Dorset for BBC Radio 4’s ‘Any Questions?’ I was joined on the panel by National Farming Union President, Minette Batters, Labour MP Dame Meg Hillier and Conservative MP Danny Kruger.
Our discussion covered concerns around the cost-of-living crisis, the government’s treatment of refugees and under-investment in our public services.
Asked whether it’s time the government took direct action to reduce prices, I argued that, although price-setting can work in some contexts, the more pressing need is to address the inequities in the system. While we’re seeing rising poverty in this country – and indeed, in every country in the world last year – as consumers struggle with record prices, food and energy companies are making eye-watering profits. 95 of the largest 100 food companies in the world more than doubled their profits last year. Introducing higher taxes on those profits and on the shareholders making windfall profits, could raise revenue to help millions of people, in this country, living in poverty.
It’s atrocious that we live in a country where child poverty is rising…and where people are living below the bread line; that’s the urgent need.
In response to a question on improving access to GP services, I talked about chronic disinvestment, not just in the health service, but across our public services. The lesson that we’ve been learning around the world for decades is that, unless we invest in good quality public services, we cannot achieve social protection, or promote social mobility. Yet, here in the UK, the opposite seems to be happening.
It’s going to be Carers’ Week in a couple of weeks time. It is a tragedy that in a country that was clapping for its carers a couple of years ago, the majority of paid carers in this country are living in poverty. How can that be?”
Following the docking in Portland of a 500-berth barge, intended to house asylum seekers – and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s public intervention – we were asked whether we thought the government’s approach to migration was the right one. I argued that it is exactly the wrong approach; that it demonises vulnerable people fleeing persecution, points to a migration system that isn’t working, and leads Britain to renege on the very international obligations that it once played such a leading role in creating. As someone working in the international aid system, I also pointed out the heartbreaking implication of all this – the loss of £3 billion from the aid budget, diverted to cover the hotel bills of an ineffective asylum system.
You can listen to the full programme here.