Last week the All Party Group on hunger and food poverty published its report, ‘Feeding Britain’. The findings reminded of the UK’s obscene levels of poverty and hunger. George Osborne’s Autumn Statement provided another shocking reminder of how far the Conservative Party has abandoned the postwar consensus about the welfare state. It has embraced the idea of the richest groups in British society being indulged in an unfair and generous tax regime, while the lives of the poor and disadvantaged are being diminished and demonised in an aggressive display of right-wing ideology rarely seen in this country, even under Thatcher.
Inequality and the idea of social justice were prominent during the referendum campaign as Scots weighed up whether independence or staying with the Union would be the best bet for tackling poverty in Scotland.
Nicola Sturgeon and Jim Murphy have made bold claims about social justice and the need to tackle poverty. This is timely as new figures show that in Scotland levels of poverty are increasing and inequalities deepening.
Using austerity as a cloak, the Westminster Government has overturned any lingering notion of the common good, national solidarity or ethical based politics. In his book, The Soul of Politics, published in the US, Jim Wallis, a new wave Christian intellectual, talks about the relationship between politics and morality being absolutely vital for the future of society. Wallis asks: “Is it possible to evoke in people a genuine desire to transcend our more selfish interests and respond to a larger vision that gives us a sense of purpose, direction, meaning and even community?”