Since 2016, the government has provided £4.2 billion towards paying for a Brexit that will, in every single way, make this country worse off. In other news, there are more people sleeping and living on our streets than ever. What does this say about our country?
Well, we know really, don’t we? Skewed priorities, the shutdown of almost every aspect of political life apart from leaving the EU and, I fear, widespread apathy among the public.
I spoke with a prominent local person who works to help the homeless and rough sleepers and he says the demographic of those who have nowhere to live and sleep has changed. There are still large numbers of people with addictions living on our streets but there are, increasingly, families with nowhere to go. Families who lost their homes and, in some cases, possessions for a variety of reasons including benefit delays, losing their jobs, general debt and so on. Children, sometimes very young children, with nowhere to call home. Does this not shame our country?
Since the Conservatives formed their government in 2010, a right wing Tory government in which some Liberal Democrats had jobs, homelessness and rough sleeping has increased. It is of course no coincidence that this government inflicted austerity on our country, a decision which affected most of all, the poorest people in society. Many of these people now have nowhere to live. Those at the top have, generally speaking, not lost their homes or their homes. For them, and indeed the majority of middle Britain, little has changed.
Walking through the city centre of Bristol yesterday, through driving and persistent rain, there seemed to be people everywhere with nowhere to go. I have no way of knowing how genuine all of them were, but I cannot believe that they were all somehow feckless, lazy people who were begging when they didn’t need to. On the way to Bristol Temple Meads station, by the river, the scene looked hopeless and anything but Christmasy. Worse than that, the modernised riverside looked third worldly. Inside the offices, smartly dressed men (almost always men, but that’s an argument for another day) sitting around long tables at meetings and on the street dishevelled men, some old, some young, lie drenched in the downpour. Meanwhile, the government provided £4.2 billion towards our self-immolation.
Even though our country is pissing away billions of pounds in trying to make Brexit less worse, allowing people to sleep rough, to be homeless, is still a political choice. It is a choice by politicians and it is a choice by those of us who elect them. If we can continue to argue about Brexit, as we shall for the next decade and longer if we proceed down this reckless road, then cannot we also try to remember those at the very bottom?