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The price of a loaf of bread

It is of course the standard interviewer ambush, what is the price of a loaf of bread or a pint of milk? Few politicians can answer such a question unless well-prepared. On its own the answer or lack of it reveals little of substance.

Yet it matters in a time of austerity, when the poorest are being pressed the hardest and made to pay for the financial sins of others.

A hard pressed mother or father watching the pennies is very much aware of the price of a loaf of bread. I should say they know the price of loaves of bread and they know the price of having to choose the least nutritional option.

So when politicians demonstrate their inability to answer, it demonstrates their distance from the hard realities of life. They clearly do not understand the pain and suffering of the poorest.

If there is an economic recovery, it isn't yet being experienced by people in general who are still feeling financially squeezed. And this is the problem for the coalition. The feel good factor is hard to find. Millions can find only part-time employment, often at wages lower than the statutory minimum. Their rents are rising as is the cost of living in general.

Far from being sympathetic, government ministers brand the poor feckless and work-shy and in 'welfare dependency'. Not only are the poorest on low earnings, but their benefits have been cut. The poor know the price of a loaf of bread or a pint of milk!

It isn't so much whether a politician 'knows' the price of a loaf of bread that matters. It is whether they can demonstrate by their response an understanding of the difficulties faced by the poorest.

Members of this government signally fail to demonstrate such understanding. Boris Johnson brushed the question off as if it didn't really matter, or that it was some kind of funny business on a panel game show. Ian Duncan Smith blames the poor for their poverty.

The poor suffer from some kind of Victorian disease called 'welfare dependency' from which they need to be shaken. The unemployed need to be forced into slave labour in return for their benefits. The story is told of the unemployed failing to look for work. This is nonsense of course because many do find work, but for the majority it is either part-time or at best temporary.

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, yet the government not only behave as if this doesn't matter, but that it is something about which we should rejoice. Let's not blame the rich for the mess we are in, rather we should admire them for making money. Yet, for the rich to make money is pretty easy stuff compared to the difficulty of raising a family on the minimum wage and still finding time to help others.

It is time we readjusted our values. It is time we knew the price of a loaf of bread.


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