Birmingham Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne has taken to the streets of his constituency to sell The Big Issue – and admits the experience taught him an “extraordinary lesson”.
The Shadow Digital Minister joined vendor Michael Smith, known as Smudger to his regular customers, on his pitch outside Sainsbury’s on Union Street in the city.
And Byrne’s first time selling the magazine in the iconic red tabard was an eye-opening experience as he managed to sell just two magazines in an hour.
The Labour MP insists that he learned the value of making contact with vendors when they are out on their pitch working in all weathers.
“This was an extraordinary lesson in how hard Big Issue sellers work every day to earn their way,” said Byrne after the January 4 sell-off.
“Their resilience is absolutely phenomenal, and it really taught me just how much we’ve all got to do to give the vendors a break – and a boost. Even if that boost is a smile.”
The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.
Speaking about the experience, Smudger, 54, said: ““It was interesting. Liam made me feel comfortable with him and that meant I enjoyed being able to put my point of view across to him.”
Jon Hyde, said: “The sell-off experience was a great opportunity to show Liam, on a small scale, what everyday life selling the magazine on the streets is like for Big Issue vendors.
“Smudger was a fantastic ambassador for The Big Issue, showing Liam the ropes, providing sales tips as well as sharing his experiences of homelessness and poverty.”