Opinion

Was that a cabinet reshuffle or just Rishi Sunak shuffling deckchairs?

We need a radical approach to deal with the causes of poverty, not a government pandering for votes with malicious rhetoric

David Cameron at Downing Street

Rishi's reshuffle wheeled out David Cameron (pictured with Andrew Mitchell), the architect of years of austerity. Photo by James Veysey/Shutterstock

It’s never absolutely clear when it’s Black Friday because we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Which is a shame. Had we in Britain and Ireland followed the Pilgrims’ tradition and had a kick-off to the holiday season IN NOVEMBER, with loads of food and basic plotlines for knockabout American comedies, it’d be straightforward.

Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday of November. Which means Black Friday is the following day. The US founding fathers wanted to make sure there were deals offering 20% off small electrical items. It’s part of the American constitution. 

Black Friday deals would be of some use to the Westminster government right now. Such is the turnover of senior ministers, and such is the thin bench they can now call on, that you suspect they’d benefit from checking to see who Amazon have in stock and then getting same-day delivery to SW1.

And the money off would be useful because given that £140 million has been sent to Rwanda with no comeback (buyer beware) a nip and tuck to the public purse wouldn’t do any harm. 

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The recent reshuffle (such a curious word; suggests a preshuffle) to try and show there are sensible people in charge, who are going to do the best for the country and come up with a programme for government, didn’t quite hit the mark. 

Let’s take David Cameron, presented as the calming presence, the voice of reason. David Cameron oversaw the malignant austerity programme which, let us never forget, punished the poorest for the failings of the bankers and the wealthy and drove a generation into an uncertain and, for many, impoverished future. The sense of being left behind that this engendered could also be seen as a driver towards Brexit and a persisting anger at the ‘other’, that amorphous group who are easily blamed as a drain on diminishing national resources. That’s DC for you!

Meanwhile, in the background, we have some MPs, some very senior people, chirping up that if the Supreme Court judges don’t apply the law as those MPs decide they want it, then the law should be broken. Which is all very Trumpian and juvenile. Presumably, then, if someone were to steal the cars of those MPs and then say, well I decided that the law against theft was of no use to me, the same MPs would agree it was all just fine.

It may be that in the days ahead senior ministers will stand up and say we completely disagree with the idea that rough sleeping is a lifestyle choice, we’ll be hard on that kind of malicious rhetoric, and rather than pander for votes, we’ll do the right thing. We’ll work, from now, day and night, to stop people falling into homelessness. 

It may also be that the Chancellor’s autumn statement ushers in a radical approach to deal with the causes of poverty, to help those at the very bottom to beat the fears of galloping food and housing costs, to see some positive future for them and their families, and to find the government take their concerns seriously and provide a real platform for the many to lift up instead of feeling beaten down. 

Or he might just freeze duty on a pint of beer.

Still, there’s always Black Friday and those deals…

Paul McNamee is editor of the Big IssueRead more of his columns here. Follow him on Twitter.

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