Opinion

Paul McNamee: With you on our side we’ll change things

We exist to fight poverty and that can only happen when you come with us

Ian Knowles Aberdeen My Pitch 1389

Everybody has a Christmas tradition. Some are more easily understood than others. Maybe you like to wear a jumper with a flashing tree on the front while listening to Bob Dylan’s Christmas In The Heart album on repeat. Perhaps your children, well beyond their early years, still insist that Santa fills a stocking for them for Christmas morning. Or, it may be that you set about re-reading James Joyce’s The Dead under flickering light as you try to learn again the final page and contemplate the nature of being and where we go in life and death.

We all have our own peccadillos.

One tradition that we recognise here is an increase in readers to The Big Issue. If you are a reader who comes to us at Christmas, we welcome you. It’s a fantastic thing to see the rise that comes at this time of year. Buying the Christmas special is a blossoming great British seasonal ritual.

Outside the weather is frightful, homeless numbers are rocketing, and good people want to do something good. And buying The Big Issue does a lot of good.

With every purchase, you’re changing a life. Our vendor earns money from the exchange and, chances are, they, especially at Christmas, meet somebody new. They have a better chance to experience the inclusive warmth of Christmas that we all seek.

Ideally you will find something inside that will pique your interest or make you shift a little and encourage you to stay with us into 2020. It is unlikely you’ll find Sonny Liston, the Archbishop of Canterbury and incredible writing from inside a prison together elsewhere. We exist to fight poverty and that can only happen when you come with us.

As a nation we stand on a parlous cliff-edge. There is a homelessness crisis. This Christmas 135,000 children will be homeless. That is a damning statistic that is worth frequently repeating until it is sorted out. There is also an in-work poverty shadow darkening the door of many families who are clinging on, doing their best.

The NHS feels frequently to be held together by good, tired people, and buckets of hope. There are more foodbanks than McDonald’s in Britain.

Regardless of who takes the reins in Westminster, these systemic issues will not be easily resolved. It will take genuine will, proper planning and levels of humanity and empathy that have not been clearly present in recent administrations.

With every Big Issue purchase, you’re changing a life

That’s not to say that 2019 hasn’t had moments of positive collective will agitating for a better tomorrow. The growing success of the youth climate protests, the schools strikes and the associated focus on the environment has been a boon few predicted.

The outpouring of feeling and desire for change that swept Britain when the journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead felt important, even if the results are yet to be seen.

And remember that The Big Issue was the only place that managed to get all party leaders in that toxic election campaign, which already feels far away, to agree and look in the same direction, backing our Future Generations Pledge. We will continue to apply pressure through 2020 to make sure that those words mean something.

The change will come if we make it.

For now, from all of us at The Big Issue, we hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful new year.

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue

Photo: Richard Frew

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
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