Opinion

The cost of living crisis has left us in a state of emergency. The government must act

Nobody should feel ashamed of struggling while government fall short. Action is needed to bring down the cost of living and restore hope

Hands counting coins

Image: Frantisek Krejci from Pixabay

Last week a woman rang Nicky Campbell’s radio show on BBC’s Radio 5 Live and burst into tears. And, frankly, it was hard not to do the same. Identified as Jane from Blackpool, she was talking about the cost of living crisis and the spiralling price of food. It had just been revealed that food prices were rising at their fastest rate for 45 years. Jane explained that she and her husband were in their sixties and both worked, but because of the cost of everything they were barely managing. They were eating jacket potatoes for dinner. Every night. There was no lunch. She said that now and again they’d have some cheese on the potato, if they were feeling flush. It’s all they can afford.

She didn’t shout or get angry, she calmly explained how things were, and then broke down. She and her husband were also now worried as there was a potential for mortgages to rise again as interest rates look set to go up. They may have by the time you read this.

As well as being at her wits’ end, Jane also felt shame. She said her husband would be heartbroken that she was on the phone talking about their situation. They didn’t expect to be as they are now. Jane should not feel shame. We should.

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Jane from Blackpool is obviously not alone. The messages that arrived following her testimony illustrated that. And while noises from government insist that bringing inflation down is their priority and that they’re doing all they can to lower the cost of living, the lived reality counters that rhetoric. There was a general agreement on that radio show from listeners that the political class just doesn’t get it. And while politicians still have to get their groceries in, they are insulated from real hardships, particularly the very wealthy running the country

It’s time for us to say enough. What kind of low-slung hollowed-out echo of a life are we accepting for a growing number of people in Britain? Our shame at allowing this must be what triggers us to demand change. Lip service platitudes from a remote place that insist inflation is going to come down and everything will be all right are not funny any more. Time to press the emergency button.

We’ve been talking about the cost of living crisis for a year. There needs to be a new emergency budget right now to stop crisis becoming catastrophe. Pack it in with culture wars sneering, or the race to the bottom on who can blame migrants for all ills. In fact, stop blaming everybody else. This is a very real and scary battle for lives. Work out clear policy on a wholesale and national level to lift people out of the mire and implement it. Do it across the devolved nations. I won’t say government of national unity because constitutional experts will snort and explain why this won’t work. Actually, who cares – it is needed now.

The call for emergency action is not a new one from The Big Issue. But the urgency is tightening on the cost of living – on food prices and on housing particularly. It’s not going to simply recede.

In the short term, there is The Big Issue. I feel like I repeat this message increasingly as things are getting worse for many people. The Big Issue can be part of the solution. We are here to prevent people toppling into poverty by offering a chance to earn. Or for you to work your way out. Our door remains open when others close.

If you, or somebody you know, needs to keep a roof over their head, or the family fed, you can sell The Big Issue. Call 0207 526 3445 or visit your local Big Issue office. You can also sign up here. We will give you five free magazines and a pitch location so you can start earning straight away. Plus, you’ll receive another 30 free magazines over your first four weeks.

We will carry on doing what we can. It is now the government who must show they can govern. And we must hold them to account.

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

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

To support our work buy a copy! If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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