Boris Johnson’s sister Rachel, privately schooled, Oxford educated, and former editor of the world’s poshest magazine The Lady – has gone on a ‘poverty safari’ to Deptford in South East London, where she reports seeing people ‘live like animals’ and families living on food budgets of just £1 a day. It is difficult to know what is more offensive here; that such poverty exists, or that our country’s ‘finest’ are entertaining themselves with guided tours of Britain’s modern slums.
Rachel Johnson’s ‘Poverty Safari’
As part of yet another BBC poverty porn documentary, Rachel Johnson entered the depths of Deptford to sniff some poor people and their grubby lodgings. She tells the Independent:
“There’s this terrible sense of human waste. They’re existing, rather than living, like battery hens. Apart from the telly and the cigarettes, they are living like animals.
“I realised, with a terrible thud, how much money I’ve wasted. I can’t pay £3 for a flat white coffee without thinking: ‘That’s a day’s food for a poor family’,” she said.
You might be tempted to think – ‘oh come on Scriptonite, you’re being a bit tough on Rachel. She’s at least trying to make a difference’. Sadly, she followed up that sentence by reflecting on how jealous her friends would be when they found out she’d been hanging with the plebs.
“Bizarrely, I think there’s a lot of envy. ‘Lucky old Rachel, she went on poverty safari!’ An experience they can never have, even with all the money they’ve got,” she said.
That’s right. Those scenes that she witnessed, the daily grind suffered through by whole swathes of the working class, reduced to some light entertainment for those who will never know such hardships. It’s all just shits and giggles for the 1%.
The Poverty in Modern Britain
Good news for Ms Johnson and her friends is there’s plenty more poverty where that came from. Thanks to a budget crippling £850bn bank bailout and four years of devastating cuts to frontline services and welfare, combined with mass privatisations – hell, there’s safari enough for everyone!
The cost of living is rising at four times the rate of wages. In fact UK wages are falling faster than any other ‘developed’ country.
Thirty four disabled people have killed themselves, and 32 have died every week while undergoing stressful ATOS ‘work capability assessments’ over the last three years. Hate crimes against disabled people shot up 25% in 2012.
The number of people reliant on Food Banks tripled in the last year, with nearly a million people unable to feed themselves without charity support. Last winter, the Red Cross launched its first emergency food aid programme on UK soil since World War II.
Statutory Homelessness  rose by 21% in England and 17% in Wales in 2012. While Rough Sleeping has risen even faster, at 31% in England. Outreach workers from Homeless Charity Crisis performed a count in London which found a 62% rise in rough sleepers in the capital in just the last two years .
The average cost of a single room in a care home has risen to over £27,000 a year. This is higher than the average UK annual wage (£26,000) and more than double the average annual pension income of £13,208. In fact since 2011, care home costs have risen at twice the rate of inflation. Yet last year, the regulatory body for the UKs care homes The Care Quality Commission (CQC) published a damning report that showed that more than half of all elderly and people with disabilities in care homes were being denied basic care.
Indeed, the wealthy can choose between working poor, jobless poor, and poverty stricken people of any age, in almost any part of the country – outside the wealthy ghettos and estates ofcourse.
I Call Bullshit
You may have garnered from this unusually expletive laden post, that this is one occasion where I am not only involved…but I am angry too. I call bullshit.
I call bullshit on ideological austerity which adds up to little more than the mass theft of wealth from the many by the few.
I call bullshit on the media’s consistent failure to hold the government to account and its demonisation of the victims of austerity.
I call bullshit on the Nick and Margarets, the Michael Portillos and the Rachel Johnson’s of the 1% who go on all expenses paid jollies into the Heart of Darkness on ‘Poverty Safari’, only to come back and trample the impoverished yet further into the ground.
I call bullshit on the whole system of grave and favour that has the 85 richest people in the world have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion.
Don’t (just) get angry, get involved!
Join the People’s Assembly Against Austerity and fight
Join Occupy London and work towards a better, more just, world.
Foodcycle – join the Food Cycle network and help people eat. These folks match food about to be wasted (eg. from Supermarkets etc), with fokls with the time to cook it, and spare kitchen spaces. If you are struggling to make ends meet, this is a great place to be part of a community, learns some great skills, and eat well.