Rightly or wrongly, the prime minister and chancellor do not give the impression that they care about the poor

Nadine Dorries is right, isn’t she?

I do not mean that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor are “posh boys who do not know the price of milk” , though that may well be the case; who can judge? What I mean is that Nadine Dorries is right to highlight that the single biggest question facing us all is the question of poverty.

Nadine Dorries knows that there are people in this country who “go to the supermarket and have to put things back on the shelves because they can’t afford it for their children’s lunch boxes.”  This is sobering. And the whole point of politcs – I take this to be self-evident, though it seems that we need reminding of it – is to solve the problem of poverty.

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Concern for the poor is something that should motivate us all. As Catholics, we should want to improve the lot of the poor – in continuity with a long tradition of Catholic social teaching and social action. We should be inspired by people like Saint Francis and Saint Vincent de Paul and the great Don Bosco. I don’t think we need to argue people into thinking that the Fransican or Vincentian approach, or that of Don Bosco, is somehow the “right” one. People like the saints transcend the category of right by being so good. Their goodness is an argument in itself.

As human beings, too, we should want to improve the lot of the poor; you do not have to be religious to want to help the poor (though being religious may help, and religion certainly does provide a strong motivation for social action). But all of us should find the matter that Ms Dorries raises a spur to our slumbering consciences. Those of us who are well off must know that poverty is a problem for us too, for how can we have a cohesive society when a sizeable minority languishes in poverty?

Finally, we must be worried by the morally corrosive effect that a lifetime of poverty will have on human beings. Being poor wears down the human spirit. Lives lived in poverty are often tragic, wasted lives.

Do Cameron and Osborne care about the state of Britain, and that two and a half million people are unemployed? I wonder…. Perhaps Ms Dorries is wrong, and they are not arrogant and out of touch. But if that is the case, Ms Dorries is still right to highlight the pressing nature of the poverty problem, and the need for the government to show us a lead in this matter.

 

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