MARCAP (Merseyside And Region Church Action on Poverty) had a full house for their conference at the Quaker Meeting House in Liverpool during Poverty and Homelessness Action Week. Unsnappily titled “All in this together? Or will inequalities widen?”, the event featured contributions from Alison Gelder from Housing Justice, Niall Cooper from Church Action on Poverty, Luciana Berger MP, Esther McVey MP and an introduction from Louise Ellman MP.
Roger Phillips, who had dashed from his radio show, chaired the event so that each participant was able to speak without interruptions and hostility was kept to a minimum.
All the contributors challenged the stereotype that Merseyside is full of spongers living on the backs of the rich but there was no agreement on where the bottom line is for what the state should provide. Alison deplored that the changes being made to the provision of social housing were neither in the parties’ manifestos nor in the coalition agreement. Niall pointed out that serious organising will be necessary if we are to make the aspiration to change society more than just a dream.
I almost felt sorry for the Tory. It was painfully obvious that her motivation for entering politics was based on the assumption that because she herself had forged a successful career from a difficult early life, then everybody must have the inner resources to solve their problems on their own without help from the state. If only that were true. She had the difficult task of persuading 150 people that the cuts were inevitable in all their gory glory. Unsurprisingly, she didn’t succeed.
But there is an elephant in the room. Our economy has been based on exploitation for several centuries. Archbishop Patrick Kelly had referred at the CSAN conference a few days earlier to the current crisis as ‘the death throes of the slave trade’. Perhaps living simply is the only option that we have.