The architect of austerity has a new Farrow & Ball chillax cave. Good for him | Suzanne Moore

Suzanne Moore
‘Who could begrudge a man a shed? Well, me, obviously.’ Photograph: Graham Flack/Red Sky Shepherds H/PA

There he sits, flaunting his newly acquired curves. The curves of his new shed. Not any old shed. David Cameron has, of course, acquired a shepherd’s hut for £25,000. I have no idea if a shepherd comes installed or you have to pay extra. The hut has been decorated by Sam Cam in the Farrow & Ball colours of Clunch, Rat’s Arse and Obviously White because posh people can only use Farrow & Ball – they’re afraid of colour so find the Traditional Neutrals range just scrummy. Cameron needs a writing room as he presumably doesn’t have enough space in either of his houses. Sheds are now trendy. Man caves. Offices. Spare rooms. Who could begrudge a man a shed?

Well, me, obviously. This is the man who decided to become prime minister for a while simply because he could. His government deliberately targeted some of the poorest people in the country in the name of paying off debts that they blamed on the previous government rather than the actions of their banker mates. Cameron also called a referendum on the EU, assuming he would win it easily, like everything else in his life. Now we are living with the consequences of that while he cogitates in a fake folksy “hut” in the Cotswolds.

Theresa May doesn’t do the 'I feel your pain' thing, while Cameron did masquerade a bovine empathy on occasion

Remember when he was prime minister? Out of the 29 people in his cabinet, 18 were millionaires. Their combined wealth was estimated to be more than £70m. George Osborne, with his huge trust fund, slashed benefits and made women and disabled people even worse off; now he walks into the editorship of a newspaper. Jeremy Hunt, who sold his Hot Courses company for £30m, now tells the NHS to make “efficiencies” when its key workers repeatedly tell us the service is crumbling.

So when Theresa May told Andrew Marr yesterday morning that nurses go to food banks for many complex reasons – presumably far beyond poverty and hunger – there was a collective gasp. Freezing public sector pay means nurses’ wages have actually gone down in recent years. Delays in benefit payments lead some people to visit food banks and sometimes they go for more than just food. Women need sanitary protection and basic toiletries. But May didn’t get into any of that.

May doesn’t do the “I feel your pain” thing, while Cameron did masquerade a bovine empathy on occasion. But the attack on her for being robotic misses the point somehow – her denial of feeling is seen by some as strength. Feeling is weakness, but also, the implication now goes, poverty is weakness too. Cameron’s government was successful at recasting poverty as a failure of morality (skivers). Being poor is shameful, stressful, often hidden and experienced as individual failure. To respond to all this by saying vague stuff about being anti-austerity never really works because it is a feeling, not a policy.

In fact, poverty has been questioned and recast in all sorts of ways. After the Blairs left power and grabbed at everything, this was sometimes explained by Cherie as once having been poor; poverty was used to explain why they were necessarily so avaricious. Former Tory MP Edwina Currie recently questioned whether children in the UK could possibly be going hungry, on the basis that some children are fat.

As we now move in the direction of being a one-party state, our leaders and former leaders are not only fabulously relaxed about vast wealth, they are unembarrassed by it. Yet in such a rich country we see rough sleepers, kids without a hot meal inside them. We hear tales of hunger, shame and stress, of many lives actually shortened by poverty.

So the sight of Cameron chillaxing in his upmarket shed while May dissembles about food banks made one thing very clear. Not only are the Tories unembarrassed about vast wealth, they are unembarrassed about poverty. Shame on them and their faux folksy huts.

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