Kids are going hungry and the country is on its knees, so lets get rid of those lanyards

Esther McVey, the government's so-called 'Minister for Common Sense'
Esther McVey, the government's so-called 'Minister for Common Sense' -Credit:Getty Images

Like with most weeks in the United Kingdom at the moment, the past seven days have brought with them some appalling news about the state of the country.

We heard from foodbank charity the Trussell Trust, who announced that they have handed out a record number of emergency food parcels in the last year. In total, 3,121,404 parcels had been distributed in the 12 months up to the end of March. over a third went to children.

Those numbers have almost doubled in the past five years in a grim reflection of how poverty is spreading around the nation, the numbers of first-time foodbank users is up by a whopping 40%.

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Just think about this for a minute. We live in one of the wealthiest nations in the world, but in 2024 we are facing historic, record and growing levels of food poverty. Foodbanks simply should not exist in the UK, but they have now become a vital part of life for so many people.

On a similar theme, this week also saw an intervention from former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Whatever your thoughts on his time in office, there can be no doubt that Mr Brown is a key voice on the issue of child poverty in particular.

The former chancellor spoke of 'austerity's children', meaning the kids born after the coalition government arrived in 2010 and began slashing funding for public services at will. These children account for 3.4m of Britain's shameful figure of 4.3m children living in poverty today.

As Mr Brown said: "Most of them have never known what it is like to be free of poverty and yet in almost every single year of the past decade, even as their need has been mounting, the government’s support for children has been spiralling downwards."

Data showing the levels of child poverty in 39 OECD and EU states shows the United Kingdom way out in front with by far the highest levels. Truly a global leader.

Elsewhere there was more bad news coming out of the country's justice system.

Ministers triggered an emergency plan which allows court cases to be delayed because of overcrowding in prisons. The emergency measures mean that some suspects will be released on bail, rather than remanded as their trial is delayed. A shocking and worrying situation for one of the oldest and most revered justice systems in the world.

The Law Society of England and Wales was unequivocal in pointing out where this worrying situation has emerged from. More than a decade of underfunding of the criminal justice system.

I'm not sure there is any more visual metaphor for the decrepit state of our nation than 10m litres of raw sewage being illegally pumped into this nation's largest and most beautiful lake.

The BBC revealed that United Utilities failed to stop the illegal pollution of Windermere in the Lake District for 10 hours in February and failed to report the incident until 13 hours after it started.

Whether its agonising levels of child poverty, the pumping of raw sewage into our precious waterways or the dilapidated and damaging state of our justice system, there is so much wrong right now that a responsible government would want to address.

The problem is that this government's actions have either exacerbated, added to or outright caused many of these crises. And based on this week, they have no intention of trying to do anything about them.

Instead, we found out what the government is choosing to prioritise.

The week started with news that the government's so-called 'minister for common sense', Esther McVey, was unleashing a new 'war on woke' with a ban on certain types of lanyards being worn in the civil service.

Yes, Ms McVey believes that the answer to the country's competing catastrophes, the devastation across our public services, is to tell government workers what they can't wear around their necks. Inspiring stuff.

This bizarre announcement was followed later in the week by a truly shambolic radio performance by the Education Secretary Gillian Keegan who was attempting to explain the government's new rules on sex education in schools.

If you haven't listened to the brutal exchange between Gillian Keegan and Radio 4 presenter Emma Barnett, I would urge to do so, but be sure to alert your toes to the fact they are about to dramatically curl.

Having announced plans to stop schools from teaching gender identity and to ban sex education being taught at younger ages, Ms Keegan was asked how widespread the issue of teaching about "inappropriate" relationships is in schools across the country.

Responding, Ms Keegan said: 'I don't think it's widespread. I mean, I don't know because, you know, it's not something that we’ve gone and done a particular survey of.”

The presenter - and I imagine anyone listening - was aghast at the idea of a Secretary of State implementing major reforms to our education system without any real idea of whether they are required.

But like with the lanyards, we know that none of this is actually about improving lives, moving the country forward or protecting people.

This is about a party and a government that is firmly into its death throes, that cannot head into a general election standing on its appalling record and that has only one card it can play - stir up the culture wars.

Expect to see a lot more of this nonsense in the months ahead.

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