Gazette column - 28/2/19

What a grotesque avoidable scandal that one in every three children on South Tyneside grows up in poverty.

That’s a third of kids in the area denied a decent start in life when experts warn the curse of financial hardship in the early years holds back its victims for the rest of their lives.

What wasted potential and denied opportunities for the innocent young when their parents, carers or grandparents are unable to afford healthy food, decent clothes, trips away and everything else or pay without worrying about the gas, electricity and rent bills.

In Gateshead, parts of which are also in the Jarrow parliamentary constituency I’m proud to represent as a Labour MP, one in every five children is living in poverty.

What an unforgivable crime against humanity it is when we’re in one of the world’s wealthiest countries and the have yachts ignore the have nots, Britain’s richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe reportedly taking his knighthood and £21 billion fortune to Monaco to hand over less tax.

If he’s not prepared to pay fair when it comes to tax and fund our nation’s services, then he’s another Fat Cat who should be stripped of his fancy title by the Queen.

Inequality and inequity are political choices by Tories chillingly relaxed about rises in the number of children officially classed as living in poverty.

That the majority of these kids nationally are brought up in working households, at least one adult grafting in a job, adds to the scandal when in-work poverty is sapping energy and hope from people who struggle to survive no matter how many hours they clock up every week.

Tories rebranding the £7.83 an hour minimum wage for 25s and over a “living” wage adds insult to injury wage when independent egg heads calculate the rate needs to be at least £9 to cover the basic cost of living.

Labour’s promise of at least £10 an hour is a pledge of social justice, a commitment to decent earnings and a drive to repeat the last Labour Government’s successful rescuing of kids from poverty.

Since 2010 the Conservatives wicked austerity cuts made the inequality we see around us painfully obvious but they’re not finished yet as the Tories hurt the young and old, disabled or able-bodied, jobless and unemployment, low paid and middle earning.

New figures from the admirable Resolution Foundation indicate kids living in relative poverty will hit 37% to top the 34% previous record when the Tories misruled the roost in the first half of the 1990s.

It’s disheartening to see the good work the Labour Governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown achieved when we lifted one million children out of poverty.

As I’ve argued on many occasions, politics is about whose side you’re on.

Labour and I are on the side of every child, including those abandoned into poverty by the Conservatives.

They deserve a good start in life too and we’ll give them what the Tories deny these kids.

 

Meet your MP

 Stephen-Hepburn-MP

Stephen Hepburn has served the Jarrow Constituency as MP since 1997.

He was last elected to serve in June 2017 and won the seat with a conclusive 17,263 majority.

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