WHEN something happens once, you can put it down to one-off. When something happens twice, you can begin to see a pattern slowly emerging. I write, of course, about the U-turn forced on the Prime Minister today with regards to providing free school meals for our most vulnerable children over the summer. This current U-turn bears parallels with the U-turn of 21 May when the Prime Minister was forced to scrap the so-called ‘Health Immigration Surcharge’. At the time, I wrote to the Thurrock press and said:
‘It is with a deep sense of anger that I write about the travesty of the Health Immigration Surcharge being levied against our low-paid, immigrant NHS and care staff…this fee for the use of the NHS, due to soar from £400 to £624 in October, is unjust and hypocritical…these [NHS Heroes], being paid the National Living Wage, need to work around 70 hours to pay off that fee…’
What struck me then, is what struck me this time about the nature of the U-turns: that fact that the Prime Minister just seems incapable of viewing the situation on the ground from the perspective of the low-paid and vulnerable of our society. Back then, he had to be pressurised and cajoled to see the unfairness of low-paid NHS cleaners, porters and carers having to pay for NHS treatment despite the fact that our hospitals couldn’t even run with without their hard work and dedication. This time, it’s the fact that the Prime Minister had to be shamed into accepting that it is wrong for children to be hungry over the summer. Why did it take the campaign and powerful backstory of Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford to highlight why it is wrong for children to be hungry, in the sixth richest country in the world, on account of the background which they came from?
The pattern which is emerging is worrying. It is a pattern of Prime Minister who seems to not care about the lowest paid and most vulnerable in society. It is a pattern of a Prime Minister who only acts for the neediest in our country when forced to. It is a pattern of a Prime Minister unable to take proactive action to address the ills of society. When the U-turn was finally announced today, the 4000 Thurrock children eligible for free school meals breathed a collective sigh of relief. With the lack of foresight and compassion on display recently, it can’t be long before a third U-turn is eventually forced upon this Government.