Darryl Morris Weekly – 23.10.20 – Equal Britain?

Sometimes, you have to work hard to find a topical hook for a story you want to do. Other times, they pile up like trucks at the Kent border.

Two of the week’s biggest stories have blown open some of the social and economic gaps that still linger over modern Britain, accidentally providing the perfect backdrop for us to launch talkRADIO’s Equal Britain series this weekend.

Both of which were open goals for the government. Both of which they managed to hoof over the bar.

Marcus Rashford’s campaign to extend free school meals into the Christmas holidays was a no brainer. An easy win. And yet, the government huffed and puffed and dug in, refusing the extra cash and pointing to Universal Credit and food banks as other options.

To understand this story properly, you have to start here: we are not in normal times. The most vulnerable people in our society have been – or are about to be – plunged into an economic and social hardship the likes of which we, in our living memory, have never seen. The moral and emotional case for helping these hard-hit families feed their children this Christmas is obvious and widely made. But the open goal gets wider – because there is also a strong economic argument for doing it too – often overlooked and under referenced in the ideological tug of war that this subject leads to.

One of the leading arguments from those opposed is that it encourages state dependancy. We know that isn’t true. It is literally the opposite. It costs us.

Feed hungry children now and they are less likely to have to rely on the welfare state as they grow up. It is that simple. This shouldn’t be seen as a hand out, it is hand up. It is a safety net for the most vulnerable, and catching and supporting them benefits us all in the long term. Leave them to go hungry, and we all lose.

It is – simply – a good investment. It is also what a civilised society does.

While we’re on the issue of state dependancy – it costs £9.19 for a ribeye steak and £4.52 for pressed duck leg and caper terrine in the House of Commons restaurant. I don’t even know what that is. But it costs us in the region of £4.4m to subsidise our MPs lunches. If we want to have a discussion about people being dependant on the state for food, maybe we should start a little closer to home?

It is heartbreaking that one of the wealthiest nations in the world has to make such a cold, hard, economic calculation in order to persuade our leaders to feed hungry children. But here we are.

The other story – which feels like a lifetime ago, but was only Tuesday – saw Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham in a stand off with the government over funding and support for the region entering Tier 3. It was bizarre spectacle that felt more like Westminster were in negotiation with a hostile state than a city region of their own country. This story really takes off a couple of days later, though, when the chancellor scrambles to provide financial support for people and businesses affected by Tier 2 – by which we mean, London – several months on from much of the north of England being placed under what amounts to Tier 2 restrictions themselves.

Tackling the north-south divide was made a modus operandi by Boris Johnson during the 2019 election. But you see the issue here, right?

We’ll take stock of these stories this weekend as we kick off our Equal Britain series. Ten years on from the Equalities Act, we’ll ask what, if anything, has changed? We’ll be speaking to those who have felt the pinch of and unequal life, and asking what change they have seen over their lifetime. Including comedian Lee Ridley (aka Lost Voice Guy), Ash Palmisciano, the first trans man to appear on Emmadale, Tanni Grey-Thompson, one of our finest Paralympic athletes, Sara Canning, the partner of the murdered Northern Irish journalist Lyra McKee and Cherie Blair, who rose from working class Liverpool to Oxford, the bar and into Downing Street.

It’ll be a hell of a ride and I can’t wait to get stuck into their stories.

We’ll also be heading back on the Road to the White House for the penultimate time. Edward Hardy from The Hardy Report and Greg Swenson from Republicans Overseas join us as usual to chew through the final presidential debate – a square draw, by my reckoning, and not much moving of the dial.

See you in the morning.

Weekend Early Breakfast with Darryl Morris – Sat and Sun – 5am-7am

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By Darryl Morris

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