People’s responses to the recent UNICEF report, and to the spate of shootings during the week just gone, indicate that there is a real desire on the part of the people of Britain to tackle poverty and inequality at their roots. Last week, in a speech at the University of London’s Institute of Education, Hilary Benn put forward the case for a campaign on poverty in Britain, what he described as a “campaign against poverty of circumstance, poverty of opportunity, poverty of aspiration. Wasted lives, potential unfulfilled.”
In his speech Benn argued that the Make Poverty History campaign demonstrated that poverty and exclusion is fundamentally about injustice: about the lack of opportunities, the lack of resources and the lack of medicines. Yet, he argued, in Britain, all too often, too many people feel that they have to accept the lottery of birth without question. At the heart of the Make Poverty History campaign was the belief that politics can and does make a difference to the quality of ordinary peoples’ lives.
Benn suggests that the biggest lesson we have to learn in Britain from the developing world is that if we work together, and campaign, and push, and put our minds to it, and fight, politics can change things.
What Benn is really saying is that we must NOT give into the cynics, we must not give into those who will argue that the problems are so enormous, so vast, they are cannot be tackled.
Hilary Benn is reminding us all of the strength and virtue of collective endeavour, he is reminding each and everyone of us of the values and principles on which our movement was founded.