Rees-Mogg: the ghost at the foodbank

Jacob rees-mogg debating at the cambridge union society

Jacob Rees-Mogg debating at the Cambridge Union Society.

​Graham Martin takes issue with Jacob Rees-Mogg's pronouncements on foodbanks - but argues that he mustn't just be laughed off.

Graham Martin's photo

20th September 2017 by Graham Martin 2 Comments

As the days darken, both literally and metaphorically, it seems apt that ghosts come to sit among us.

Politics just now is haunted by the screaming wraiths of the past – the threat of nuclear annihilation, the resurrection of fascism. The Spanish state has even been parading the stinking corpse of Francoism in recent days as it moves to smash democracy in Catalonia.

Among this carnival of monsters, the apparition of Jacob Rees-Mogg might seem of trivial importance.

Here’s a task – get a pencil, close your eyes and try to draw a Tory buffoon, and you’ll doubtless knock together a passable Rees-Mogg, a be-tweeded and over-nannied rip in the space-time continuum, a wormhole to the days of empire and phossy-jaw.

it is uplifting that there are people organising from below to meet a need - but it is a need which has been created deliberately and unnecessarily

But, as difficult as he makes it for us, we have to take him seriously, because as the centre collapses, he represents a form of reaction which might find an echo.

If we take him seriously, then we can take instruction from him, and what he represents.

For the third sector, this avatar of the past did us a favour by casting a blacklight on an age-old debate on what charity is, and what it sets out to achieve.

Last week, Banquo-like, he appeared at the feast, or at least at the foodbank, when he announced that he finds the prospect of people having to access emergency food provision “rather uplifting”.

Now, in itself this is correct – it is uplifting that there is a whole group of people organising from below to meet a need. But it is a need which has been created deliberately and unnecessarily. And by whom? By Rees-Mogg and his government and its ideological pursuit of austerity.

He finds foodbanks uplifting as they provide a non-state response to the social problems he has helped create.

It should be stated now that his conception of what charity is and what it actually represents can stand for two competing views on the nature and future direction of society. For Rees-Mogg, charity is a patrician response to a need which must exist under the kind of unequal society he and his party stand for.

That of haves, with the devil devouring the have-nots.

The third sector at its best represents an opposite impulse, an empowering project of building from below, enabling individuals and communities to not just react to need, but to fill the need and to take steps to eradicate the need.

Tellingly, Rees-Mogg might find foodbanks uplifting, but the response from his co-thinkers quickly shifts from a pat on the head to a hand round the mouth when charities begin to speak out about inequality.

George Orwell nailed this cant in a dissection of that most famous ghost story, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which he saw as the embodiment of the Victorian, know your place view of charity.

It fails, he says, because the “objective is not a society where everything comes right in the end, because kind old gentlemen give away turkeys.”

He further goes on to speculate on “a world where Scrooge, with his dividends, and Tiny Tim, with his tuberculous leg, would both be unthinkable.”

Indeed. I’d add to that: how about a world where both foodbanks and Rees-Mogg are unthinkable?

Graham Martin is news editor of Third Force News.

22nd September 2017 by Lok Yue

What an appalling piece of vitriolic snobbery. Forgetting such epithets as 'tory buffoon' for as moment, the author deliberately twists Mr. Rees-mogg's comment. What he said was: "The voluntary support given to food banks is "rather uplifting" and "shows what a compassionate country we are". In other words he is expressing respect and admiration for those who do the work. Why should anybody want 'laugh off' such comments?It might be anathema to Mr. Martin's obviously marxist dogma but there are many wealthy people on the political left as well as the right. By all means hold and broadcast a point of view but do try to be accurate. I have worked in the Third Sector for 20 years and the best people (of which there are many) stay clear of politics and get on with the job

25th September 2017 by RealFreedom

Fake news from a Marxist troll. You deliberately misquote Rees-Mogg and then base your vitriolic attack on something he did not say. Why does SCVO and its paid activists hate the volunteers at food banks?