Cameron needs better counter to bishop attack

Britain’s biggest food bank provider, The Trussell Trust, handed out nearly a million parcels of emergency food in the past year, up from 347,000 in 2012/2013. The top reason for visits (accounting for 31%) was delays to benefit payments.

More than 40 Anglican bishops wrote to party leaders, urging them to “tackle the causes of food poverty, including low wages, rising food prices and an inadequate welfare benefit safety net”, reports The Guardian.

Prime Minister David Cameron wrote in The Church Times that he believed the Church of England had an “important” role to play in society. However, he also defended the coalition’s record in welfare, arguing that reforms were intended to “make work pay”.

“The prime minister has found himself the target of very well-organised Anglican opposition, and needs a better counter-argument,” says Fraser Nelson in The Daily Telegraph.

“Mr Cameron’s government does not lack a moral agenda, but does struggle to articulate one,” despite an “impressive and lengthening list of social justice achievements.” Studies show that the proportion of British people “who struggle to afford food is falling – and lower now than five years ago”.

“Food banks have grown across the Western world and across the tenures of governments of all political persuasions,” says John Glen, writing for Conservative Home on The Guardian website. The debate has polarised into those who blame ‘poor choices’ and those who blame ‘benefit cuts’. But it’s more complicated than that.

There is “seldom a discussion” of soaring house prices and utility bills, and falling savings, which have left family finances vulnerable. We need to get better evidence of the long-term causes – or we will not be able to move on from the current “sometimes unhelpfully rhetorical debate”.