Editor’s Comment November 2015

Humanitarian food for children in refugee camp

Humanitarian food for children in refugee camp - Credit: Archant

Cotswold Life’s Editor, Mike Lowe discusses how our inbuilt British values of caring for those in need is in danger of being eroded forever.

The collapse of the Kids Company charity is already causing alarming ripples across the rest of the giving ‘industry’. The scandalous revelations of private school fees for the children of the boss’s driver, the seven personal assistants, the purchase of mansions and swimming pools and the exaggerated claims regarding ‘clients’ – in Bristol, 600 ‘vulnerable’ youths ended being 34; the emergency phone line set up to help prevent rioting in the streets (thank you, Mr Yentob) received just two calls – will surely see someone getting the six o’clock knock before long.


And it’s not just this particular charity that is souring our sentiments. The disgraceful judge-and jury prosecutions conducted by the RSPCA, the ineffective and expensive activities of chuggers on our high streets, the selling-on of the details of the vulnerable elderly who might be leaned on for a monthly direct debit and the mega-salaries paid to charity bosses – usually more than the Prime Minister – have all combined to undermine our confidence.


(Incidentally, shouldn’t “paid more than the PM” now be added to the lexicon of useful media measurements which has always included the “size of a football field”, “the length of two double decker buses”, “as tall as Nelson’s Column”, “enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool”, “an area the size of Wales” and “the distance to the Moon and back”?)


This personal disenchantment became apparent when I sat down at my computer to make some kind of contribution to help ease the suffering of the tens of thousands of refugees flooding into Western Europe. There were plenty of organisations to which I could send money, but how was I to know how that cash would be spent? How much would actually go to the needy after admin and salary costs had been siphoned off?

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OK, let’s send them some clothes instead. I’ve enough spare clobber in the back of the wardrobe to kit out an entire football team. But then TV pictures flash up of Calais warehouses stacked to the ceiling with boxes of shoes, clothes and tents, with no apparent infrastructure in place to distribute the stuff, so what’s the point?


Well, we could at least offer a refugee family some food and shelter. We’ve a spare guest suite in the East Wing that would be perfect. But then, who would we accommodate? Would we get to choose the ‘lucky’ recipients? I wouldn’t mind looking after a nice professional couple, but I don’t want a pair of ruffians who would do a runner with the family silver at the first opportunity. And I can see an unworthy form of caring one-upmanship springing up in these parts, particularly from the Waitrose Women: “Oh do stop banging on about your nice Syrian family, dear. I’ve got an Eritrean in the attic.”


As ever, there are no easy answers. But one thing is certain. Unless charities get their act together and start behaving in the manner we expect, our inbuilt British values of caring for those in need may be eroded forever.


I do feel a bit sorry for Jeremy Corbyn, whose every action has been used to demonise him by the mainstream media, but you have to admit that he hasn’t exactly helped himself. By appointing militant vegan Kerry McCarthy as shadow secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs, he couldn’t have shown a more demonstrative two fingers to the countryside unless he personally came round and crapped on our compost heaps.


Ms McCarthy is vice president of the League Against Cruel Sports, is anti-shooting, anti-hunting, anti-badger cull and on the verge of wanting horse racing banned. She once branded livestock farming as “dirty and cruel”, says farming causes “immense suffering to animals” and claims that farmers cause world hunger by using crops to feed animals rather than people.


Mr Corbyn might think that he’s being a bit of a smartarse with such an extraordinary appointment. He might want to think again given the number of Labour voters who still exist in rural communities.