A new YouGov poll has revealed that 51% of Brits believe that pupils, whose parents have fallen behind with school lunch payments, should be fed a lunch of just bread, butter, fruit, and water.
Just over half of Brits (51%) support the decision of a school to give pupils, whose parents have repeatedly not paid for their school lunches, a lunch of bread and butter, fruit and milk or water – 27% oppose it. https://t.co/U6RA4M39vK pic.twitter.com/oGIcvwai1r
— YouGov (@YouGov) May 8, 2018
The news comes after a school in Shropshire did just that. The Mount Pleasant Primary School in Shrewsbury came under fire last week when it was reported that primary school children who are more than three days behind on lunch payments are given just bread, butter, fruit and water or milk for lunch. The children are also forced to sit apart from the other children to eat.
The policy is obviously barbaric — like something from a Charles Dickens novel, according to one Mount Pleasant parent — and yet, only 27% of Brits oppose it, while a terrifying 51% of Brits actively support the policy.
In the wake of the news, most comments have focused on the cause of this policy — namely the extensive cuts to education and schools under the Conservative government. Indeed, since 2015, £2.8 billion has been cut from school budgets, and primary schools on average have lost £45,400 in funding. There’s no arguing that Tory policies and budget cuts are having a real, measurable, and detrimental impact on schools and their children.
But what shocks me isn’t that this is happening — we’ve been witnessing the effects of austerity for nearly a decade now. It’s that the public agrees with it. Not only did one school board decide that the best way to respond to funding cuts is to punish and ostracise poor children, but the British public saw this cruelty, clapped its collective hands together and went, ‘Ooh, goody!’
Of course, this shouldn’t shock me. This is the same Britain that voted to leave the EU, because they hated immigrants more than they valued economic stability. This is the same Britain that voted in a Conservative majority in 2015. The same Britain that chose food banks, child poverty, the murdering of disabled people, the destruction of the NHS, and the demonisation of BAME people over literally anything else.
“We’re the ones that looked at the Tories and their policies and their track record and said ‘Yes, more of that please’.”
Like it or not, Britain is a right wing country. Whilst Corbyn’s Labour is thankfully making gains, a high proportion of Brits still think a Conservative government is the best thing for the country. Brexit has proven this. The post-Brexit surge in racist attacks and our government’s refusal to condemn Donald Trump has written this fact into our history for good. And this latest YouGov poll simply reinforces this.
No matter what our Twitter echo-chambers tell us, no matter how many feel-good stories air on morning television, there’s no denying that Britain is getting crueller. We can lambast Theresa May and Amber Rudd and Boris Johnson and whoever else as much as we want — but we’re the ones that voted them in. We’re the one that looked at these people and their policies and their track records and said ‘Yes, more of that please.’ The government isn’t destroying vulnerable people’s lives just because they can (although, largely because they can). They’re destroying vulnerable people’s lives because the British public is cheering them on.
This is, of course, not unique to school lunches — or even the government. Currently in the UK, the media (even left-wing publications like The Guardian) is waging a war against trans people, and trans women in particularly. Just last night, Channel 4 aired a controversial show called Genderquake, where the validity of trans women’s existence was ‘debated’ (and by debated, I mean a trans woman of colour was attacked and spoken over repeatedly). Every day, publications of all political persuasions publish articles about how trans women are a danger to ‘real’ women. Cis women Labour MPs recently resigned in ‘protest’ of Labour’s decision to allow trans women onto women only shortlists.
“The Tories didn’t storm the Houses of Parliament and force their leadership upon us. We invited them in with open arms.”
While we on the left (rightly) condemn the media for their behaviour, what we don’t do is examine how we as a society have enabled this transphobic media. Media organisations publish stories that they think the public want. They always have, and they always will. Therefore, they must think that the public wants transphobic headlines and TERF-y articles.
Of course, this is a never ending circle. The media commissions transphobes because the public likes to read transphobes. The more transphobic pieces the media publishes, the more these ideas become normalised. The more these ideas become normalised, the more vocal lay transphobes get. The more vocal lay transphobes get, the more transphobic articles the media publishes because they can see there’s an audience for that kind of vile content.
So while we should be criticising the government and the media and all the institutions that systematically oppress and abuse minorities, we should also be looking at ourselves and asking how we allowed our government and media and institutions to get this way.
Because we in the UK are not living in a dictatorship. The Tories didn’t storm the Houses of Parliament and force their leadership upon us. We invited them in with open arms, and now we’re rubbing our hands with glee while they starve, murder, impoverish and deport our neighbours.