by Becca McCarthy Nov 20th, 2015
Below is a guest blog from Rev. Joe Haward, from Newton Abbot, about his experience of a petition hand-in against the cuts to tax credits to Anne Marie Morris MP:
“I met with Anne Marie Morris MP today to discuss the proposed tax credit cuts, cuts that will directly impact the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, and to hand her a petition signed by people in her own constituency opposing the cuts; people are really worried by these cuts because who wants to have to choose between food and heating?
A few of us gathered outside her offices – thank to those who came and those who were there in spirit – and had a photo. Interestingly, two school mums were walking past so we asked if they could take our photo and they had no idea about the tax credit cuts and how it will affect them…
I went in to her office and spent about 20 minutes with her.
The very first thing I said was that all too often our relationships are determined by that which separates us and our differences; we see it all the time in politics. I said to her that my desire in meeting her was not to paint her as the ‘horrible other’ but so that I might meet with her as a fellow human being, to meet in our common humanity and how we can work together as people. She really appreciated that.
I gave her the petition and a card supplied by 38 Degrees that shared the stories of real people for whom these tax credit cuts will hurt.
I asked her to recognise that the greatest gift any of us can give to the other, and the greatest gift she as an MP can give to her constituents is compassion. I asked her to see that these cuts are not simply numbers on a page or a balancing of books, rather it is real people with real lives. She said that she recognised this and completely agreed.
She admits that George Osbourne got it wrong and this whole process was handled incorrectly.
She wants to see a simpler system whereby people are not taxed with one hand and then that money being given straight back through tax credits. She hopes there will be a system that means people are looked after properly and paid well. I hope this was not political rhetoric and came from a genuine place.
She said that when George Osbourne released his proposals he had not fully comprehended the vast amount of people for whom these cuts would hurt – I am cynical on this point, but I can only say what she told me.
I did challenge her here; this is his job. He has been given the job and responsibility as Chancellor of the Exchequer and so he needs to be one step ahead of everyone else aware of all eventualities. She said he is only human, but I challenged her and said that the decisions he makes affects people, therefore he needs to be sure that what he does is for the good of those who are most vulnerable. I repeated what has so often been said, but that there are massive corporations who refuse to pay billions into our economy and yet continue to get away with it. I said that we should not be screwing over the poorest but should be going after these massive corporations and getting them to pay their way. She said this government has been tackling this…
I highlighted to her that in 2010 David Cameron preached the ‘big society’ and how we are all in this together. This has not transpired and people are hurting. I said we need to work out how we can care for one another properly, how those who are oppressed and poor can be treated well, how compassion can be the force the by which decisions are made. I said that I felt with David Cameron and George Osbourne that compassion was not that which motivated them and that this really concerned me.
I told her that I’m a Pastor and that one of Jesus’ big things was compassion for the poor, oppressed and most vulnerable. So as a pastor that has to be something I am genuinely concerned about. But I also believe that an MP is there to serve the people. I said that I did not know what she made of Jesus but that it seems to me that an MP should care about compassion. She agreed.
She said that she hoped that on Tuesday that the budget would reflect the concerns that have been raised up and down the UK and that people would feel heard. She said that some of her colleagues do not have the same levels of deprivation as are present in her constituency and so are not always aware of the problems that people face.
I shared real stories of those real problems; a foster carer in Newton Abbot who does not get paid a wage and so the living wage does not apply to her. The cut in tax credits is simply a real cut in her income; a single working mum who earns just above the living wage who will lose tax credits and therefore will struggle to pay the fuel she needs to get to work in the first place; another single working mum who gets little help from the father of her children and again will directly lose real money every month making an already stretched income break.
She recognised that people like this had not properly been thought about.
She assured me that she had heard me and the concerns that people have.
I thanked her for her time and went back outside to meet again with those who had stood and waited and supported – thank you again to everyone who came along.
If I’m honest she gave me no confidence that these cuts would not happen, but I hope our time together at least made her think. Please feel free to share this post around to help get the information out there as what is happening in regard to tax credit cuts and how local MPs are responding.
I hope that this conversation will help in some small way and that compassion wins through.”