The Week in Review: What would Jesus do, Mr Cameron?

David Cameron: A long walk into the wilderness
David Cameron: A long walk into the wilderness
Adam Bienkov By

What would Jesus do? That's the question David Cameron has been asking this week as he seeks to pose as a friend to Christians.

Of course one thing Jesus might have done is set up a food bank. At the very least, he would have certainly signed up as a volunteer.

The rise of food banks is a national scandal that puts the lie to Cameron's claim to be presiding over a benign recovery. Their use has trebled in the past year, with almost a million people now being forced to apply for free food.

They are staffed by volunteers who have devoted their time, Christ-like, to helping the poor and hungry. These people should at the very least be applauded. Cameron's government feels differently. Rather than praise food bank volunteers, un-named government sources instead used this week to attack them as "publicity-seeking" profiteers.

Quite what profit they believe food bank volunteers are making isn't clear. But the government did get one thing right. Food bank operators are seeking publicity. They're seeking publicity for people forced to rely on charity to feed their children. They're seeking publicity for people who are labelled scroungers by the government, while merely trying to feed their kids.

News of the rise in food banks came at an unfortunate time for the government, as it sought to persuade the public that the cost of living crisis is finally over. A closer look at the figures shows that for millions of people across the country, living costs are set to remain the same or even rise for years to come.

This matters, because while there are some signs of an economic recovery, it is still mostly being felt by those parts of the country already well inclined to vote for the Tories anyway. In order to win next year, Cameron needs to persuade at least some of the millions of public sector workers currently living under a one per cent pay freeze that their living standards will improve as well.

It was their failure to win over these people that cost them an overall majority at the last election. Since then, the picture has only got worse.

Teachers in particular are now vehemently opposed to the Conservative party, for which Michael Gove must take much of the blame. The news that the pressures placed on school staff have caused more than half to experience mental health problems is seriously worrying. Just as worrying is the finding that most of these people have hid their problems from their employers.

The Christian response to a problem like this would be compassion and understanding. There has been very little of this on show from the Department for Education so far.

Cameron's conversion to Christian morality posed another important question this week.

What, I wonder, would Jesus have done about Jean Gardner? Jean is a British citizen who was stripped of her passport in Zambia and then abandoned to her fate by the British government.

Her story, like the stories of many others detailed by our editor Ian Dunt in recent months have put a human face to people who the British government have too often reduced to mere statistics. For the thousands of people stuck in Britain's arcane immigration and asylum system, Christian compassion can sometimes seem a very alien thing indeed.

If Cameron really has converted to Christian morality then it should be welcomed. But if he has then he still has a lot of missionary work left to do.

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