On Wednesday night the Conservative MP for Workington, Mark Jenkinson, faced a Test of Character. In these difficult times, low paid and poor families are struggling more than ever to make ends meet. Many people have already lost their jobs, redundancies are on the rise and there will be worse to come. Many have seen their incomes reduced initially to 80% and now to 67% while being on furlough.
Loss of earnings will obviously hit hardest for the lowest paid and most vulnerable in our society. With winter coming many families will face hard decisions about what they must go without in order to get by (if indeed it is actually possible for them to get by). Official figures for child poverty in this country have risen by 600,000 while the Conservatives have been in power. Figures have surged by 100,000 in just the last year (no doubt the covid-19 crisis has played a significant part in this).
Recognising this situation, the Labour Party proposed a motion in Parliament to extend a scheme to provide free meals (to qualifying children) in non-term times until next Easter. It is a very modest, short-term measure. Surely not much to ask??
During the 2019 election campaign (and since), Mark Jenkinson, made much around the ‘levelling up’ soundbyte. He inferred that he would personally support policies that reduce the massive wealth disparities in this country by bettering the lives of people at the very bottom of the economic pile. This is indeed much needed given the brutal attack on the welfare system during the last 10 years of Conservative austerity that has seen the incomes of the poorest reduce but incomes of the richest increase.
So, given an opportunity to support even the most modest ‘levelling up’ scheme, you’d think, if sincere, that he would be a fervent supporter?However, on Wednesday, Mark Jenkinson, was briefed by his party leadership on what to say, what to think and how to vote on the amendment. Mark Jenkinson obediently voted against the motion that would have brought some small relief to struggling families. In justification; on Wednesday night he merely posted verbatim from his party briefing diktat. On Thursday he merely shared a ridiculous and inaccurate post by the extreme right wing MP, Ben Bradley.
Mark Jenkinson has no words of his own to justify his hypocrisy in voting against the extension of free school meals.
So, here it was; A Test of Character. Mark Jenkinson had a straightforward choice. To vote in the interests of those he claimed that he would support. Or to obediently, docilely follow orders.
Mark Jenkinson failed the test pitifully