Theresa May went full Scrooge at Prime Minister’s Questions today by implying that children without a home this Christmas aren’t properly homeless because “they’re not sleeping on our streets”.
The comments came during an angry exchange with new Labour MP Dr Rosena Allin-Khan – who took over as the MP for Tooting after Sadiq Khan became Mayor of London.
In her passionate question, Dr Allin-Khan said: “In 2009 the Prime Minister said it was a tragedy that the number of children falling into the poverty cycle was continuing to rise.
“Every child deserves to have a roof over their head and food on the table. Yet on her watch in Wandsworth alone the number of families forced to survive on food banks is continuing to rise and 2,500 children – yes, children – will wake up homeless on Christmas day. So my question is simple: when will this austerity-driven government say enough is enough and put an end to this tragedy?”
Doing her best pantomime villain impression, Theresa May replied: “Well the honourable lady should note that in fact this government has lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of absolute poverty, but I think it’s important for all those who have heard her question to be aware of this, she talks of 2,500 children in Wandsworth waking up homeless on Christmas day. Anybody hearing that would assume that what that means is that 2,500 children will be sleeping on our streets.
“It does not! It does not mean that! … As we all know families with children who are accepted as homeless will be provided with accommodation.”
May, who represents the wealthy constituency of Maidenhead and presides over a cabinet filled with millionaires, was met by angry shouts of “No! No!” from Labour MPs.
And her comments angered many on Twitter:
According to Shelter, 1.6 million children in Britain live in housing that is overcrowded, temporary, or run-down.
Some live in housing that’s making them ill. Many are missing out on a decent education. Others suffer chronic insecurity, shuffled from place to place in ‘temporary accommodation’.
And Polly Neate, chief executive at Shelter, said in a statement today: “No child should have their future put in jeopardy like this, let alone the 128,000 children in Britain who will wake up homeless on Christmas Day. This is the tragic result of a country buckling under the weight of sky high rents, welfare cuts and a chronic lack of affordable homes. We will all face the consequences if our young people are forced to grow up without a stable home and a good education.
“At Shelter, we will continue to do all we can to help families fight homelessness but we urgently need the public’s support. For the sake of future generations, we must pull together to end this devastating crisis for good.”
After her performance today, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan is definitely one to keep an eye on.