Dear David Cameron: People wouldn't be so scared if you just tried to see how the poor are living

I agree with you on the value of work, but if you visited a food bank or tried living on minimum wage, then you may begin to understand

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The Independent Online

Dear Prime Minister,

I don't know if you will ever read this, but I have some things I wish to say to you. I'll do my best to be polite and as clear as possible. I am, after all, a church minister.  I spend most of my time working in Manchester, meeting and talking with the people of Chorlton in cafes and pubs, listening to their views and helping to strengthen the community. Because of what they have to say, and the situation our country is facing, some people say I should be more aggressive. But I hope I continue to have the strength to not let that happen.

So, David Cameron. have won the General Election and command a majority in the House of Commons, and as such you will believe that you have a legitimate mandate to govern. Although our political views are very much at odds on many issues, I'm willing to believe that you are a good man, and believe your plan is what's best for us all. You said today that you will govern for the whole country and bring back together that which has clearly fractured. I hope you will.

But Prime Minister, though you can obviously see your party didn't win the confidence of Scotland and huge swathes of the north of England, I'm not sure your party quite understands why. It's not because we're all part of the "loony-left", or extremists and nationalists. It's because so many of us are scared. Scared of what your policies will do to our communities and families. Scared of what will happen to our health service and our schools. Scared of losing our family homes for the sake of the few quid you'll save from the bedroom tax, or not being able to heat our home and have enough left to buy food.

I agree with you that the best way out of poverty is to work. And I don't think that people should get something for nothing, and expect the tax-payer to support people indefinitely if they are able to work. Who would think that that was fair?

But your party's policies on these issues, couched in terms of reducing the deficit and balancing the books, don't seem to take into account the social and human cost of such actions. The country isn't a business, but its people. All its people. And you are everyone's Prime Minister, whether we voted for you or not.

You said today you will govern for everyone and unite the country. I hope you do. But to be able to do so you need to change your priorities. In your first 100 days, come and spend time in Scotland visiting people on zero hours contracts. Come to Manchester and talk with those who have been sanctioned for having a spare room, but have nowhere else to go.

Go to Liverpool and meet people with disabled dependents who can't afford even one nanny, or to Newcastle and talk to people still living in poverty due to the demise of the coal industry. Spend a week or two living on the minimum wage, or volunteer in a food bank for a whole day.

Then you may begin to understand the cost of your policies from the other side, to see people as more than their net contribution to the economy, or as deliberate drains on the system. If you do that, then maybe you can heal some of the fractures in our society. Without this I just don't believe you can see just how crucial these issues are.

So please Prime Minister, leave Westminster for a few hours a week and truly strive to govern for all of us.


Rev'd Mike Walsh
The United Reformed Church