Former UK PM Gordon Brown 'shocked' by growing poverty levels

Brown accuses government of not doing enough to battle impending economic crisis

Former British prime minister Gordon Brown. Getty
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Former UK prime minister Gordon Brown has said he is shocked at the growing number of those in poverty and called for the UK government to introduce a fourth budget to help struggling families.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has to “get people together” to solve rising inflation and put in place a plan for growth, Mr Brown told the BBC.

He was prime minister during Britain’s last financial crisis between 2007 and 2010, and chancellor from 1997 to 2007.

“I am shocked by the fact that so many families and so many children are going to be forced into poverty during this winter, despite Chancellor [Rishi] Sunak’s proposals last month," Mr Brown said.

“I see millions of families in poverty, and millions of children going to school ill-clad and hungry. People are unable to afford to put up their heating.

“Something has got to be done about this. And it has to be done in a far fairer way than the previous three budgets.

“Family budgets are under huge pressure and the government will need a plan. I am proposing a fourth budget.

"We’ve had three budgets this year. We need to do three things. First of all, we need to get inflation on a pathway towards stable prices.

“Secondly, the government’s got to help ease family poverty, because child poverty is going to go beyond five million if we don’t take further action.

"And thirdly, I think what people are really looking for is a plan for growth to get over this.”

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He said that the economic woes Britain was facing were affecting every country around the world.

“This is first of all a global problem that needs a global solution," Mr Brown said. "We’re actually leaderless at the moment but we’re not powerless.

“There’s a food crisis, 800 million on the verge of starvation. There’s an energy crisis with oil prices going up, affecting every country, inflation, and of course on top of Covid and conflict and climate change, which is affecting every country.

“So Boris Johnson may be going to Rwanda and then to Germany but he really ought to be getting world leaders together, and they should concoct a plan that deals in a concerted and comprehensive way that can get oil prices down, can get food supply moving around the world and can get control of inflation.”

He speculated that inflation in the UK could reach 11 per cent but warned when high inflation and the possibility of recession come together, jobs and living standards could be at risk.

Mr Brown accused the government of not doing enough about the impending economic crisis.

“Britain is one of the few countries without a policy for industry," he said. "We don’t have a trade deal either with America or with Europe, so in or out of Brexit we’ve really got to get our trading relations sorted out.

“Without that plan — and there is no plan — there is no programme of action.

“The government is going from crisis to crisis and scandal to scandal. We cannot see the way out of this. We will have pain now and pain later. What we need is minimising pain now and maximising gain later.

“At the moment, no government minister can explain any strategy for the next year, two years or three years. There is no plan, no programme of action, and there’s got to be one.”

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Mr Brown also told Labour leader Keir Starmer to “ignore” those who accused him of being “boring” last week.

“What’s exciting about the possibility of Keir Starmer’s leadership is he will have a plan for Britain," he said.

"He will show how we can get back growth. He will show how we can get living standards rising again, and he will show how we can have a fairer society that deals with problems like climate change.

“Keir Starmer was the Director of Public Prosecutions. He’s been a great public servant over many years, and I think he’ll make a great prime minister.”

A Treasury representative denied that there was no plan of action.

“We’ve already announced a detailed Plan for Growth, which sets out how we will provide significant investment in infrastructure, skills and innovation, and the chancellor has committed to reform business taxes this autumn to spur economic growth and boost jobs," the representative said.

“We understand that people right across the UK are struggling with rising prices.

"That’s why we’ve acted to protect the eight million most vulnerable families through at least £1,200 ($1,467) of direct payments this year, with additional support for pensioners and those claiming disability benefits.”

Updated: June 19, 2022, 9:33 PM