It is upon us. The third general election in four years. (But remember, kids – the result of the Brexit referendum three years ago is sacrosanct. That can never be challenged.)
I grew up in Irvine, on the west coast of Scotland. I now live in Buckinghamshire, in the south-east of England, just an hour outside of London in what used to be called “the stockbroker belt”.
Growing up, I don’t think I ever met a single person who voted Conservative. Now? I’m surrounded by them.
I’m surrounded by people who think Boris Johnson is a genuinely good, smart, funny bloke. Who think that voting for Labour is tantamount to joining the Communist Party at the height of Stalin.
Those of you who read this column regularly can imagine how these conversations go for me…
I was thinking about all of this last week when I watched the Channel 4 Dispatches programme Growing Up Poor.
The show followed the lives of several families around the UK who were struggling to live on the breadline.
It was a tears-of-rage inducing tour of poverty.
We saw soup kitchens and food banks and charity shops.
Little kids helping their mum carry heavy bags of canned goods two-and-a-half miles because they cannot afford bus fare.
A brave girl trying to study for her GCSEs in the one-room bedsit she shares with her whole family. People having to decide between eating or heating.
The following day, I screamed at my 11-year-old daughter for wasting a potato in some science experiment she was trying to conduct.
She burst into tears.
Later, as I comforted her in her room (and I was suddenly very conscious of all these rooms we have), I apologised as I cried tears of my own.
I just couldn’t stop thinking about the kids on the programme. Kids her own age who, that very night, would be going to bed cold and hungry. What am I meant to do with such thoughts? What is anyone?
For this was what Growing Up Poor demanded of you. It demanded your sorrow and anger.
The Labour Party and SNP should spend their entire election budgets on showing it every night for the rest of this week as a party political broadcast.
Of course there will be people – the kind of people who think Johnson is a good, smart, funny bloke, the kind of people who I’m surrounded by down here – who will simply say: “Well, some folk will always be poor and that’s the way the world is.”
Except this isn’t true – child poverty had been falling in the UK.
It has risen steadily since 2010, under the Conservatives, to the point now where there are estimated to be about four million British children living in poverty. Four million.
This was on my mind as I thought about Home Secretary Priti Patel, smirking as she denied the Government was to blame for poverty.
Or Chancellor Sajid Javid, talking about what the Tories would do for us in their first 100 days in office. (As opposed to what they have done in their last few thousand days.)
As I thought about Dominic Raab, walking away from a woman at a hustings event who challenged him about food bank usage.
Raab, Patel and Javid all have something in common, something you may not know about. They are all “alumni of IEA initiatives”.
Do you know what the IEA is? It’s the Institute of Economic Affairs – a right-wing think tank whose mission is to “shrink the state, lower taxes and deregulate businesses”.
And who funds the IEA? Who stands to gain from any policies they may influence? Why it’s those lovely entities who have your best interests at heart – petro-chemical companies, tobacco giants and billionaires.
Javid said the IEA has “deeply influenced” his views.
Raab has credited it with helping him “develop his ideas”.
Patel co-authored the infamous 2012 book Britannia Unchained, a crazed, IEA-influenced, anti-state tract that included, among other things, the following passage: “The British are among the worst idlers in the world. We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor.
"Whereas Indian children aspire to be doctors or businessmen, the British are more interested in football and pop music.”
Well, I don’t know about that. The children in Growing Up Poor didn’t seem too obsessed with football and pop music.
They seemed more concerned with stuff like trying to keep their parents from killing themselves, with scraping together copper coins to try to put the heating on, with baking cupcakes for their mum’s birthday present because that’s all they could afford on Universal Credit.
Johnson, Patel, Raab and Javid think these people are “idlers”. They think they are lazy scum.
And yet millions of Britons will vote for Johnson, Patel, Raab and Javid this week.
They will vote for tax breaks and deregulation and cuts to the welfare state. They will vote for more children going to bed cold and hungry every night.
If you think I’m being dramatic, you should read a few articles about think tanks like the IEA. Then you should watch Growing Up Poor.
And then, on Thursday, if you have any decency in you at all, you should vote for whatever candidate in your area has the best chance of defeating the Conservatives.
Get. Them. Out.