Gordon Brown is right: the cost of living crisis needs emergency action

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The former prime minister is calling for an emergency budget ahead of the upcoming energy price cap hike – but it seems unlikely that will happen before September



<p>Gordon Brown has called for an emergency budget involving Boris Johnson and the candidates replacing him (Getty Images)</p><div data-ad-id=
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Gordon Brown has called for an emergency budget involving Boris Johnson and the candidates set to replace him (Getty Images)

Nestled in the affluent surroundings of the Scottish capital, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe feels far removed from the most pressing issues facing people across Britain at the moment.

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However, it’s a welcome and much-needed distraction from the reality many of us are facing right now and in the coming months – not to mention a much-needed boost for the local economy.

While an eclectic mix of theatre, performance arts and comedy is the Edinburgh Festival’s fare, current and former politicians – who never miss a public platform – have been involved in the action in recent years, be it Nicola Sturgeon, the events at the Book hosts Festival or Alex Salmond, who hosts his own talk show (not the one on Russia Today).

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On Sunday it was Gordon Brown’s turn to use the Arts Jamboree as a platform.

But at least he used it with an important message that managed to make headlines well beyond Edinburgh’s Old Town.

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Sitting next to political comedian Matt Forde in the grand McEwan Hall (which hosted Brown’s own graduation many moons ago), the former Prime Minister was in a relaxed, storyteller-like mood quite at odds with how he often spent his time in the Media was portrayed time in number 10.

When the pleasantries and reminiscences were over, however, he delivered an impassioned argument about the cost of living crisis, which drew thunderous applause and reflected a feeling in the hall – and in society at large – that much more needs to be done. Now.

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Regarding his upbringing beyond the Forth in Fife, he took a leaf out of Liz Truss’ book and compared it to what he saw growing up himself.

“The poverty that we are seeing around us and the poverty that we will see from October onwards because energy prices are going to rise dramatically is something I never thought we would return to in my lifetime.

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“You know, I grew up in Kirkcaldy, a mining and textile town, and I experienced unemployment and poverty growing up. And one of the reasons I wanted to go into politics was to do something about it.

“But I thought we’d never go back to these conditions – you have children who go to school, poorly dressed and hungry, you have pensioners who have to choose between supporting themselves or feeding the meter, you have nurses – that’s the rude thing – nurses have to queue at the blackboards after a grueling shift at the hospital.”

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Brown, who spent a decade as chancellor, stressed that “charity can only do so much” and that the cost-of-living crisis is a “moral crisis” because elected officials have the power to do something about global pressures the energy costs.

He reiterated his call for an emergency budget: “It has to be soon. Now I know that Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson don’t really get along and I’m not sure they’ll ever talk to each other again.

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“But they should get together this week and agree on an emergency budget and if they don’t I think Parliament should be recalled immediately. Because this is a national crisis that requires immediate action.”

A zombie government combined with the tedious, drawn-out Tory leadership saga is not only unhelpful at a time of looming national crisis — it’s a tacky joke even the most desperate Fringe comedian wouldn’t dare.

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