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Live from Brighton from Vikki Orvice, Hemel Hempstead CLP delegate

Walking down the hill from Brighton station to the conference hall you cannot fail to spot the numbers of people sleeping rough.

Sleeping bags on the pavement. Pillows propped up in the doors of shops. Some in the smartest part of the city next to shops selling designer clothes. This is Britain in 2017. In the fifth biggest economy in the world.

You see it in London now - on a scale not seen since the 1980s - and given the huge disparity in wealth these days in the capital, sadly no longer a shock. But unlike the 1980s you now see it in other towns and cities across Britain. On my travels this summer I've noticed it in Birmingham, Sheffield and, as Debbie Abrahams MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth admitted, in Manchester too. 

She was speaking at a fringe meeting on Rethinking Poverty - Because the Traditional Ways Don't Work - along with Kate Green MP for Stretford and Urmston and Barry Knight, director of the Webb Memorial Trust who had organised the event. 

Abrahams said: "I've just passed a guy sleeping rough outside the Conference Centre. This cannot be right. In Manchester I pass people every 50 yards who sleep rough. This is 2017, the fifth richest country in the world and it cannot be right we allow this to happen. A safety net should be there to provide with dignity if we get sick, old or fall on hard times.

"There has not been the political will to challenge those who have a vested interest in the status quo. There is absolute commitment in this shadow cabinet led by Jeremy Corbyn to challenge that."

Green said: "What I want a Labour Goverment to do is enshrine the right to work in law - and good work. Having got people into work we have to recognise that in some sectors it will be difficult to meet minimum wage standards without support. The utter denial of the Tories is that there are working poor in this country. Let us make sure that universal benefits allow people to work.

"Investment in children is the most important thing and protecting Sure Start is the top priority for Labour.  No one either should face poverty in old age. We need to prioritise and start putting the poorest first."

Knight had a different approach, one where economic growth is not the be all and end all , which ultimately leads to a fairer society.

He believes that less emphasis should be put on work and earning more and more . And that the first step in rethinking poverty is to rethink even using the word poverty, a word that divides people emotionally and politically and means that policies to address poverty have always had limited support.

He said: "The messages people associate with poverty are 'feckless" and 'lazy'. Use the word and it is divisive - 'scroungers' or 'migrants on benefits' The word poverty is toxic.

"We may have done away with the humiliation of the 19th century soup kitchen but we are fast replacing it with the humiliation of the 21st century food bank.

"But for most people a good life is not about having a lot of money. It is about having enough to pay for the basics - food, shelter, transport as well as occasionally enjoying a few luxuries. People want to feel secure. They don't want to be rich - they just want enough. 

"But the model of society we have now is based on the principle of people maximising their income. The result is a society in which a wealthy minority are helped to flourish while one fifth of the population experience chronic poverty and many people on middle incomes fear for their futures. It has led to a huge gap between the elite and the poor. And Brexit - the rational cry of the dispossessed. 

"We will only be able to change this state of affairs if we drastically rethink what's important."

Somewhere in a marriage of all those three views is a solution.

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Hemel Hempstead Labour Party posted about Live from Brighton from Vikki Orvice - Hemel Hempstead CLP delegate on Hemel Hempstead Labour Party's Facebook page 2017-09-24 21:50:47 +0100
Rethinking Poverty, an update from Labour's conference in Brighton
@ tweeted this page. 2017-09-24 21:50:43 +0100
Rethinking Poverty, an update from Labour's conference in Brighton http://www.hemellabour.org.uk/live_from_vikki?recruiter_id=1920

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