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Labour MP passionately rails against injustice of Gulf War veteran on zero hours contract needing food bank to survive

Rebecca Long Bailey MP has spoken movingly about the Mirror’s Wigan Pier Project on BBC Question Time, broadcast last night from Wigan

Responding to right wing Tory MP David Davis’ claim that people go to foodbanks because they have “short term cash issues” she told our story of Martin Pearson, a Gulf war veteran unable to feed himself because he was on a zero hours contract .

“We’re in Wigan tonight and I’m sure many of the audience members have read the famous book called the Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell where in the 1930s he travelled across the country to see how people – often in work – were living in destitution,” the MP for Salford and Eccles told the audience.

“There’s a group of people recreating his footsteps. And recently they visited a Staffordshire foodbank. And in that foodbank they met a man who walked seven miles every day to work. He was on a zero hours contract, often turned away and had to walk all the way back home again.

“He was 50 years of age and he’d spent 15 years fighting for Britain in the armed forces. He’d given his life to this country.

“Now, is this the kind of Britain he deserves? Where he is forced to rely on charity?"

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To thunderous applause, she added: “I think it’s absolutely shameful that we have foodbanks on our streets.

"That we aren’t building an economy that will keep people sustained. That we’ve got a government that hands out tax breaks to a wealthy elite while cutting benefits for the most vulnerable in society…

Rebecca Long-Bailey gave a passionate speech
Rebecca Long-Bailey gave a passionate speech

"We need to elect a Labour government so we can invest in our futures.”

The Mirror is retracing George Orwell’s steps along the Road to Wigan Pier on the book’s 80th anniversary – talking to communities all along the route.

Last week, we reached Staffordshire, where we met Martin Pearson at a portacabin foodbank run by the Trussell Trust in a city centre car park.

Video thumbnail, The latest stop on The Mirror's Road to Wigan Pier, from Stafford to Penkridge

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Martin served for 15 years in the British armed forces and fought in the gulf, but now works at a local factory on a zero hours contract.

He had arrived on foot, telling us he can’t buy a bus pass when he doesn’t know what hours he will get each week at the plastic moulding factory where he works.

“When I get work, I leave home at 4am to walk seven miles to work by 6am,” he told us. “It’s hard in winter, or now, when it’s raining. After work, I’m knackered on the way home.”

A client leaves the food bank we visited
A client leaves the food bank we visited

That week, the agency had cut his shifts after telling him there was no work for him at the factory. “It feels wrong that I’m 50 and I’ve worked since I was 16 and still can’t always feed myself,” he said.

Eighty years ago, Orwell saw the same thing happening to working class men who had fought in the First World War.

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The Road to Wigan Pier 2017

On Question Time, Rebecca Long-Bailey, shadow Business Secretary and a rising star in the Labour ranks, had responded to David Davis – who provoked jeers when he defended Theresa May’s refusal to accept responsibility for nurses using food banks .

Video thumbnail, May skewered on live TV for refusing to accept nurses use food banks

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The Prime Minister had been repeatedly challenged by the BBC’s Andrew Marr over Royal College of Nursing figures that show some nurses have had a 14% pay cut since 2010 and are having to resort to using food banks.

Mrs May said there were “many complex reasons why people go to food banks”. The broadcaster replied: “The problem they have is they haven’t got enough money to eat at the moment.

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Earlier on Question Time, an audience member was booed when he claimed food bank users “smoke, drink and have Sky TV” .

Another audience member said: “I totally disagree. Last night I travelled through Wigan town centre... and I saw 10 people sitting in doorways, obviously not watching Sky."

Follow our Wigan Pier Project at and @wiganpier2017 on Twitter .

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the writers and do not reflect those of accepts no responsibility legal or otherwise for their accuracy of content. Please report any inappropriate content to us, and we will evaluate it as a matter of priority.
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