It is Easter Sunday and I am trying to think of a message or story for this week's column. Maybe something Eastery? I'm, not religious but the message Jesus sent out was a theoretically sound one. Who could argue with charity, kindness to the poor and feeding the hungry? Well, as it turns out, The Mail on Sunday could.
I know it's terribly easy to pick on the Mail. I went through a period when I was younger when I happily subscribed to the popular liberal notion that The Mail was a nasty, insidious hate-filled bile rag. Anyway I've read bits of it and looked through it at the stories it runs and its general tone and content, and it turns out that's exactly what the Mail is. Most recently they've been trying to encourage us to hate kittens. Seriously. This is beyond satire. On Easter Sunday they hit the world with an exclusive piece of investigative journalism. They sent a journalist in to a Food Bank1 to claim he was poor and hungry. The charitable suckers merely asked him some questions, believed him like the fools that they were, and then… they gave him food!
The story then is that the Mail on Sunday sent a journalist to lie to a charity helping the hungry in order to prove that they weren't as stern in their checking as the Mail thought they should be. But the thing is that it is good that charities don't do that. I've never been to a food bank, but last week's column described the appeal R and I made against a judgement made about her Disability Living Allowance. We got ourselves there with no little support from a local charity. They didn't demand proof of our earnings or evidence of our bank balance. They, like other charities, take on people who are often at their wits' end filling out the endless forms Government and Local Authorities tend to throw at them and simply give them the help they needed all along. True, this may mean that some undeserving people get support. But isn't this better than making the system such a massive obstacle that many people fail to make it, and some of those many assume they failed to make it because they genuinely weren't entitled. R and I have proved, to ourselves and hopefully to others, not only that you can get your entitlement from the Government if you kick them very hard, but also that you often need the support of a charity to do this. The generosity of these groups is not detrimental, but hugely beneficial.
Sadly, my experience of the Mail is that their behaviour is usually quite accepted. The sort of people I follow on Twitter tend to be writers, comedians, charitable organisations and generally the sort of people who revile the Mail. They are not the biggest selling paper in the country for nothing, though. They usually give their readers the sense that someone, somewhere, is doing something unjust and monstrous, which seems to be what their readers want. However, on this occasion, just a few days after the event (it is Wednesday after Easter as a I write) there has been an impact. A brilliant impact. The Trussell Trust is one of the largest organisers of food banks in the country. They have seen, in just a few days, their donations rise by 1000%. That's a lot. Hopefully this is exactly what the charity would have wanted. If an unpleasant journalist makes disgruntled noises about a charity you support, respond by making loud clinking noises in support of the charity.