An Open letter to David Morris MP
Dear Mr Morris,
This week’s Visitor newspaper reported you as saying the following about Morecambe Foodbank: “The foodbank is set up and run by the Labour party”. I am very conscious that the media are not always accurate in their descriptions of what someone has said, so if it is not what you said, I hope that you will soon be issuing a correction. If it is accurate, then I must respond as follows:
First of all, I have to challenge your account of the origins of the foodbank. When Central Methodist Church on Green Street in Morecambe closed for worship, Brookhouse Methodist Church took on the challenge of finding alternative uses for the building and to create a new project there. After an initial phase of using the building for youth and children’s work, they negotiated with the Trussell Trust to set up a foodbank. I know this because the minister of Brookhouse Methodist Church, the Methodist District Chair for North Lancashire and others sat in my dining room and shared their plans some time before it even opened. It was not set up by the Labour Party. It may well be that some who are most closely involved with running the foodbank have that political allegiance, but your implication that it was a party project from the start is wrong.
Furthermore, if I understand the rules correctly, it would be a contravention of charity law for the foodbank to be aligned with one political party. Charitable activity can have a political dimension with regard to the furtherance of its aims. However, my understanding is that an alignment with a single party would not be permissible. If you believe that Labour are running Morecambe Foodbank, then it seems to me that it is your duty to submit the evidence to the relevant authorities for investigation. If you do not have the evidence, then you should not make the accusation.
I am not involved directly with Morecambe Foodbank, but I am a trustee of West End Impact, another charity in Morecambe working with some of the neediest people in our community. We work alongside other agencies so that every day of the week there is a location in our town where people can get a drink and a bite to eat. People in need can receive personal and emotional support, obtain advice on housing and benefits, receive some emergency food and much more. Many of these centres are church based, and we all see it as an important contribution to the well-being of our community. Your comments about the foodbank affect us all, especially as your assertion of a political agenda may well deter people from supporting, donating or volunteering at Morecambe Foodbank or, by association, at other centres such as West End Impact.
You have been elected as MP for our constituency, and you therefore represent us all, not simply those who voted for you. Many people across a wide political spectrum donate, volunteer and support the centres helping the most vulnerable members of our community. I believe the onus is on you to reach out to and build relationships with the organisations which are contributing so positively in our area, even where you feel that politically you may not have a great deal in common. It is your duty to find out how to best serve the people you represent.
I hope you do visit Morecambe Foodbank, and that you also go to West End Impact, Morecambe Homeless Action, Grace Ministries, the Salvation Army and more. I believe you could learn a lot about your constituents by doing so. You would hear about their needs – their lack of food, their financial problems, housing issues, benefits sanctions, mental health challenges, struggles with addictions and more. You would also encounter and be impressed by your constituents who give great amounts of time and energy into these centres, and you will find that they are not all in the pocket of Labour or any other political party.
I received no reply, so here's the link to my second letter. Finally, I did receive a letter, which concluded saying that was the end of the correspondence. I sent a final reply as a receipt for his letter, itemising the concerns which remained unanswered.
At no point in his correspondence with me was a retraction made or an apology offered. However, I understand a private visit to the Foodbank was arranged. One can only hope it conveyed some truths about the work of the Foodbank and the needs it addresses.