Voices: Ann Widdecombe’s ‘shut up and starve’ message is hard to swallow

·3-min read

All you can do is stand and applaud. Ann Widdecombe has been auto-satirical for a long time. Now she is post-satirical.

All satire really is is revealing how ridiculous something is through the power of exaggeration. As such, once someone has said something in earnest that is so profoundly stupid that it is genuinely impossible to exaggerate it, then sadly the game is up.

“Just shut up and starve.” That’s what Ann Widdecombe would like everyone to do. Stop making a fuss. Stop asking for more money. Just be quiet. Don’t eat. And then vanish.

It’s no exaggeration either. She was on daytime TV, nominally in her role as some kind of candidate for Reform UK, in whatever election it is they’re planning on losing next, when she announced the party’s new slogan: “Just Shut Up and Starve.”

It’s catchy, you have to give her that. It’s not necessarily a vote winner, but you never know. Maybe there are more people out there who would like poor people to just die than we realise. She was asked what exactly should be done about the fact that very large numbers of people can no longer afford the most basic food items, like supermarket own brand value bread and cheese to make a cheese sandwich.

“Then you don’t do the cheese sandwich,” she replied. “None of this is new.”

And that was that. Where can you go? Where can you take it? On what flight of fancy might you go? Once upon a time, some Tory or other would have said something like “people need to learn to live within their means”, or “if you want more money then work harder, get a better job”. And people like me would have said something like: “If you’re working full time but you still don’t have enough money to buy yourself the cheapest possible meal in existence then just don’t eat.”

But that’s actually happened now. Well, not quite. Actually, it was worse.

“The problem is we’ve been decades now without inflation, we’ve come to regard it as some kind of given right,” she said.

People have spent so many decades eating that they think that eating is just some kind of human right. Well it’s not, and now it’s got to stop.

Kids these days won’t believe it but when Ann Widdecombe was little nobody ate anything at all. She starved to death three times as a child, but did she make a fuss about it? No she didn’t. She went to the shops. She looked at the price of all the food in it, realised she couldn’t afford it and had the common decency and self-respect to just slowly die.

None of this is new.

What is new, apparently, is that too many people are getting pay rises, so inflation is not going to come down. So if you can’t afford a cheese sandwich you actually shouldn’t, say, ask for more money, you just sit there and politely starve to death while the government gets to grips with inflation.

Rishi Sunak has a target, after all, to have halved inflation by the end of the year. So just sit tight and you can maybe have your next meal around Christmas time.

The point of that kind of satire, by the way, is to show that the world isn’t as simple as people like Ann Widdecombe think it is. If you point out that the logical endpoint of the argument is people not eating anything, then you’ve revealed them to be quite dense. But what do you do when that’s not the end point, but the beginning?

There is nothing in the guidebook about what to do when a politician seeking election says in earnest that voters need to stop eating.

Naturally, we wish Ann Widdecombe the very best of luck in her future political endeavours. Though we doubt anyone’s going to swallow any of it.