How will we know when you mean it?

When he meant it, Gandhi stopped eating. When she meant it, Boudicca charged.

When the cardinals sat to take their socks off, the new pope knelt – perhaps to show humility but also because frankly it is easier that way – isn’t it? – to get properly involved with the bucket. And he used soap and warm water because the cardinals’ feet were filthy, and he meant it.

When you mean it you will say: while my people still need to use food banks, that’s where I’ll get what I eat.

When you mean it, an aide (silenced by your look) will google the route and you will walk the half-mile to the nearest food bank yourself: cutting across the corner of St James’s Park if you like. Who is going to stop you?

When you mean it you’ll fill in the forms when you get there. When you mean it you will join the back of the queue. When you mean it you will take what is left.

When you mean it you will struggle back to Downing Street, with the cartons of instant mash and concentrated orange juice going soggy on rainy days. Tins of peas will fall out and dent. No one will think less of you if you get your security people to help. No one is looking for a saint. (Heaven is empty, you know this better than we do: they left a note in your drawer. We’re sorry, there are no miracles left.)

When you mean it you will need to fit the trip to the food bank into every third day. Between breakfast and PMQs. Between Fisheries and Farms.

When you mean it the repeated weight of the cartons will make your arms ache, a chronic and sullen throb that a doctor, upon examination of the clinical and intrinsic symptoms, will diagnose as your mandate.

When you mean it the journey to the food bank will be a burden, but our cameras will follow you every time, and our cameras are heavy too. Did you know that it takes the full strength of us all to carry even one of them? They are desperate with our sight.

When you mean it we will watch you with the last hollow strength it takes to keep our eyes open, like children too wary to sleep.

And when we’re finally sure that you mean it, we will kneel, perhaps to show humility but also because frankly it is easier that way – isn’t it? ­– to really, properly weep.


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