Gordon Brown 'seeing poverty I did not expect to see again' as he warns people will go hungry and cold within months

·4 min read

People will have to go without food and be unable to heat their homes by October if the government doesn't take urgent action on the cost of living crisis, Gordon Brown has warned.

Speaking to Sky News, the former Labour prime minister said he was seeing poverty in his hometown in Fife "that I did not expect to see ever again in my lifetime", as he took aim at the Conservatives' policies.

Mr Brown branded the party's windfall tax as "stupid", claiming the opt-outs included in the tax brought forward when Rishi Sunak was chancellor reduced the value of the tax from £15bn to £5bn.

Politics Hub: Gordon Brown slams 'vacuum' at heart of government - live updates

Demanding further intervention from the government, he set out his own vision for dealing with the cost of living crisis, including changing the windfall tax, a cap on energy bills and reforming the benefits system.

But he ruled out his own return to frontline politics, telling Sky News: "When you're out, you're out."

Mr Brown said he is campaigning heavily on the cost of living crisis because he is seeing poverty in his hometown, Fife, "that I did not expect to see ever again in my lifetime".

He said charities are stocking up on duvets, sleeping bags, hot water bottles and blankets "because they know that people can't afford to heat their homes any more".

Meanwhile, faith groups are "thinking of opening their church halls as heating hubs so that pensioners, instead of freezing at home, can have a warm place to go to".

Mr Brown said: "There's no doubt that people are going to go without food, and they're going to go hungry and cold in October if we don't take action now."

He added: "If charities and organisations in the community are taking urgent action to do something, I think it's about time the government responded. The vacuum at the centre of government really has got to end."

'Financial time bomb' to explode in October - cost of living latest

'Obsession' with tax cuts won't help

The comments come after former chairman of the Conservative Party Oliver Dowden attacked Mr Brown's record as prime minister, claiming he left the country "with no money".

He told Sky News: "I don't take enormous lessons from Gordon Brown, remember this was a man who gave us a 75p rise for pensioners, so he's not really got a great record on this sort of thing."

But Mr Brown hit back at the "completely wrong" allegations against him, as he slammed the government's lack of leadership amid the cost of living crisis, saying "nobody seems in charge".

He said it was "ridiculous" that Boris Johnson and Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi went on holiday as the Bank of England warned of a recession, while claiming Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss' "obsession" with tax cuts would not help struggling people pay their bills.

Call for COBRA crisis meeting

Asked what he would do if he were in Downing Street right now, Mr Brown said the first thing he would do is call an emergency COBRA meeting with the leadership candidates.

He added: "I would be talking about changes in the Universal Credit system to give people the money that is necessary. And I would be talking about potentially capping energy bills and that would have the effect of getting inflation down, as well as, of course, of helping people in the greatest need.

"None of these things seem to be being discussed at the moment in the way they should be. And it really is not good enough for leadership candidates to go around the country and say 'I'll have a plan next month, the month after.' This is the crisis. It's got to be addressed now."

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Ms Truss and Mr Sunak are under mounting pressure to respond to the economic crisis after a report commissioned by Mr Brown found families are up to £1,600-a-year worse off because of the cost of living crisis - even after government help is taken into account.

Ms Truss has vowed to cut taxes immediately if she becomes prime minister, while Mr Sunak has said he will help families by scrapping VAT on energy bills.

But poverty expert Professor Donald Hirsch, who wrote the report, says the package of measures offered by the government falls far short of what low income households need - and urgent action is required.