When the Bishop of Oxford dropped round a letter to the Prime Minister’s office in Witney last week, he was greeted rather unexpectedly. By the police.
Al-Jazeera has reported that the boys in blue were called out by the Prime Minister’s office when the Rt Revd John Pritchard popped round to hand deliver a letter on behalf of more than 600 Church leaders including 40 bishops.
The Eastertide epistle was about food poverty and was widely published last week, after news broke than nearly 1 million people used foodbanks in the past 12 months.
Around 40 people had joined the Mr Pritchard and the Revd Dr Keith Hebden, an Anglican priest and spokesperson for the End Hunger Fast campaign, but they were unable to visit the office thanks to three police officers.
Dr Hebden told Al-Jazeera: “Summoning the police like that illustrates the sense of panic in this government about rising food poverty levels because they are in such denial about this problem.”
He also told the Independent that the visit had been pre-arranged and David Cameron’s staff knew they were coming.
“It is deeply ironic, to say the least, that on the same day David Cameron was writing in the Church Times talking about what a good Anglican he is, he was wasn’t able to receive his own bishop in his constituency office. I think this speaks volumes.
“They were expecting us, we had phoned ahead. Most of my surprise was reserved for them not even opening the door. The letter was positive and addressed to all three party leaders, so it wasn’t political.”
The Boys in Blue were not there for long when they realised that there was not going be any trouble from the 40 people gathered and Mr Pritchard and Dr Hebden delivered the letter by themselves.
The letter had been signed by 600 Church leaders including Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Quakers and the Evangelical Alliance. The day after the letter was handed over, the Just Fair consortium accused the Government of breaching international laws by allowing food poverty to take place in the UK.
Prior to the letter’s delivery, Dr Hebden had taken part in a Lent fast – denying himself food for 40 days and nights – to raise awareness of the growing rise in food bank usage.