Gordon Brown called for immediate government action to prevent more people going cold and hungry in the coming months as the cost of living crisis worsens.
The former Labour prime minister, who was in Downing Street during the financial crash of 2008, also admitted that he was seeing poverty “I did not expect to see again” within his hometown of Fife, due to skyrocketing inflation and soaring energy bills.
Speaking to Sky News on Monday, he said: “We’ve got energy crisis, inflation crisis, we’re going to have an NHS waiting list crisis.”
Appealing for action from COBRA – the committee which responds to national crises – Brown explained: “What the Cobra meeting has got to do is ensure there’s enough energy for the winter, ensure there’s enough storage facilities, ensure we can get the cost of living help to people, we’ve only seven weeks to go until October 1.”
From October 1, energy regulator Ofgem is raising the price cap once again on bills, expecting to take the average annual household energy bill to around £3,300 – an increase of close to 65%.
Brown continued: “You’ve got to change the universal credit computer to enable it to make payments to people, there’s no doubt that people are going to go without food, they’re going to go hungry and cold in October if we don’t take action now.
“This is the time to take action. That’s why I’m saying the government ministers should be meeting with the two leadership candidates so they can agree a package that can be implemented immediately.”
The ongoing Conservative leadership contest is not set to choose the next prime minister (either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak) until September 5. In the meantime, Boris Johnson continues to be the interim occupant of 10 Downing Street although he has been repeatedly accused of “missing in action”, and did not attend Cobra meetings during the July heatwave.
Brown also suggested: “Parliament should be recalled to look at what is a national emergency, and at the same time, of course, the special committee should be meeting to look at all these plans.”
There are currently no MPs sitting in the Commons because it is on summer recess.
Brown added that charities were “dreading October”, stocking up on supplies such as duvets and sleeping bags because of the fuel poverty crisis, as people will not be able to afford heating their homes.
If charities and organisations are taking “urgent action” to do something, then it’s time the government stepped in, he said.
“The vacuum at the centre of government has really got to end.”
Brown also dubbed Sunak’s windfall tax “rather stupid” – which was supposed to help alleviate the cost of living crisis for the public – because it included opt-outs for the large oil and gas companies, meaning the value of the tax fell from £15billion to £5billion.
The former prime minister also told Sky News he was invested in changing the system because he was seeing poverty in his hometown of Fife “that I did not expect to see ever again in my lifetime”.
“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.”
Not everyone backs Brown’s claims – Conservative MP, and supporter of Sunak’s campaign Oliver Dowden told Sky News: “I don’t take enormous lessons from Gordon Brown, remember this was a man who gave us 75p rise for pensioners, so he’s not really got a great record on this sort of thing.”
Brown said that these were “completely wrong” claims against him, and that “nobody seems in charge” right now in Downing Street, with both Johnson and chancellor Nadhim Zahawi going on holiday last week.
He pushed for considering capping energy bills and getting inflation down, as well as “helping people in the greatest need”.
He said: “None of these things seem to be being discussed at the moment in the way they should be, concluding: “This is the crisis. It’s got to be addressed now.”