Living Below the Line 2012: My Diary

Lord McConnell

Here, in my five-day diary, I reveal how I survived on porridge, water and vegetable soup as part of my Live Below the Line campaign 2012.


I have to live on £1 a day for five consecutive days.

Worldwide, 1.4billion people live on this. Thankfully, my £1 a day is just food and drink, not everything else as well like them.

No gifts, anything used from the kitchen must be accounted for, but I don’t need to allocate for electricity or other living costs.

I will have three meals a day and drink tap water.

I need to avoid coffee, milk, bread, soft drinks, alcohol and meat.


Breakfast – Porridge/raisins 10p

Lunch – Lentil and onion soup 16p

Dinner – Baked potato and beans 58p

Tea bags/raisins snack – 10p

Day one and it’s the Queen’s Speech and it seems appropriate that I start my challenge to highlight extreme poverty today.

The House of Lords is full of people dressed in robes and ready for lunches their guests will enjoy.

Meanwhile, I am in the kitchen heating up the lentil soup I made earlier and carried in on the Tube.

I am full of admiration for the Lords Speaker, Baroness Frances D’Souza, who is also Living Below the Line for charity this week. She welcomes the Queen and carries out all her ceremonial duties while also resisting temptation.

The Queen’s Speech is disappointing. The Government’s previous promise to legislate for 0.7 per cent of GNP to go to Development Aid is missing, although it will happen inthe budget.

A £500 donation arrives from my friend Annie Lennox.

What a star she is, in every respect. Inspiring.

In the office people offer to buy me coffee, but a key rule in this challenge is no gifts.

I’m glad there are nolate-night votes, and I go home to cook my potato and leave temptation behind.


Breakfast – Porridge and raisins 10p

Lunch – Sandwiches, soup and yoghurt 35p

Dinner – Soup and sandwich 31p

Tea bags/raisins snack – 10p

Back in the Lords, and I lunch with the Ladies who Live Below the Line.

Six peers are joining LBTL 2012 to raise money for charity, including one from each party, and a Bishop.

Baroness Anne Jenkin, my favourite Tory, has organised a soup kitchen and made soup, sandwiches and yoghurts for 35p per person.

We swap stories of the challenge so far. For those on day four, this helps them get to the end.Faced with the challenge of nowhere to cook later, I grab leftover sandwiches to eat in the evening with the remains of yesterday’s soup.

A fantastic donation of £4000 comes in from one of the businessmen who support another charity I help, Cash for Kids. His generosity motivates me to battle on.

Heading back to Scotland, I cut the time available for temptation and get the early sleeper train to Inverness, leaving London at 9.15pm and arriving in Stirling 5am. For once I don’t eat or drink in the buffet car. I go straight to my berth and read.


Breakfast – Porridge and raisins 10p

Lunch – Banana 19p

Dinner – Soup 32p

Tea bags and raisins snack – 10p

I arrive home in plenty of time to cook porridgefor breakfast.

Despite my patriotic zeal for all things Scottish, I have never liked porridge.

Eating it without milk (too expensive for my budget) is even less attractive. But, adding raisins improves the taste and it is vital for a filling, cheap and healthy start to the day.

Off to Glasgow to meet David Moulsdale of Optical Express, with a banana for lunch on the train.

More offers of coffee and cakes from well-meaning colleagues, but my bottle of tap water is my limit for the afternoon and the ever-generous David agrees to sponsor me.

Meanwhile, Come Dine Below the Line is out on the Channel Four website at

We filmed this short version of the popular programme at Anne Jenkin’s house, with Harry Potter star Bonnie Wright among the guests.

It really is excellent and I circulate the link on Twitter and Facebook.

Back home and the cravings hit hard. I am not organised, so have to settle for another pot of lentil and onion soup for dinner. Very boring.


Breakfast – Porridge and raisins 10p

Lunch – Banana 19p

Dinner – Soup, rice and veg 51p

Tea bags/raisins snack – 10p

The Daily Record want my LBTL diary. For a donation, I agree. Come Dine Below the Line has secured more donations. Edging closer to my target.

Off to the Isle of Arran for a couple of nights. Still badly organised for cooking anything cheap, so it’s a banana again for lunch.

I stop at a charity plant sale, but it is also selling the most delicious homemade cakes. I buy some plants and leave quickly.

Those lovely cakes were almost too tempting, but I must be strong and resist. My stomach protests all the way to Arran.

In Lamlash, I really need to eat something different. Some value stir fry veg from the local Co-op comes to my rescue. A portion of that and some rice and I have a dinner.

It is a beautiful sunset. I would love to sit out and look at the sea with a beer in hand, but that will have to wait for another weekend.


Breakfast – Porridge and raisins 10p

Lunch – Soup 20p

Dinner – Baked potato and beans 68p

Tea bags/raisins snack – 10p

Last day. I’ve got headaches worse than a hangover.

Headaches are a noticeable part of LBTL, probably caused by hunger.

My father grows veg, so leeks and carrots from him for a last pot of soup save a few pennies. This is allowed, as long as I allocate the costs of growing them.

An old university friend living in Australia has spotted my updates on Twitter and posts a £500 donation online.

After all these years, I am touched by his generosity and I know now I will make it to midnight.

An old school friend I have not seen for years offers a drink or a pub lunch but I can’t, so we chat walking in the rain instead. I must be mad.

Midnight approaches and other friends register late donations.

All these contributions, large and small, are appreciated, and they will help our project make a difference in Malawi.

I have made it. Five pounds lighter. Raised more than £13,000. Chuffed.

●To donate go to

9 comments for “Living Below the Line 2012: My Diary

  1. maude elwes
    24/05/2012 at 1:12 pm

    @Lord Mcconnell:

    Well done! Especially as so many of the fat cats were trying to induce your failure. You must have a strong will as well as constitution.

    However, that said, I do wish politicians or Peers, would remember we have people right here in the UK who are lining up at soup kitchens for one meal a day, not three, no matter how meager those three may be. And then of course, that mother of democracy, Greece. Where its people have suffered, what you endured for five days, for years on end, all in the name of saving banks from the failure they themselves colluded in creating.

    It is not true that you cannot starve in the UK or Europe.

    • MilesJSD
      25/05/2012 at 6:13 am

      maude (et al)
      relatively super-affluent as even its queue-uppable underclasses actually are,
      has an alarmingly huge number of underclass people who simply can not ‘join the queue’, are holisticly-unable to turn up, even for one-bowl-of-soup-a-day.

  2. Gareth Howell
    24/05/2012 at 4:08 pm

    None of you impresses. I live like that most of the time, but I do spend about 15% of my income on keeping warm in winter, about £1500 last year.

    Food costs can be reduced dramatically from what most people spend on consumer foods,
    rice or potatoes being the staples. A pack of whole grain brown rice costs about £3 and lasts about 2 weeks. White fish from SMs is very good value no fat protein. All my fruit from garden, and some vegetables too. All my liquid refreshment from garden too, cider; Water of course.

    Comparing the way of life with some of those in Uganda where they may not even be be using money, other than the decimating childhood illnesses, their way of life compares favorably with mine, BUT they do not enjoy a temperate climate. They may be accustomed to that.

    There are poor and wealthy parts of Uganda like any other country.

    Use the back button on screen to get the best from that website.
    I don’t think the writer wants any help at all but it is something to say.

  3. MilesJSD
    25/05/2012 at 6:25 am

    Lord McConnell (et al in “Living Below The Line” or spectating it)

    what each human-being needs to be doing

    and what you (‘all up there’ and especially your ‘leaders’) need to be emulably evidencing


    how to live healthily, Earth-citizenlike, environmentally-supportively, and
    permanently 24/7/52/10years/Life-span,
    upon just one human living

    i.e. “on the Line, sustainworthily”.

  4. MilesJSD
    25/05/2012 at 9:06 am

    So how many £ have you accrued ‘on or above the line’

    whilst ‘starving’ yourself for 5 whole days and nights ?

  5. Lord Blagger
    25/05/2012 at 9:59 am

    You’re asking the wrong question Miles.

    Ask how much it has cost us, to support him. Eg. 2,700 a day, per Peer, to dictate to us what to do.

    In practice, that means Peers are forcing people to live for real on those sorts of sums of money, so they can live the high life.

    Queue replies from Peers saying they only get 300 a day. ie. Their emphasis is all about personal gain, not the harm they do to others.

  6. Senex
    25/05/2012 at 4:37 pm

    Well done! But you have to watch those raisin snacks especially if they come in a box as they attract VAT @ 20%. Better to buy a large (zero rated) bag of raisins and apportion them for each day.

    Of course if supermarkets and the like were to mark shelf pricing with a prominent ‘Z’ indicating the item was free of VAT the genuine poor could ignore it and continue to fund the treasury happy in the knowledge they were doing so.

    To work out how much VAT you paid as a percentage of your shop:

    The supermarket till roll will have individual items marked for VAT:

    1. Identify, and add them up to obtain a total.
    2 Multiply this total by 1/6 to obtain the VAT amount.
    3. Subtract this amount from the till roll total.
    4. Then divide 2) by 3) to obtain the VAT portion.
    5. Multiply 4) by 100 to obtain the percentage.

    A healthy shop will see you spending about 5% in VAT. The value is also a measure of how much time you are able to commit to cooking meals from basic ingredients or indeed if you have the basic know-how to do this.

    Find the time to eat healthily and make your money go further!

  7. Twm O'r Nant
    25/05/2012 at 7:39 pm

    That kind of money raising is not charity at all. Blagger gets at it in one certain way;
    it is lip service to charity, no better than actors pinning their names to “charity” masts
    so that their names may be better viewed and applauded by the onlooker.

    The very worst kind of pseudo charity are the ones that pinpoint the rare, named disease of a child, the greco-latin name of which may have been invented by a surgeon, himself on the make. Then we are expected to go “ooh! ahh! isn’t it sad? Poor dear!”

    Baaah!! Baaahhh!

    As for the woman who died to raise a million pounds recently, may we expect more of this martyrising for a pseudo-charitable cause?

  8. Gareth Howell
    29/05/2012 at 6:33 pm

    Breakfast – Porridge/raisins 10p

    Lunch – Lentil and onion soup 16p

    Dinner – Baked potato and beans 58p

    Tea bags/raisins snack – 10p

    The noble lord got to vegetables on saturday.
    He shows an extraordinary ignorance of an economical and sustainable diet.

    A pack of frozen mixed vegetables from the freezer in Iceland,and some baked beans and WATER would have seen him through the five days comfortably, and probably done his intestines the world of good, going by his declared diet, and understanding of it.

    It is the inability of the underfed African (child)to absorb the nutrients that he may well get, that prevents him from having an adequate diet.

    Lord McConnell has no such stomach bugs to contend with.


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