Why I chose to Live Below the Line 2012

Lord McConnell

Living Below the Line 2012 – part 2, some reflections

With over one billion people in our world living on less than £1 a day, the challenge of tackling extreme global poverty in our world can seem both overwhelming and, for many, far removed from our own reality. The solutions for this situation, like the reasons behind it, are complex and challenging. But it is unacceptable that, in the 21st Century, so many continue to live and die in such circumstances.

That is why I agreed to take part in Live Below the Line 2012.

For me, the Live Below the Line challenge serves as a small opportunity to bring the issue of extreme poverty directly into our daily lives here in the developed world.  Although it is one very small dimension of what is a daily reality for so many, eating and drinking for less than £1 a day is an enlightening experience itself. And it is also an opportunity to raise awareness and funds to tackle the issue of extreme poverty.

Yes, I wanted to raise money and all the money I raised (over £13,000) will go towards a new youth project run by Positive Women, engaging young people in the UK to help young people obtain skills in Malawi and Swaziland. But I also wanted to raise awareness of this scandal: to keep it in the news, to provoke debate and answers questions, and to help build the movement that will end it in our lifetime.

A relatively healthy adult living in the UK (me!) eating and drinking for under a pound a day in no way replicates the life lived by those who have to provide everything for that amount every day. But it does highlight the issue, and it develops understanding too.

Extreme poverty directly impacts on education, productivity and work output – which in turn leads to less income, leading to more poverty, which then leads to even less income. This endless cycle of extreme poverty fosters ill-health and aggravates conditions like HIV/AIDS due to its direct attack on the malnourished and already struggling immune system. So food security and economic development are essential if improvements in education, health and social conditions are to be sustainable.

And yet, there are more than enough resources in our world to ensure everyone has a chance to live beyond the age of 5, or go to school or have a fulfilling adult life. No-one need live like this. But we do need the political will globally and nationally to make it happen.

Many lessons struck me during my 5 days in May. There really is a lack of choice – and even more so if something goes wrong with the foodstuffs you have chosen. Eating on this budget takes time, planning and energy in itself. And it is relentless, dull, and impacts on how you feel.

I began my LBTL 2012 on the day of the Queen’s Speech deliberately. It seemed a strong way to make the point – eating homemade soup and little else on the day when everyone else seemed to be enjoying special lunches – but I had also expected the government to include the legislation to secure 0.7% of GNP for aid and that would have been a great encouragement for the campaign. But it was not to be!

What a let down. They seem to have given in to the reactionary populists who exploit ignorance to whip up opposition to such a move. I really hope this is a short-term lapse in commitment. The all-party consensus on Overseas Development Assistance from the UK is so important for our global leadership on this issue. And it repays some of the damage from our colonial past.

Living Below the Line 2012 was not fun, but it did have its moments. Baroness Jenkin’s ‘soup kitchen’ in the House of Lords where all those taking part joined together for a 35p lunch; Baroness Jolly’s speech welcoming the Queen’s Speech mentioning our campaign; Come Dine Below the Line on the Channel Four website (http://www.channel4.com/programmes/come-dine-with-me/articles/come-dine-below-the-line); and the sometimes totally unexpected generosity of friends old and new who supported my efforts.

But Living Below the Line is serious stuff for those who have no other choice. And, for them, this campaign will go on. Investing in agriculture, in infrastructure, in trade and better governance, in education and in health and clean water saves and transforms lives. We can change this situation, and we certainly have a moral obligation to try.

7 comments for “Why I chose to Live Below the Line 2012

  1. Gareth Howell
    24/05/2012 at 4:10 pm

    It is just smart. That is all.

  2. MilesJSD
    27/05/2012 at 8:50 am

    How can solely eating for 5 days upon a £1.00 a day*
    ever offset all-round living astronomically Above The Line, drawing multiple human-livings from the Common Purse,
    360 days a year
    decade after decade
    in wasteful
    and both Workplace and Lifeplace corrupting luxury,
    in your housing, clothing, travelling, eating, self-insuring and protecting,
    and private-hoarding of both Monies and Valuables or ‘Collectibles’ ?
    Let us suppose, for the sake of mindful simplicity, that in Britain today one-sufficient-human-living is £200 per week.

    Question 1: How many human-livings have you been drawing; since when; and for what expenditure-purposes ?

    Question 2: Had you conditionally-donated** just one such human-living to (say) a village of starving or malnutritioned people somewhere-on-Earth,
    how many people could have bought adequate shelter, clothing. food and other lifesupports from that £200 per week ?
    *But your limitation is only of your food for a mere 5-days.
    you still enjoyed your multiple-human-livings Income and other luxurious-lifestyle elements, didn’t you ?

    ** donated-conditionally: ‘tied’ to the obgaining of specific lifesupports (basic essentials).
    Really, this “Living Below The Line” you are so carried-away and socialisingly-carried-along by, is a cruel and farcical “sop to Cerberus”, isn’t it.

    • Anna
      31/05/2012 at 11:55 am

      Still more than you do…. isn’t it? Why do people like you find fault in others for raising money for charity? Extreme poverty is complex, and Lord McConnell doesn’t attempt to say that it is remotely the same experience, but he did manage to raise £14k- a hell of a lot more than you I presume.

      Prove us all wrong with your consistent attempt at berading people for their charitable efforts and tell us what YOU have done!!

  3. maude elwes
    28/05/2012 at 11:46 am

    Here are some people close to home who are living below the line.

    Would anyone like to raise funds for these our own starving or are we going to turn the proverbial blind eye once again.


    Of course, Ian Duncan Smith, sees these people as ‘welfare scroungers’ and or ‘lazy’ and must be told to get up off their rastees and paint some schools for their £70 a week. The old adage as the workhouse mongers spout they all deserve to die if they don’t find a job. And where are all these jobs? Well, if we were as entrepreneurial as they are in that ‘wonnerful’ country called the ‘USA’ we would have full employment, of course, some stupid blugger on the Today programme tells us this morning. Is he living in the real world? Has the dolt been there for God’s sake?

    And here is sixty minutes telling all about it, nothing has changed, the figures are a fix.


    Perhaps the costly Royal Jubilee Barges could collect some money on their way down the river, hanging hats on poles as they pass the public, all in aid of ‘our’ home grown food needers, or, would that be too much to ask? Hanging hats out for the poor who live here is not such a fun game is it?


    • Anna
      31/05/2012 at 11:58 am

      Actually, if you do your research- the specific programme that Lord McConnell is raising funds for addresses extreme poverty in the UK AND Africa.

      The project takes at-risk, disadvantaged youth from Glasgow- one of the most impoverished places of the UK with the least social mobility and the highest crime/murder rates- and places them in youth projects in Africa with support systems to train them lifelong new career skills. This is, in essence, “reciprocal” development… that improves the lives of poor in the UK and Africa.

      Perhaps do you research next time before you post?

      • maude elwes
        15/06/2012 at 3:31 pm


        Is this the same McConnel we read about, begging for funds from the American fat cat Trump to help swell his charity requirements? What was the promised pay off I wonder? Trump is not a man who does anything for nothing and he is in the business of buying up property for speculation, and his eye is firmly on Scotland and the UK. What plans for this wonnerful country and its beautiful scenery does he have.


        Now, throughout this entire article do you see any reference to donations being of benefit to the Glaswegian poor? No, well I wonder why that is? And I also wonder why he hasn’t sung this song to the country so loudly we all can hear and perhaps follow in his footsteps to help the starving of the UK. Could embarrassment be the underlying cause?

        And before ‘you’ post here with your complaints, when you have the research you speak of, why, like the majority who do blog regularly, didn’t you have the courtesy to put up the link. Or, is that too much to ask of such an offender.

  4. Twm o'r Nant
    29/05/2012 at 6:27 pm

    Miles JSD is nothing if not an egalitarian, living on the same wages as I do.Pace.

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