We saw a young family with a baby, having had their double incomes reduced to one of just £800 a month and unable to afford food on top of their other bills. A single parent, who was temporarily unable to work through illness and went to the food bank to feed herself and her child because the cupboard was bare. There was a jobbing builder, living in a sparsely-furnished flat and coping with income that varied massively from month to month depending on the weather and the market, admitting that he had gone without food to ensure that he kept a roof over his head.
These are not scroungers, ripping off the taxpayer because they know how to play the system. These are - to use the favourite phrase of politicians - hard-working families. Ordinary people who find that the money they earn simply isn't enough to keep body and soul together. They have to rely on the charity of a local church group that collects food donated by shoppers at a supermarket.
This is wrong. In this century, in this country, it is fundamentally wrong that this is allowed to happen. If you want an evil to target, this is it.
Then Gary Gibbon went to see Salisbury's new Conservative MP, John Glen - the product of Oxbridge, the Conservative Research Department and consultancy firms. He is about as in touch as you would expect for a young man with no experience of how the majority live or indeed any idea how to cope with a low income. Blessed with a safe seat, unfortunately, he will never need to understand it either.
"I believe that everyone who's working will have enough food if they don't spend the money on other things. There is a choice there that if you spend money on food to start off with.. if you earn anything or you have the minimum wage, you will have some money for food. The question is what other things the money is being spent on."Typically, John, it is spent on mortgage or rent, heat and light, transport to work, perhaps a few clothes. People pay off what is most urgent and cut back on other things - they fall behind with the electricity or gas and end up on prepayment meters, allowing the house to get cold rather than load the meter card with money they don't have and that coldness brings illness. They make sure the kids are fed and go without themselves.
They need decent jobs that pay decent living wages, not part-time, minimum wage positions. I have some hope that Ian Duncan Smith's benefit propositions might offer some light at the end of the tunnel, but my fear is that it will be an oncoming train, with insensitive bastards like Glen quaffing champagne and celebrating the accident of birth that has brought them such good fortune. I hope that IDS will cut through the maze of benefits, but I suspect that the real driver will not be the relief of poverty, but cutting the cost of helping the poorest in our society.