By Julian Critchley, Island Labour Party chair

As with lots of families, Christmas is an expensive time in my household.

A wander around Ryde's collection of independent — and occasionally eccentric — shops yielded a sackful of gifts.

My daughters enjoyed A Christmas Carol panto down in Shanklin, and the merry-go-round of Christmas parties with guides, sports clubs and cadets is well and truly underway with secret Santa gifts and an apparently endless requirement for sweets.

As the temperature drops, I've been nudging the central heating on for longer and longer each day.

We've been stocking up on food for the family members who are coming over to the island during the festive period, and we're preparing for the big journey to see parents in St Helens (the big industrial one up north, not the small pretty one on the Island).

So like many fellow Islanders, I'm not looking forward to the first credit card bill of January. But I'm not losing sleep, because I know I'll be able to pay it.

Yet life isn't as fortunate for an awful lot of people.

There are 500 children on this Island who will not wake up this Christmas Day in their own homes, simply because their families don't have a home.

There are thousands of Islanders whose Christmas dinner, such as it is, will come from the foodbanks, because they can't afford to eat.

The growth of charities such as the Red Box project show that many of our Island's daughters can't even afford basic sanitary items.

There are hundreds of homes where the heating won't be turned on at all, let alone turned up.

Many Islanders will not see their families on the mainland this Christmas because they can't afford the ferry prices.

Many more thousands of ordinary families in low-paying, insecure employment are dreading those January bills, as they count the cost of trying to give their own children the Christmas which so many of us take for granted.

Many are already in debt, just trying to keep the wolf from the door from one month to the next.

All this is happening in the one of the richest countries on the planet, and the Isle of Wight is far from the worst-affected place in this country.

Many of us will sit down this Christmas in front of our TVs and watch traditional tales of Dickensian Christmases.

Dickens wasn't just a great storyteller, of course. He was a social campaigner, trying to educate the wealthy Victorian middle class about just what life was like for those less fortunate and — crucially — why it was so grim.

One of his key messages was that the Victorian attitude of blaming poor people for their own poverty, separating poor Britons into 'deserving' and 'undeserving' categories, was a self-serving excuse designed to protect those with plenty from feeling any guilt or responsibility for the suffering of those with little or nothing.

Our country is fantastically wealthier than it was when Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol.

We have more than enough money in our country to ensure no child is cold, or hungry, or homeless this Christmas, or indeed throughout the year.

Yet those children remain with us, and their numbers are growing, not shrinking.

This isn't because of some natural disaster, or circumstances we can't control, let alone because those children 'deserve' their poverty.

It is the result of choices.

The government's choices, in pursuing the policies it does, and our choices in putting that government in place.

The Conservative Party's decades-old civil war over Europe has sucked attention away from the immediate and pressing issues facing people in this country as a result of eight years of their economic policies.

Too many people have been able — like the wealthy Victorians — to look the other way when faced with the real poverty and inequality which has grown in our communities.

Too many are quick — like those same Victorians — to find excuses for not caring; blaming poor people for their plight, rather than accepting any responsibility for creating the society which impoverishes them.

Dickens' visiting ghosts refused to let Scrooge look away, and forced him to see what he did not want to see: the consequences of his own choices.

Well, those cold homes are our choice. The homeless children are our choice. Those hungry families are our choice.

We don't have a Dickens to force our gaze on to the darker side of the society we have created. But do we really need one in order to see what is in front of our eyes?

One of the few positives which may come out of the government's Brexit mess is that we may have another general election in the new year.

If that happens, let's remember those who are not as fortunate as us all year round, not just at Christmas.

And let's make a different choice.