‘The sight of a Labour council - a labour council – evicting tenants convicted of rioting.’
I don’t believe in conspiracy theories. Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK, Al Quaedi planned 911, and NASA really did land on the moon: deal with it.
Recently however, the internet meme/satire quoted above highlighted my own growing suspicions: that there is an enormous conspiracy, audacious in its implantation and spiteful in its intent. I honestly believe that recent housing laws are aimed at scaring and undermining poor people into submission.
That paraphrased parody of Neil Kinnock’s searing speech put into words how I feel. During the UK’s summer riots, I read about the aftermath from afar, but like many I am subsequently wondering how can it be that a crime unrelated to a perpetrators home will end in their eviction?
Remember it’s rare that even the most hardcore anti-social, drug-dealing, violent bully is evicted permanently for bad behaviour, so why the sudden rush to associate a roof-over-your head with being a good little citizen. This policy is ideologically led, unsupported by data and punitively transformative in its philosophical agenda: no more housing as of right, no more council tenancies for life, no more housing benefit (the new universal credit effectively abolishes housing benefit and Local Housing Allowance, or didn’t you notice?) Ed Milliband has even equated ‘bad’ council tenants with those beloved, mother-loving bankers.
This is the most undermining of all Condem wheezes: that housing a luxury and not a necessity- an extra, a privilege. The LibDems are standing by and watching Grant Shapps detonate the idea that everyone deserves a permanent home. He’s big on ownership and keen on boats (I still don’t believe he really said that.) But housing is essential; without a home, people are overcrowded, unfit and miserable. The homeless die young. Even Victorian grandees knew that.
The insidious notion of housing as a treat to be withdrawn for bad behaviour is seeping into policy. Unlike food, you can’t grow your own house on an allotment or scavenge, and housing benefit cuts are starting to bite. Tenants will either make up the difference from food budgets when weekly benefit does not cover the rent, or ask landlords to drop prices – and we all know that landlords love lowering rents.
Many casual landlords will collapse like straw men when interest rates go up, with tenants again be expected to pay. Those who moved to find or begin work can hardly return; they will be declared intentionally homeless and workless, entitled to neither housing nor benefits, stranded in high rent areas enduring low earnings, choosing rent or food.
After both world wars, decent housing was a national priority. Now it’s a national scandal, with tenants undermined by cuts, enduring slack protection, under a growing fear that the behaviour of their children might lose them their home. This is housing used as the stick when there is no carrot.
And never let it be forgotten: the ceiling on rents in local housing allowance is a Labour party innovation. A Labour party innovation…