I cannot raise an iota of interest in which Conservative Tory, or which Lib Dem Tory, occupies which Cabinet post. I am much more concerned that the government has made squatting a criminal act, ending 35 years of statute law and 400 years of common law protection for the homeless. How did this happen without significant public debate when the legislation was going through?
Most Cabinet jobs provide extremely posh taxpayer funded housing, in addition to the several other homes most politicians of rank appear to own. Meantime an estimated 50,000 people in England and Wales have just become criminals for living in what are, indubitably, their homes if not their property.
The right and wrongs of squatting are complex and highly dependent on the individual circumstances. But I have little sympathy for the owners of second (holiday) homes, or investment properties which attract squatters. My own home in Ramsgate is one of three identical properties in a row, one of which has been completely empty for at least two years. Homelessness, housing shortage and housing misallocation are complex problems. But the idea that the solution is to use the full weight of the state against whe weakest and most disadvantaged individuals in the conundrum, is not one any decent person should entertain.
Yet again, I find myself completely perplexed by the coalition government doing things nobody genuinely in the tradition of British liberalism could possibly entertain. More puzzling still, I know Grant Shapps, the Housing Minister, and he is friendly, kind, earnest and well-meaning. I cannot understand the strange power of collective ativism which appears to take over those in government.
The police, of course, instantly have 50,000 new criminals to arrest, and indeed a bounden duty to go out and arrest them. Several chief constables will be keen on this, as squatters are a very easy target compared to real criminals and their clear-up statistics will look good. I am trying to rationalise this extraordinary excrescence of the arrogance of the propertied classes. Perhaps the Occupy Movement and this are symptoms of a kind of Reformation and Counter-Reformation in modern thought. Or perhaps the UK really is becoming a particularly horrible kind of place to live.