The Homed and the Homeless 79


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.


79 thoughts on “The Homed and the Homeless

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  • Mary

    Komodo. I misheard the exchange between Trickett and Letwin. It was actually about the lack of regulating lobbying and referred to all those who had been on the board of Atlantic Bridge getting Cabinet jobs.

    Here, near the beginning http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/hansard/commons/todays-commons-debates/read/unknown/9/#c9

    Jon Trickett (Hemsworth) (Lab):
    Yesterday’s reshuffle saw the entry into the Cabinet of every single Tory MP who had sat on the advisory board of the disgraced Atlantic Bridge lobbying organisation. Examples like this leave the Government open to the accusation that they are dragging their feet on regulating the industry because of inappropriately close relationships with lobbyists. This is damaging to the House and to democracy itself. Following the departure from his Department of the Minister responsible for regulating lobbying, will he immediately bring forward legislation to regulate this matter once and for all?

    Mr Letwin:
    I certainly do not want to get into any partisan repartee across the Dispatch Box on a matter that ought to command considerable cross-party agreement and support. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the remarks he has made on the record in the past about supporting the principle of regulating lobbying. I should, however, point out that his party was in government for a very long period during the whole of which issues were raised about this subject and at no time did that Government issue a paper or consult on it, or move towards serious regulation of it. If he feels that this should have been done immediately, the question arises of why it was not done from 1997 onwards. To help him, the answer is, of course, that it is an extremely complicated and difficult subject, which is why the Select Committee and respondents to the consultation had many things to say. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will, on mature reflection, agree that we should consider this in an unpartisan spirit and try to get it right.

  • Steve Cook

    “@komodo

    Author of “The Good Soldier Schweik” and “The Red Commissar”. Read them. And this:
    http://www.ralphmag.org/CN/hasek1.html

    I’ve had a read of his party’s “manifesto”. If you mean what I think you mean in terms of your comparison…oh dear

    Oh dear, oh dear….lololol

  • Mary

    How appalling. The troughers whom Cameron booted out are to get honours. Sir George Young gets the Order of Companions of Honour (wtf?) and Paice, Garnier, Harvey and Howarth get a knighthood.

    Honours for cabinet reshuffle casualties – Number 10
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19461367

    Cleggover was on Sky just now announcing that the limit for house extensions is to be extended from 3m to 8m for a detached house and 6m for others, needing no planning permission. How lovely for a neighbour affected. Good for a ‘beds in sheds’ landlord I would have thought!

    {http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19496204}

  • Steve Cook

    “@Mary

    Grant Shapps – ‘he is friendly, kind, earnest and well-meaning.’ From the blog.

    Also sly.

    Grant Shapps founded company selling software that breaches Google code
    TrafficPaymaster, sold by housing minister’s wife’s firm, generates revenue for sites using search engine’s AdSense

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/sep/02/grant-shapps-google-howtocorp-adsense?newsfeed=true

    Why does he use a pseudonym? AKA Michael Green….”

    Going under the name Michael Green and casting himself as an internet marketing guru, Shapps in 2007 claimed audiences could “make $20,000 in 20 days guaranteed or your money back” – if they spent $200 buying his bespoke software. Shapps previously told journalists he used the name Michael Green for the business to keep it separate from his political work. In 2008 Shapps transferred his share of the company to his wife, Belinda. The family business continues to sell online toolkits such as Michael Green’s “How To Bounce Back From Recession”.

    He’s a bloody snake oil salesman. Nothing more. He has a corrupt personality and this will surely leak out into his work as a minister and so the pertinent question we should be asking ourselves is do we want someone whose moral compass is such that they do not hesitate to take advantage of the weakness of others to be in a position of political authority?

    The thing about these kinds of operations is that although they take some time and effort to set up, once set up the entire operation from that point can be fully automated. That is to say, the e-books and other software products are already stored on a server and can be automatically downloaded following an automated online payment. In other words, it basically runs itself save for updates of products on the server. Thus, even if such an operation generates only, say, a couple of grand a month, it’s financially worthwhile as long as the numbers in and the numbers out add up.

    Also, Shapps is savvy enough to know, presumably, that this kind of bullshit is bought by people who are desperate to get out of the economic hole they are in, but who lack the education or connections to be able to do anything actually useful in the real world. So, they desperately grab at schemes that offer a seemingly easy way out of an otherwise hopeless situation. Shapps has positioned himself far enough up the food chain that he feeds of these people’s desperation. Him and his like create the conditions for people to fall for these scams, whilst at the same time devising the scams.

    He’s an amoral wanker.

  • nevermind

    @Frazer
    First you say ‘Don’t know on this one.’ then you say this ‘ Squatters mate, scum the lot of them. Bang them up, shoot them or send them to North Korea for all I care. About the best thing this bloody govt has done!’

    Without squatting many soldiers returning from the war would have never had a house over their heads. You can split hairs bewteen public and private housing, still, its a fact that soldiers returning have to fight another war to get housed, never mind getting seen to if they are injured.
    http://www.chalfontstgiles.org.uk/squatters.htm

    I have no problems with squatters but with speculators who leave perfectly good generous housing go to rack and ruins because they want to tear it down and build some new pile of rabbit hutches, or to see the property ‘improve’ in value. Britain should not have a problem with homelessness if we would tackle the problem of owners leaving empty homes empty. If it is against the law to not register your home with a newly created squatting agency for short term renting out, you will be fined the sum that could be earned from rents, both problems sorted!

    A very large percentage of army personnel, those that did not want to carry on digging up mines, are left not housed, roaming as homeless for years. why on earth did they have to set up the Riverside housing charity?

    People who squat also repair housing, a well known fact always underplayed or just forgotten. Some developers remove roof tiles above major beams, these old timbers get wet and rot after a few years and hey presto the building will be declared unfit and readied for demolition.

    people who don’t understand squatting should try it before they use tabloid bile to determine their own attitudes.

  • Mary

    You said it better and more strongly than I did Steve.

    More on the twerp.

    Grant Shapps leaves behind unfinished job on UK’s high streets
    Rochdale’s Labour MP Simon Danczuk laments a high street ‘catastrophe’ in the wake of Shapps’ move in the reshuffle to become Tory party co-chairman
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/the-northerner/2012/sep/05/grant-shapps-conservatives

    An opportunist. I suppose his job now is to rally the troops and toady round the prospective donors.

  • Dave

    The problem with squatters is that they belong to a utopian legacy that, by their very example, is a reproof of the vulgar idea of ownership and a beacon for alternative models.

    It is the utopianism that needs eradicating, not the dirty little squatters, whom nobody cares about. As always, it is the idea that is dangerous, not the thing.

  • Mary

    BBC Radio 4 ran a profile this morning on the ex Minister of Housing (no irony there) now co-chairman of the Tory Boys’ Brigade.

    {http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/b01mhnnh}

    There was a mention that he was a very active member of a Jewish youth organisation called the BBYO. I assume that stands for B’nai B’rith. Never thought he was Jewish.

    http://www.bbyo.org.uk/about-us.html

  • technicolour

    What is with this Jewish thing? Is it reasonable to point out when people one disagrees with are *not* Jewish? I don’t understand.

  • technicolour

    @Mary: if you revisit this thread – and I’ve seen that you do revisit threads – could you answer this question, please?

  • technicolour

    again, sorry – Mary may not revisit this thread, and it is an old one, so no worries if she/he doesn’t answer.

  • technicolour

    Thanks Mary. Are you saying that both the people you refer to belong to the ‘Friends of Israel’ lobby group? I presume so.

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