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.

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79 thoughts on “The Homed and the Homeless

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  • Jon


    I agree that some things can be overdiagnosed, but I take the view that PTSD is both real and awful. It was seeing a BBC programme, “Art for Heroes: A Culture Show Special”, that persuaded me of it. Although there are a couple of occasions where the presenter appears to stumble into pro-war (or at least received wisdom) rhetoric, I would otherwise greatly recommend it. It humanises the stories of a group of ex-serviceman, many of whom are of an age and background that “talking about problems” is seen as a sign of weakness.

    I should think it would be widely available for download, if you search for it.

  • Mary

    Obama’s Secret Plan to Prop Up Housing Prices

    Private Equity firms are piling in to the housing market to take advantage of bargain basement prices on distressed inventory. The Obama administration is stealthily selling homes to big investors who are required to sign non-disclosure agreements to ensure that the public remains in the dark as to the magnitude of the giveaway. Aside from the steep discounts on the homes themselves, the government is also providing “synthetic financing to reduce the up-front capital required if they agree to form a joint venture with Fannie Mae and share proceeds from the rental or sale of properties.” (Businessweek)

    In other words, US-taxpayers are providing extravagant financing for deep-pocket speculators who want to reduce their risk while maximizing their profits via additional leverage. The plan resembles Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s Public-Private Partnership Investment Program, (PPIP) which Columbia University professor Joseph Stiglitz denounced in an op-ed in the New York Times. Here’s what he said:

    “The Obama administration’s $500 billion or more proposal to deal with America’s ailing banks has been described by some in the financial markets as a win-win-win proposal. Actually, it is a win-win-lose proposal: the banks win, investors win — and taxpayers lose.”

  • Dave

    Excellent post. Miserable development. Where is the real media coverage of these crimes. Has everyone with a brain been gagged and reduced to writing on blogs like this?

    I was horrified when I read that squatting was being criminalized (like just about everything else that is at odds with power), but even more horrified at the lack of resistance.

  • Jay

    No Gaddffi gave 50000 usd towards buying a place when you got married.
    He said he would house everyone before his parents.

    Hitler built house for the German people with gardens for growing your own.

    Policies hey.

    Why cant we all get along and make the best of what we have got.

  • technicolour

    Unlike made up stuff that they like to label kids with, PTSD is real and awful. I had it without knowing what it was after a particularly unpleasant series of murdered corpses. Lasted for three months, during which I was terribly worried that I would hurt someone or something vulnerable. Realised that it must have been because I’d seen some of the worst things humans were capable of, and, since I was human, feared that I might be capable of them too. Worked through it, and it went.

    That was why I could listen to the ex-soldier without backing away. As Jon said, he’d never talked about it before. It was an interesting, and eventually cheerful couple of hours, in a bus shelter, in the rain.

    PS sure that somebody above didn’t really mean to suggest that this government’s actions are ‘all the fault of Roumanians’, since that would just be silly.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq Association

    Talking about the homeless…

    Time has run out for the two-state solution because of the unending and permanent Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different, unified future. Progressive and realist ideas are at last gaining a foothold in the discourse, while those influenced by the colonial era have been discredited or abandoned. Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably.

    “After Zionism,” published in 2012 by Saqi Books with editors Antony Loewenstein and Ahmed Moor, brings together some of the world s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution.

  • Jon

    @Technicolour, sorry to hear you went through that experience.

    @Mark, in case you’ve not seen it; a few of us have been swapping approaches to Israel/Palestine peace on the Angry And Dangerous thread. The discussion may be coming to an end, but do join in if you wish!

  • technicolour

    @jon: no, it was deliberate: was doing some research. didn’t seem to affect me while I was doing it, either. v interesting.

    thanks for link, Phil – will look tomorrow.

  • DavidH

    Sorry, Craig, but “liberal” has become a dirty word. First in the US, now the UK. A priceless tradition of brave and enlightened thought is reduced to just another insult that the various factions of neo-con politicians can use to imply their opponent is a poof.

  • Roderick Russell

    One of the things that constantly amazes my wife and I is the number of homeless one see lying around the streets in both the UK and Canada. It is clear to us that, in these relatively rich countries, their governments don’t give a damn about the people. Their only interest is in power, the trappings of power, and the rewards of power. Of course there is lots of talk and PR about caring and sharing – but that’s all it is: talk, spin, propaganda – brushed under the carpet, for, as Rupert Murdoch has told us in a tweet, we don’t have a free press to report truthfully on issues and thus help hold government accountable. Yet my wife and I have just spent a month in Switzerland where life appears very comfortable for almost all and there no homelessness that is apparent. It does seem to me that we could learn from the Swiss since they seem to have a system that puts the people first.

  • Mary

    Save the Children… not in Africa or Asia… but in the UK.

    Save the Children urges action for poorest UK children
    Judith Burns
    Education reporter, BBC News

    Families on the lowest incomes are struggling to make ends meet, says Save the Children

    The charity Save the Children, best known for helping some of the world’s poorest families, has launched its first appeal to help UK children.

    The charity says the UK’s poorest children are bearing the brunt of the recession, with some missing out on regular hot meals or new shoes.

    The campaign urges the government to focus on benefits for low-paid families and ask employers to pay a living wage.

    The government said it was committed to eradicating child poverty.**

    ** a lie

  • Steve Cook


    “Sorry, Craig, but “liberal” has become a dirty word. First in the US, now The UK. A priceless tradition of brave and enlightened thought is reduced to just another insult that the various factions of neo-con politicians can use to imply their opponent is a poof.”

    I agree that the right can use “liberal” to imply a wishy-washiness. Trouble is, there is a grain of truth in that and so the right exploits that grain…..

    What we need is a more muscular form of liberal thought. One that is more confident in its own position and less willing to give ground. A firm and confident restatement of fundamental principles, in other words.

    For a start, what do we mean by “liberal”?

  • Richard

    Have you noticed that there are no Lib Dems left in either the FCO or the MOD. Wonder where the Tories are planning to invade?

  • Komodo

    For a start, what do we mean by “liberal”?

    In the 19th century, it meant “generous”. Good starting point for rebranding?

  • gary smith


    Poorly put on my part the romanians helped take the perception and/or reality of squatters to a new low with the help of the press.
    the properties squatted in my time were mainly council owned and vacant due to mismanagement and/or lack of resources
    the squatting `scene` was a community of sorts people were empowered to take control of their own lives and help other people in the same situ/frame of mind ie no reliance on the state. i still have my copy of the squatters handbook. resources that were otherwise neglected were made use of.
    far fewer council/public properties may be empty due to the real estate boom, so maybe squatters are more likely to find themselves in privately owned property
    I also think that squatters were always a contentious issue likely to illicit strong responses, mainly in the negative. my personal experience was that a great many squatters were decent people who weren`t out to mess up someone elses life. better to have a long term vacant property inhabited by friendly constructive people than to lie empty and degrade the environment and invite mischief.
    Possibly with the general economic situation there is some sort of cause fatigue as people bunker down trying to deal with their own problems
    As to the lack of outcry, its been `sneaked through` all part of the great taking from the many for the sake of the few that is going on. a civil liberty here and there all being taken back. there was little to no discussion of the issue in the msm, they will never be friends of squatters! the vast majority of people still dont like to think and discover issues for themselves and continue to imbibe the hopium of the msm. people need to realise that when the govt says we are all in it together what they really mean is you are on your own now, go spin.

  • MarkU


    If you read what I said carefully, I merely suggested that you were in danger of doing it, allow me to explain my reasoning at the time.

    When I started my post the last contribution on the thread was your own post at 4.22 pm. At that point Frazer had suggested that the change in the law was intended to stop squatters moving into peoples homes when they were on holiday. Your own response “Fine and dandy, but…..” can clearly be read as as accepting Frazer’s original hypothesis, which was false.

    Given the subsequent developments on the thread I fully understand why you feel that you were roped in unnecessarily and perhaps unfairly. I certainly had no intention of causing you any offence, it was simply intended as a caution that you were taking the wrong tack. Had I known before I pushed the ‘submit comment’ button, that Frazer had submitted an intemperate and ill-considered rant (based on anecdotal evidence that could not possibly be true) I would most certainly have left you out of it entirely.

  • technicolour

    Thanks, Gary – or possibly squatting was used to take perceptions of Roumanians to an all time low. Very jolly all round.

    Letter in Viz’s top tips: “Help teach kids how the government works by simply taking all their sweets off them and telling them to fuck off”.

  • Komodo

    I should have said ‘fine and dandy lol’, then….
    On the other hand, if any squatters ARE breaking into residences during the owners’ holidays and trashing the contents (other than in DailyMailland, where anecdote is king) then fuck them. Nail them to crosses, hanging’s too good for them. One size does definitely not fit all in this context.

  • Squatter

    Thanks Jon, I do still lurk regularly but seldom have time to contribute these days – new child, new location, 2 new jobs all in the last 12 months. A gentelman of leisure I am not, sadly 🙂

    Give me one of your jobs, you will have plenty of time.

  • Mary

    Chloe Smith has been moved sideways from Osborne’s crowd to Letwin and Maude’s at the Cabinet Office.

    Jon Trickett Shadow Cabinet Office Minister has just asked a question about the government’s delay in producing a result on the investigation into the Atlantic Bridge scandal. Letwin blathered back a non answer. I will post the link later when it comes up on Hansard.

    Agent Cameron to take PMQs shortly. Ch 81 Freeview.

  • MarkU


    Clearly the behaviour that you are describing is criminal and should be prosecuted as such. Throwing the book at them is entirely fair.

    I was not attempting to be disagreeable, I was simply attempting to prevent the resurgence of a myth, originally created by the media to support the introduction of a criminal trespass law and now being rehabilitated to support some rather draconian legislation.

  • Steve Cook


    Steve, would that be the same ‘muscular liberalism’ promoted by Cameron and Sarkozy?

    No it would not.

    Bugger me, I’ll need to think of a new slogan now.

    Seriously though, I guess I should make some kind of tentative stab at defining it myself.

    I suppose I should start by stating that my definition of liberal and my definition of liberty are synonymous and so when I talk of liberty, below,I am talking about what I think to be a liberal means. For me, it means being a defender of liberty.

    My definition of liberty is that anyone should be able to do and say anything they want with the proviso that their actions or words do not limit the liberty of others.

    A narrow interpretation of the above would allow a free market. My interpretation, however, would not since a truly free market would require each and every economic agent within it to have exactly the same access to exactly the same information at exactly the same time and possessed equal economic capacity to act on that information should they so choose. Of course, in reality, in any market, economic agents have differing access to differing information at different times and do not possess equal capacity to act on that information (or lack of) should they so choose. Counter intuitively, in a truly free market everyone would tend towards equal wealth. A form of organic, bottom up communism if you like. Only in a non-free market is it possible for some people to become fantastically wealthy while others sink into poverty.

    Thus, in order to preserve the liberty of everyone, the simplistic liberty of some (to screw others over) must be limited.

    So, by muscular liberty, I guess I mean that we must defend people’s liberty to speak and act, within the constraints mentioned above, with regulation and enforcement, if necessary.

    Obviously, I extend this concept of liberty to the social arena as well. Which is why I have such a problem with organised religion. It is a way of limiting the liberty of people to make informed and rational choices of how to act or think.

    It’s therefore a form of abuse.

  • Steve Cook


    Sounds like Jaroslav Hasek’s Party of Moderate Progress Within The Bounds of the Law….”

    Not aquainted with the man, Komodo.

    Can you give me the gist of him and his party’s central tenets?

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