Sunday, 24 October 2010

To the manor born

Day by day, week by week, the Coalition government's vicious plans become more vivid. The limiting of sickness benefit to just 12 months (after which time, presumably, you're miraculously sprung free of illness from your bed, I presume) was last week's stick to beat the poor with, this weekend it seems that The Guardian is getting wound up about the plans to slash housing benefit.

Quite right, of course. But, the Labour Party and its cheerleaders at The Guardian seem to have a very short memory when it comes to 'social cleansing'. As one of the people who comments on that piece points out, Labour's way of dealing with "illegal" immigrants was to put them into prisons they called "detention centres", often splitting children from parents at a time when surely they needed them most.

So, John Cruddas can bleat all he likes, but he was, by association, responsible for letting Labour's horrific, racist immigration policy carry on for 13 years, well away from the limelight the issue deserved. And if that wasn't 'social cleansing', I don't know what was.

The issue with housing all seems, to these propertyless eyes, is to do with the British obsession of owning a house. Those in council houses who can afford to buy privately should do, we're told. Why should they? Why should anyone have to land themselves with a mortgage they'll probably never end up paying off?

Like the Tories in the '80s, the Labour Party oversaw a property price boom at the beginning of the new century, and did nothing at all to regulate it. Private landlords, egged by the fact that "property development" was the new, hip thing for 30-something professionals to be in, have been left to mop up and gentrify areas where, for decades, people in or our of work have been able to live affordably. The Tories' latest move is the natural conclusion to a depressing series of events.

This has happened all over the country for years now, of course - mainly in traditionally rural areas, where the rich have been able to buy a (relatively) cheap 'place in the country'. See also: holiday cottages in villages made up of... tourists. Authentic, it isn't.

In real terms, wages have been in decline since the 1970s, and with hundreds of thousands about to be chucked on to the dole queue, this situation can only get worse. Being forced to live somewhere merely because of your financial situation isn't anything new, but this latest wave of attacks on the poor looks likely to ghettoise a whole new generation. Good news for landlords and the NIMBYs - not so clever if you find yourself at the mercy of the welfare state for a few months, it seems.

Tomorrow: back to some indiepop bollocks or other.

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