Tag Archives: class disgust

The Class Disgust Of The Blairites

The Blairites only tolerate the working class, but only just. Like Victorian children, they should be seen and not heard. In the past, the working class performed an important function by supplying Labour with votes in the 1997, 2000 and 2005 General Elections. But over the course of 20 years, Labour has been losing working class support in its so-called heartlands. The Blairites’ answer to this is to claim that the party was “too left-wing” and must attract Tory voters to win elections. It’s nonsense. In the entire 13 years they were in power, Nu Labour refused to repeal the most pernicious of Thatcher’s legislation – especially the anti-trade union laws, which directly affect workers.

It’s no secret that the Blairites through their think-tank, Progress, are more interested in chasing billionaires and their money than appealing to working class voters; the same voters the party was founded to represent. If they do speak of the working class, it’s to claim that they’re ignorant, illiterate and racist, while they use them as a justification to out-UKIP UKIP by mimicking their immigration policies. As far as the Blairites are concerned, the working class is more interested in keeping foreigners out than decent homes, jobs, healthcare and educational opportunities.

Now to the point of this blog. I was alerted to this article on the Progress website by this Tweet on their official Twitter account. It speculates on who among Jeremy Corbyn’s close allies will ‘seize the crown’ – so to speak.

It not only repeats the by now familiar line that Corbyn and his supporters are “hard left” and “Trotskyists”, it also adopts a sneering tone towards prominent working class members of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet.

The article’s author, Paul Richards (who’s he?) opens with this paragraph:

One thing you can guarantee, like rain on a bank holiday, is splits on the hard-left. The old Monty Python joke is funny because it is true. For the all the calls for workers’ unity, disunity is the stock-in-trade. The Trotskyist parties are all fragments of one another. The vanity parties such as Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour party, George Galloway’s Respect or Ken Loach’s Left Unity are all the products of splits, which have themselves split.

This, from a party-within-a-party that is so far to the right that it’s perfectly aligned with the socially liberal fractions of the Tory Party and the Lib Dems, who were themselves formed from a merger of the Labour splitters, the SDP and the Liberal Party. This from a faction that’s done more to undermine the party leadership than any left-wingers have done in Labour’s history.  Just to correct Richards, Left Unity wasn’t the product of a split; it was created in response to the lack of a left-wing alternative as well as Labour’s inertia under Ed Miliband. As for “vanity”, Nu Labour could be seen as Blair’s vanity project. He hijacked the party for his own ends and used it as a platform for personal greed once he left Parliament. The party lost thousands of members and 5 million voters but there’s not a peep from the Blairites or Progress about this. Instead, they live in a bubble, isolated from reality with only their delusions and nostaglia for company.

Here Richards  indulges himself in a little intellectual masturbation.

You might think the widening schisms amongst Corbynites are linked to his dismal personal ratings as the most unpopular leader ever, net loss of council seats, inability to appoint a functioning frontbench or the growing Tory lead in the opinion polls.

For Richards and his ilk, the polls are sacrosanct. Yet, as many of us already know, the Blairites brief their pals in the Murdoch press, a negative story is written by someone like Blair’s former speechwriter, Philip Collins, which is then followed by a poll to confirm their biases. Oddly enough, the bookies disagree with the pollsters. How did that happen?

Here, Richards demonstrates a glaring lack of self-awareness:

Remember those posh kids who discover socialism and sell papers outside Tesco? Think Rik Mayall as Rick in the Young Ones. Richard Burgon is that kid. Educated in the leafy suburbs of Harrogate, followed by St John’s College Cambridge, where he studied English Literature, he went on to become a solicitor. Burgon adopted a leftwing persona as a teen, and has never grown out of it.

The not-so-subtle discourse here is that left-wing politics is for teenagers. Grown ups apparently adopt more ‘sensible’ positions: like sneering at working class people and demanding the government step in to crush the guards’  strike on Southern Rail.

The Blairite disdain for protest, which is derided as a student pastime, is itself a notion that swerves around the fact that people of all ages protest. Moreover, protest is a legitimate form of political expression. The Blairites and the Tories seem to believe that the public’s engagement with politics should begin and end at the ballot box.  It’s as if to say “You’ve voted, what more do you want”? Protest for them should be either crushed or ignored – so much for the will of the people, eh? Remember the millions that marched against the Iraq War? That’s how much Blairites regard protests. Making war against weaker nations on the basis of non-existent evidence is supposedly more ‘adult’ than protest.

Once elected in 2015 (following a helpful phonecall from uncle Colin to Ed Miliband ahead of the selection process, denying Leeds a second all-women shortlist), the T-shirt wearing, placard waving student protestor has become a T-shirt wearing, placard waving MP. Feel the Burgon

Richards’s claim that Burgon only became an MP because of his uncle ignores the fact that, in 2015, the so-called ‘red princes’  Euan Blair and Will Straw were being lined up for safe seats.  Only Neil Kinnock’s son, Stephen, was successful in getting  selected and won a nice safe seat. No nepotism there. As you were.

Of Angela Rayner, Richards writes:

Rayner was a direct beneficiary of the Tony Blair-led Labour government, especially sure start, and understands more than most why we need a Labour government. Her thirst for power is political not personal. Oh, and she likes Star Wars.

The subtext of this paragraph is that because Rayner apparently benefited from Sure Start, she should get down on her knees and kiss Blair’s purple buskins. The Star Wars quip is throwaway.

Rebecca Long-Bailey comes in for this sideways sneer.

Her frontbench career was unimpaired by a series of uncertain early performances on television, notably being duffed up by Andrew Neil over Brexit. She learned economics on the job, as shadow chief secretary to the treasury, with the same diligence that earned her her sociology degree from Manchester Polytechnic.

First, Manchester Polytechnic hasn’t existed since 1992 when it became Manchester Metropolitan University. Second, Sociology is a real subject that deals with the politics of everyday life. Richards seems to think that only those educated at Oxbridge and in possession of PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) degrees should be in the shadow cabinet. But Miliband’s shadow cabinet was full of PPE types: Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper and Miliband himself were all Oxford PPE graduates, who had also served as special advisers and researchers. The lack of imagination among them was palpable and the absence of meaningful policies was glaring. Miliband’s Labour was a Cowardly Lion of a party: too afraid to challenge the Tories’ empty claims that “Labour crashed the economy” and “bankrupted the nation”, and too feeble to raise a fist in anger. Instead, it adopted what Miliband called “constructive opposition”.

According to Richards, Clive Lewis has

… a rich back story. Not rich as in wealthy, like Corbyn, but rich as in fascinating. He grew up on a council estate as the son of a single father. As a student unionist he stood against the Labour candidate for National Union of Students president in 1996.

The claim that Corbyn is fabulously wealthy is repeated here. Indeed, the section on Lewis is used as cover to attack Corbyn and repeat the same lies printed in the Tory press. The only word Richards left out when writing about Lewis was ‘exotic’.

Richards saves all his bile for John McDonnell, who is described in the caricature as “The Trotfather”. It’s juvenile stuff from an allegedly adult Blairite.

Even in a roomful of Corbynistas, McDonnell is the most leftwing person in the room. He was sacked by Ken Livingstone as deputy of the Greater London Council in 1985 for wanting London to copy the glorious resistance of Militant-led Liverpool; even Livingstone thought it a bit extreme. In 2003 he praised the ‘bravery’ of the IRA. He then apologised ‘if he had caused offence’.

Notice how Richards recycles the old “McDonnell appeases the IRA” smear. What’s perhaps worse is his repetition of the mainstream media claim that Militant was evil and hellbent on destroying Liverpool. The idea behind this is that the Militant-run council should have submitted fully to the will of Thatcher and her henchmen. Militant improved the lives of thousands of Scousers. It built much-needed homes and fought against a government that was intent on the city’s destruction. The Cat doubts Richards is old enough to remember the 1980s, such is the juvenile tone of this article and its cavalier approach to history.

Labour right-wingers are granted immunity when it comes to smearing members of their own party. They are permitted to indulge in their class disgust. Yet Labour left-wingers are suspended on trumped up charges of anti-Semitism and CLPs are suspended on the basis of lies and baseless allegations of intimidation. Will Iain McNicol take action against Progress? Don’t hold your breath. Not even the mainstream media has reported this story.

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A Borough Of Opportunity? Only For Developers, Tories And Other Parasites

Tory-controlled Hammersmith and Fulham’s slogan is the “Borough of Opportunity”. It’s a slogan that’s proclaimed from lamp post banners in the borough to its new glossy magazine. But it’s gloriously misleading. Hammersmith and Fulham is a borough of opportunity but only for property developers. Anyone who lives in Hammersmith and Fulham will have noticed the number of building projects popping up around the borough. It’s a boom time – and I mean that most sincerely, folks – in Hammersmith and Fulham. Interestingly, all of these developments are in Hammersmith and White City, while in Fulham and other leafier parts of the borough not a single tower crane is anywhere to be seen. Is this a coincidence? I don’t know. You tell me.

I’ve taken a tour of the borough and photographed many of the current developments and those that have just been completed. Many of us in Hammersmith already know of the fabulous structure on 10 Hammersmith Grove that faces onto Beadon Road. Look at those lines! Look at its shininess! Shame its upper floors are completely empty.

12 Hammersmith Grove. Built for Pernod-Ricard, who decided to move to Chiswick park

10 Hammersmith Grove. Built for Pernod-Ricard, who then decided to move to Chiswick Park instead

10 Hammersmith Grove was built with the intention of housing the offices of Pernod-Ricard, but they had other ideas and decided to move to the ever-expanding Chiswick Park instead.  The ground floor is occupied by a couple of posh eateries. Fancy an artisan burger? How much dosh have you got to splash out on one?

The ground floor units with uberposh Byrons Burgers and Bill's café kind of place thing...

The ground floor units with uberposh Byrons Burgers and Bill’s café kind of place thing…

Do you fancy living in a former multi-story car park next to the District and Piccadilly Lines and the moderately busy Glenthorne Road? Well, now you can. Here’s the sales office for St George’s rather posh-sounding Sovereign Court development.  Stupid name if you ask me. Flats here will set you back upwards of £950k. The question is: where are shoppers going to park their cars? The council has no answer to this and other questions.

It's a former car park, you divvy.

It’s a former car park, you divvy.

You see that crane in the background? Well, here it is again just above this empty office block on Glenthorne Road. This is a pretty big site.

Empty office block on Glenthorne Road being prepared for redevelopment

Empty office block on Glenthorne Road being prepared for demolition

This office block on Lyric Square once had loads of occupants when I first moved here, but I’ve no idea what happened to them. As far as I can make out, it’s been mostly empty for a few years.

The Capital One building being prepared for redevelopment.

The One Building still looking for tenants. Will it be next on the demolition list?

The Hammersmith Palais was a legendary music venue and former dance hall that was immortalised in the The Clash’s White Man In The Hammersmith Palais.  Here it is before it was demolished.

Within a year of the Tories taking control of the Council in 2006, it was announced that the Palais would be demolished and replaced with expensive student accommodation. In the distance there’s another development next to the Laurie Arms pub. This is what stands on the site of the Palais.

Le Hammersmith Palais est non plus

Le Hammersmith Palais est non plus

This isn’t a new development, rather it’s a curious development. This is Mackenzie Trench House, a 60s council block on Lillie Road  that’s been “acquired” by Cherwell, a property development company. It’s going to be demolished to make way for a “part 4 / 6 storey building of 30 flats (Class C3) comprising 5 x one bed, 20 x two bed and 5 x three bed; Excavation to provide basement car park for 14 cars with vehicular access from Purcell Crescent and associated landscaping”, according to the Council’s website. Of course it is entirely possible that the residents of MacKenzie Trench House were leaseholders and they were ‘made an offer they couldn’t refuse’, rather than being lowly tenants… and we all know how H&F Tories feel about council housing and council tenants.

McKenzie Trench House will be bulldozed

McKenzie Trench House will be bulldozed

I’ve already tweeted about the Fulham Reach or, should I say, the Fulham-out-of-the-Reach-of-ordinary-people Development. Here it is in all its monstrous glory. IMG-20140411-00071 IMG-20140411-00072And don’t you dare go near the jetty. That’s for landing crooked Russian oligarchs, Singaporean gambling moguls and bloodthirsty Bahraini princelings who have come to gaze upon their assets.

IMG-20140411-00073The sales office for this monstrosity, well, looks a little like the sales office for Sovereign Court (you’re still serious about that name? excuse me while I split my sides). It’s a brand, you see. St George are part of the Berkeley Group of companies and many of those companies have saints’ names.  Don’t ask me why. St Edward, for example,  has built a huge swanky development on the former site of Charles House, a local tax office on Kensington Road. Behind Charles House there once was a wonderful little pub that sold Everard’s Ales.  It was called the Radnor Arms and I may be wrong, but it was the only Everard’s pub in London. It is no more.

Hammersmith and Fulham-20140411-00074

More student accommodation, this time sandwiched between John Betts Primary School and a council block on Dalling Road. This is a Balfour Beatty development. Balfour Beatty is the company that was implicated in the Potters Bar rail crash along with Network Rail. The company is also member of the Conservative Property Forum.

Hounslow-20140514-00085

New planning laws make it easier for companies like Balfour Beatty and St George to influence local planning decisions (the Tories refer to this as “cutting red tape”). In Hammersmith and Fulham, these companies have a sympathetic Tory council that is more than willing to please them. According to the Government website, the new planning ‘reforms’ are supposed to give communities a say in local planning decisions. What we actually tend to find is that developers and councils alike use a great deal of PR muscle in an attempt to win over people. In some cases, such as the ongoing Earl’s Court gentrification plan, the Council or PR company in question will use all the tricks in the property playbook, including the manipulation of statistical data, rigged surveys and so forth, to produce ‘reports’ that appear to suggest a consensus.

If the Tories win the council election next week, Charing Cross Hospital will disappear and will be replaced with luxury flats and a GP’s surgery.  There will be no A&E. You’ll have to travel miles through heavy traffic to get to one. Anyone who knows Fulham Palace Road will tell you that the traffic is often bumper-to-bumper from the Lillie Road junction to the one-way system.

Charing Cross Hospital has the country's leading stroke unit.

Charing Cross Hospital has the country’s leading stroke unit.

The Tories have also been making noises about demolishing the Queen Caroline Estate. Yet, when anyone suggests that the issue of social class plays a part in their ‘thinking’, boy do they howl with indignation. But this is what we’re witnessing in Hammersmith and Fulham: a class war that is being waged by powerful interests, aided and abetted by the Tories, against the working class, the low-waged and the vulnerable.  They can tell you that the idea of social class is “outdated” but they would be liars, because they are the biggest class warriors of all and they will fight tirelessly for the interests of their class.

Vote out the Tories next week.

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The Philpott case and the Right’s warped benefits narrative

In the aftermath of the Mick and Mairead Philpott trial, the Right blamed the murders of 6 children on the Philpott’s “addiction” to benefits.  First, the Daily Mail produced its sensational front page (above), then the Telegraph chipped in with its ‘analysis’. Both articles use a tragedy to push the abolition of the benefits system by making use of narrativizations. In other words, this terrible event has been magically transformed into a particular kind of story that fits the neoliberal’s small state discourses .

Let me take you back to 2008 and a mansion fire in Shropshire that caused the death of a family. The perpetrator was Christopher Foster, a wealthy businessman, who had allegedly accumulated massive debts and was staring financial ruin in the face. Foster died in the fire that was intended to mask the shootings of his wife and his 15 year old daughter.

The Guardian says

Police believe Mr Foster killed his 49-year-old wife and 15-year-old daughter at their £1.2m home in the village of Maesbrook, Shropshire, before setting fire to the property. Their burned bodies were found at Osbaston House days after the blaze in August last year.

The hearing at Shrewsbury magistrates court heard that in December 2005, Mr Foster told police his former accountant was blackmailing him over a joint property deal in Cyprus. Two defendants were prosecuted and found not guilty at Shrewsbury crown court in November 2006.

The inquest, attended by Mr Foster’s mother Enid and his younger brother Andrew, was shown photographs of the luxury five-bedroom house before and after the blaze in the early hours of 26 August.

Images of the dining room showed containers of heating oil on the floor. The inquest was told an oil tank used to heat the property was sited in outbuildings and would have been full at the time of the fire.

The body of Christopher Foster was found lying on top of his wife on the floor beneath what would have been their bedroom.

Home Office pathologist Dr Alexander Kolar said Jill Foster died as a result of a gunshot wound to the back of the head, which appeared to have been carried out by another person. There was no indication she was alive during the fire, he said.

Their 15-year-old daughter had a wound to the left side of her head, caused by a high velocity impact. It was likely she died as a result of a gunshot wound, Dr Kolar said, but he could not rule out the possibility that her injury was caused by falling debris.

The court was told alcohol was found in Mr Foster’s urine, indicating he may have been drinking on the night of the fire.

Yet, the Right wouldn’t dare to lazily join the dots between these tragic deaths and Foster’s wealth. Why not? I think we know why not.

On the same day that The Guardian produced its story, the Mail coughed up this sensationalist cack:

But Foster knew a great deal about fires. According to his brother Andrew, he was always fascinated by them. He even set fire to Andrew accidentally when they were boys.

The Mail had its angle but it didn’t blame the deaths on Foster’s wealth.

Now the argument that the Right would put forward would go something like this: “At least Foster used his own money to kill his family”. That’s a rationalization and it’s this same lazy thinking that allows them to view the Philpott case as one where “my (sic) money was involved” in “subsidizing” a lifestyle. The truth is this: it is not your money that pays people’s benefits.  Furthermore, if one adopts that kind of attitude to benefits claimants, then why don’t they adopt the same position when it comes to MPs ever-increasing salaries and their swollen expense accounts?

The real tragedy is that many British people are unable to think for themselves and allow the press to produce their opinions for them. Pumped with stories of benefit cheats and plied with grog from the trashy, voyeuristic mess that is The Jeremy Kyle Show, these people connect dots and see anyone who is struggling to make ends meet as “subhuman”.

But it wasn’t just The Mail that was guilty of apportioning blame to the benefits system. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Honourable Gideon Osborne, heir to the baronetcy of Ballintaylor and Ballylemon, says in this video that the Philpott case “raises questions” about the welfare state “subsidizing lifestyles like that”.

Even an expensive education has failed to teach Osborne critical thinking skills. The rationale goes something like this: one benefits claimant is bad, therefore all benefits claimants are bad.

In today’s Daily Mail, Tim Shipman, uses his article to take a swipe at the Labour party, which he believes, doesn’t want a “debate” on the welfare state. But it is not a debate that he or the Right wants; they want to control the discourse on benefits: this means lying and smearing those who oppose their warped narratives.

Within hours of his remarks about Philpott, he faced a backlash from Left-wingers who accused him of ‘cynically’ exploiting the tragedy to push the Government’s case for cuts to handouts.

Senior Tories said the reaction of the Opposition is proof that it still fails to grasp the depth of public fury at the way some have abused the benefits system.

If you ever believed that this country had a “free press”,  then now is the time to cast your naive beliefs aside. This country’s “free press” operates, mainly,  as an unofficial Ministry of Information. The manufacture of consent for further cuts and dismantling of the welfare state begins on the pages of the Tory press and the mainstream television channels.

In connecting this tragedy to a poisoned ‘debate’ on welfare, the Conservative know that they can further control discourses on the very existence of the welfare state and, by doing so, pull the so-called “hardworking families” and so-called floating voters into their orbit.  Make no mistake, if the Tories win an outright majority at the next General Election, they will abolish what’s left of the welfare state. They cannot be allowed to do this.

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Filed under Ideologies, Journalism, Media, Neoliberalism, News/Current Affairs, propaganda, Tory press, Yellow journalism

Alec Shelbrooke: hypocrisy, lies and smears

Shelbrooke: he gorges himself stupid at the taxpayer’s expense.

I completely missed the story of Alec Shelbrooke’s withdrawal of his hated benefits cash card bill last month. Shelbrooke, whose waistline grows bigger each day he sits in the Commons, is no friend of benefit claimants or trade unionists.

The idea behind the cash card was to limit the kind of items that benefit claimants could spend their welfare payments on. This is from the BBC website:

Mr Shelbrooke told me he has widespread support from ordinary people and has been unfairly portrayed as a right-wing Tory who believes idle scroungers should be stopped from living a life of unearned luxury.

His view is that benefit claimants will be far better off if they are unable to buy what he calls “NEDD items”- things that were, in his words, “non-essential, desirable but often damaging”.

Perhaps he should take his own advice and spend less time gorging himself with the subsidized food and drink that is paid for with our taxes? Just a thought.

He also feels that there has been a lot of deliberate misinterpretation of his proposals particularly by benefits campaign groups and Labour politicians.

“I made it clear this would apply to all claimants in work and out of work, and would cover all benefits other than disability payments and the basic state pension,” he told me.

“Yet time and again I have seen criticism based on how this will degrade the lifestyles of groups that I specifically exclude from my proposal.”

No, there has been no “deliberate misinterpretation” and it’s fanciful and delusional to think that opposition to the tax is based on wilful misinterpretation. This bill was predicated on Shelbrooke’s and his fellow Tories’ class disgust. He also claims that “most of the public” supports his idea.  Of course, he would deny that consent for cuts and the Bedroom Tax was manufactured by the Tory press, the BBC and ITV in the first place.

I took a look at his blog. Here he says:

Primarily there are two critical points to the bill.  The first is that all benefits paid by the government, whether people are working or not, should be on a debit card (that would also allow cheaper energy deals to be used) would remove any stigma.  The second is to stop people buying cigarettes, alcohol, gambling and satellite TV with the card.  Indeed, I describe the essentials it should be used on as food, energy, transport, clothing and housing. In all of the abuse I have received from people opposed to the idea I still haven’t had one person tell me how smoking, drinking and gambling help to raise someone out of poverty.

My bold. The trouble is, his government is not committed to raising anyone out of poverty. Their rationale is to force people into working for nothing and castigating the working poor for claiming benefits.

Further down his blog, I found this.

Raising the debate itself led to death threats to my office and a torrent of foul language and  statements being levelled at me from the Left.  How do I know they are from the Left?  Primarily because they did it on twitter and their profile name gave them away as to their political leanings.  But is it acceptable in our so called mature society to call me a fascist, a hater of the poor and most offensively of all eluding to Nazism though making the suggestion that I should get “all benefits claimants to wear yellow stars”?  I can take as many insults as you throw at me, but how dare people use the murder of six million people as their insult simply because they’re incapable of constructing a plausible argument, which can stand up to debate on their so-called ‘holy grail of the country’. Quite frankly, it’s base, contemptible and disgraceful.

There’s something inside me that says Shelbrooke is being over-dramatic. “Death threats”? Really? Funny how the press has never once mentioned it.  He also complains that he has been attacked on Twitter by “the Left” but why would anyone on the Left support his proposals? They wouldn’t. But suggesting that the Left should say nothing and support his crazy plan is nothing short of delusional.  Indeed, in making his dubious moral points, Shelbrooke displays the lack of critical thinking that is endemic in today’s Britain.

Here, he defends the wrongheaded and hated Bedroom Tax.

I cannot tell you how many private home owners have asked me why they should pay tax on their empty rooms.  Of course they will not.  The use of the word tax is misleading for a start, as tax is money taking by the government from what you earn, not reduce the amount of money they give you in the fist place.  I have heard countless examples in the House of Labour MPs describing parents of service personnel in social housing, keeping a room free for them when they are at home, and loosing £14 a week.  Our service men and women do a fantastic job and no one disputes that, but they do a job for which they are paid and I don’t consider it unreasonable to suggest they use £14 of their salary to pay for a room in the home of their parents, who are on State benefits. Remember these are benefits paid by the government because it is deemed people cannot afford the cost on their own.

He really isn’t as smart as he likes to think. This is a tax and no matter what Shelbrooke or his fellow Tories say to allay our fears, nothing will change that. The intention behind this tax has always been transparent: it’s an attack on those people who live in social housing and the class disgust that underpins the now dead bill is palpable.

This scaremongering, playing to the most vulnerable in society, lowers the level of debate so low that disgusting language and insults are now deemed to be acceptable by the Left.

Here, he pretty much hoists himself by his own petard. He inadvertently acknowledges that those who are a most likely to be affected by the Bedroom Tax are the vulnerable. It is right that those on the Left articulate the concerns of those who will be affected by the tax.  As for “scaremongering” that’s what his party does so well.

The last sentence of his blog is unintentionally hilarious.

The left should be ashamed of the way they have dragged down the democracy of our country, although that assumes they ever really valued it in the first place.

He loves assuming the moral high ground. I saw him do it in the Benefits Uprating Bill.  But this sentence also assumes that we live in a democracy. The Tories didn’t win the 2010 General Election and they have no real mandate. In other words, their welfare ‘reforms’ are undemocratic. Shelbrooke can’t see that because, like his fellow Conservatives, he lacks the capacity for self-reflexivity and believes he, like them, is born to rule.

Essentially the cash card scheme was another plan to carve up slices of public services and sell them off to the highest bidder. Mastercard and Allpay were lining up for a piece of the action in case Shelbrooke’s bill became law. Indeed, the report into these cards was financed by Mastercard. The Cat asks if the report was financed by Mastercard, then what else have they financed?

For all their whining about the “nanny state”, Tory MPs like Shelbrooke are more than happy to force the “nanny state”  on to the most vulnerable and those whom they hold in disgust.

The Cat thinks Shelbrooke needs to take a long hard look at himself in the mirror… if he can find one big enough, that is.

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Policy Exchange: our solution to the housing crisis? Sell off more council homes!

Policy Exchange, the think tank with close ties to the so-called Notting Hill set, has proposed that ‘expensive’ council homes be sold off in order to ease the housing shortage. A few years ago, Localis, which in its own turn has close ties to Policy Exchange, also proposed the same thing in this report. So there’s nothing new about this latest announcement from Policy Exchange and as ideas go, it’s one of a few that gets recycled and presented as a stunning new, but ultimately evidence-free, report.

Think-tanks exist to give credence to the barking mad ideas of whichever party they happen to be associated with. Policy Exchange, in common with many of the other think-tanks, describes itself as “non-partisan”. Of course we know that isn’t true, particularly if the think-tank in question goes out of its way to talk up its notional neutrality. They doth protest too much! The Tories prefer their think-tanks to conduct slipshod research and to base their reports on their own prejudices and their sense of self-righteousness rather than on evidence.

I heard Neil O’Brien, Policy Exchange’s director, on the Today programme this morning talking about the latest report. His rationale appeared to suggest that people who rent council street properties (that’s what they’re called) shouldn’t do so, because they’re not the right class of person to be occupying such a high value property. Okay, he didn’t put it in those exact words but that is the essence of what he said. He claimed that councils bought up street properties in the 1970s and therefore those council tenants who occupy them are less deserving than a Tory-supporting rentier capitalist.

Policy Exchange’s slogan is

For better public services, a stronger society and a more dynamic economy.

“Better public services”? Coming from a think-tank that is committed to destroying what’s left of public services, it’s an Orwellianism to be sure.

I’ve only skimmed the report and like all the other reports that are produced by Policy Exchange, it isn’t based on any kind of research, but on a form of class disgust that is couched in academic-sounding language and supported by impressive-looking graphics.

The report’s synopsis opens with this,

Is extremely popular with all sections of society. 73% of people including social tenants think that people should not be given council houses worth more than the average property in a local authority. By 2:1 voters agree people should not be given council houses in expensive areas.

Then there’s this,

Raises tenants’ standard of living. The majority of social tenants are either totally or largely reliant on benefits. Someone living on benefits in an expensive part of London will pay a 10-15% premium compared to someone living in a cheaper area.

Again, there is no evidence to support this assertion that the majority of ‘social’ tenants are totally or largely reliant on benefits and even if that were the case, the issue is not the benefits themselves but the lack of decent jobs coupled with the high cost of living, neither of which can be ameliorated by the author’s proposals.  Where did this figure come from and what percentage of the respondents were actual council tenants? The author doesn’t say.

The report’s author is Alex Morton, who

was Secretary to the Conservative Party’s Globalisation and Global
Poverty Policy Group under the Rt Hon Peter Lilley MP. Following this he worked in the Civil Service Graduate Fast Stream before leaving to join Policy Exchange.

And

He is the author of the 2010 report Making Housing Affordable, which won the Prospect magazine’s Think Tank Publication of the Year and highlighted the cost of current housing policies.

Prospect magazine. Am I supposed to be impressed? This is perhaps the most important bit of Morton’s ‘report’.

Social housing tenants deserve a roof over their heads – but not one better than most people can afford

And there you have it, the author’s class disgust and class prejudice was the driver of this report. But who is this majority that Morton alludes to? It’s a mystery.

Housing Associations like Peabody have been selling off properties as soon as they become vacant for several years.  This blog from Peabody tells us that the policy of selling council properties in desirable areas has been on the table since before last year.

Last week, Policy Exchange’s Matthew Oakley argued in the Guardian that social housing properties in desirable areas – eg, central London boroughs – should be sold off. The revenue, he suggested, could be invested in social housing elsewhere – eg, in cheaper and less desirable areas in outer London or even outside of London.

But it is also ironic that while Peabody complains about this policy, it is more than happy to comply with the government’s diktat. But have Policy Exchange merely duplicated their own previous work? It seems likely. Here’s more from the ‘report’.

Ultimately, as our report Making Housing Affordable set out, we need affordable private housing to cut social housing waiting lists,
which fell from 1.2 million to 1 million between 1979–1997 as market housing was cheaper.

With rents the highest they’ve ever been, how does the author propose to make private housing more “affordable”? This cannot be achieved without some form of rent control and, as we know, the Tories are implacably opposed to rent caps or rent controls. I get the feeling that any solutions that are proposed by the Tories and their think-tanks aren’t real solutions at all, but are, instead, a means of rationalizing their class prejudices.

Naturally the news of this report in the media has been accompanied by a blog from O’Brien, whose own short biography tells us that, “He writes in a personal capacity”. That would appear to be untrue.

To be clear, what I’m proposing wouldn’t mean a single person having to move house. We are only talking about selling off houses that become empty. Nor would it mean that social housing would disappear from expensive cities like London, because the definition of “expensive” I am using is specific to a particular region, not the national average.

O’Brien speaks with forked tongue. Those properties that become empty will not be used to house a council tenant but sold off to someone with money to spend on a useless leasehold tenancy. He claims that social housing will not disappear but this is precisely what would happen. This next quote is similarly disingenuous,

Lots of expensive social housing has come about unintentionally. In the 1970s Britain’s big cities were on their knees. London boroughs in particular took the opportunity to snap up terraces of housing in run-down places like Islington at bargain prices. But Britain’s inner cities – particularly London – have been transformed. What were slums are now eye-wateringly expensive places to live. Two thirds of the heads of households in social housing are not in work, and when you’re living on benefits, it’s not helpful if your nearest shop has been turned into a mini-Waitrose.

My bold. There are three things here. The first is O’Brien’s assertion that London has been “transformed”, he offers the neutral-sounding, “What were slums are now eye-wateringly expensive places to live”. But O’Brien, a sophist by trade and a liar by nature, can only tell part of the story, the rest is simply discarded because it doesn’t fit the narrative. There has been a housing shortage in London for several decades, local authorities were performing their public duty. The alternative would have been to have let such properties to crumble. Indeed, O’Brien has deluded himself into thinking that middle class, would-be property owners would have flocked en masse to places like Brixton to snap up the many empty street properties that were available in the late 1960s and 1970s.

When many councils bought street properties, so too did many middle class people who bought these properties for a song at auction. O’Brien also deliberately ignores the ongoing gentrification programmes, but what really stands out for me is the last clause in bold. This illuminates O’Brien’s deep-seated class disgust.  He assumes that people on council estates would not shop in Waitrose (which, incidentally, offers substantial reductions on items that are close to their sell-by date. The others will knock off 10 or 20p and think they’re doing you a favour and their own brand butter is cheaper than the other supermarkets own brands too. So there!). What O’Brien also assumes is that middle class home-owners don’t shop at Lidl or Aldi. But he would be mistaken because many of them do. Why? Have a look at the prices (especially on wines) in the big three supermarkets and then come back to me. In many of the places that O’Brien and his team would like working class people to move, there are few amenities. These are the so-called food deserts, where the local shops will include a takeaway, a betting shop and a general shop that sells newspapers and tinned and frozen food, all at a premium price. But nothing fresh.

So to sum up, there is no methodology mentioned in this report and the graphics that are used to bolster Morton’s thesis are the product of a YouGov survey that was commissioned by Policy Exchange. These graphics are used in conjunction with cherry-picked graphics from a previous YouGov survey, which was commissioned by The Sun. So it’s hardly non-partisan and most certainly not objective.

Another attack on tenants has appeared on 24 Dash. Foghorn Phibbs, who is already well known to Nowhere Towers, aims his fire at the Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS). Is this some sort of absurd pincer movement?

Phibbs once infamously described council tower blocks as “vertical slums”.  In his recent blog, Foghorn has

accused TPAS of spending thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money on “lavish” awards and employing policy officers to lobby against government housing policy. He also criticised the cost of its annual conference and branded the performance of chief executive Michelle Reid a “farce”.

Naturally, Foghorn doesn’t offer any analysis, just bile. Here’s an excerpt from his screed.

“Substantial taxpayer funding for social housing is being redirected from spending of practical benefit and passed instead to an organisation called the Tenant Participation Advisory Service.

“I couldn’t find its accounts on its website but it has 23 full time paid staff which implies its budget is substantial. Funding would also seem to come overwhelmingly from the taxpayer – via housing associations and assorted council housing departments and “arms length” bodies.

“Spending transparency data shows the TPAS is paid thousands by, for example, Salix Homes, who manage Salford Council properties, for ‘customer involvement’. Taunton Deane Borough Council has paid it £2,440.80 for ‘supervision and management’. Hounslow Council has paid it £16,000 in a single month. Lambeth and Luton are among other councils that splash out a lot of their residents money. North Lincolnshire Homes paid the TPAS for a report – which praised North Lincolnshire Homes for giving £500 to Unison for CRB Checks.

Pure sophistry. But those awful CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checks…. terrible things.  Much better to have child sex offenders and rapists looking after vulnerable tenants. No? But that’s not what’s got his goat, so to speak, it’s the fact that there exists an organization that provides help, support and advice for tenants that upsets him. He rationalizes this in typical Tory style, “why should I pay for these people”, he thunders.  Notice the way he gets in a swipe at Unison. But it’s a badly aimed swipe. Those people who are members of Unison are working with vulnerable people and they are required by  law to undergo CRB checks. Perhaps Phibbs would rather the local authority in question broke the law?

I found this on Conservative Home (yes, they get homes, while everyone else has to make do with a bit of plastic sheeting and some newspaper for insulation).

It is an odd brand of socialism that argues that the state should provide luxury mansions for the few rather than sell them to enable an increased supply of housing for the many. Socialism by jackpot.

Sensationalism, hyperbole and exaggeration are employed here to mask the patent lack of thinking. No one is provided with a “luxury mansion” and I would challenge the author of this drivel to provide me with some evidence, but I know that I could be waiting forever because Tories don’t like evidence, much less the truth.

UPDATE 20/8/12 @ 2307

I’ve seen Foghorn Phibbs on Newsnight trying and failing spectacularly to defend Policy Exchange’s, er, thinking on the housing crisis. This is the best they could do, apparently, such is the intellectual talent that was available that they chose Harry ‘Foghorn’ Phibbs, former member of the FCS, pillar of the local community, councillor, Greenhalgh’s mouthpiece and Daily Mail hack, to fight their corner.  Bravo, chaps!

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