Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Return to the tied-cottage & workhouse.

Housing Minister Caroline Flint wants to kick claimants out of social housing if they are able to work but not actively seeking employment. More compassionate ‘social justice’ from New Labour.

Before the Daily Mail digs up a story about some family with 12 kids who are caning the welfare system and make Shameless look like the Archers, I have to accept that such people do exist. And I wouldn’t fancy living next door to them. But I don’t see how making them homeless is going to improve the situation.

It’s not as if social housing is a charitable venture; only available to the deserving poor who if they misbehave forfeit their rights. Well actually that’s exactly how New Labour see it – and whether you call it ‘work-fare’ or whatever else, it is a return to the Victorian politics of the workhouse.

There’s a couple of very obvious reasons why much social housing has been turned into sink-estates for the poorest and most troubled sections of society. Housing benefit tends to be accepted only by councils and the very worst private landlords. And ever since we had the right-to-buy and the myth of the property owning democracy, the better off sections of the working class have moved away from social housing.

The vision of the sixties planners that council estates could provide a model for living (a mechanism of social justice in today’s bollock-speak) is now universally derided. But it was not the concept that was doomed to fail, housing and education can provide progressive social engineering (now there’s an apparently dirty word) but the vision failed because pro-market politicians chose to sabotage it.

Caroline Flint is tipped as a future rising star of New Labour. She’s definitely more photogenic than pudding-faced Brown. I remember her from Labour Students as an earnest and joyless Kinnock-ite careerist zealot. With her current Thatcherism and disregard for the most vulnerable I’m sure she’ll go far.

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