Saturday, August 13, 2011

On Benefits And Evictions

After finishing writing 'The Lord Of The Rings', Tolkien felt it necessary to rewrite it backwards, while Carlyle had to rewrite his history of the French Revolution from memory after Macaulay's maid had used the original manuscript to light the fire. That story put me off ever lending a book to anyone.
After the sheer hassle I've been having trying to get Blogger to work with IE9, I can understand the frustration both of them must have felt.
OK, let's boil down two hours's worth of prose into a few sentence.
The public enemas currently parading through the courts on charges relating to their involvement in rioting are undeserving of sympathy. The worst of the bunch are the middle-class ones living in good houses. They are not common or garden slum-dwellers, but the worse kind, slum-dwellers of the mind, people who will turn any area they live in into a slum.
The nutter right is currently having a jolly time lodging e-petitions demanding that any benefits being paid to persons convicted of riot-related charges be removed from them. To do this would be contrary to law and the rule of law. It would be the equivalent of a Bill of Attainder being passed to permit the confiscation of the pension being paid to Fred Goodwin, the most financially destructive incompetent in British corporate history, an issue over which the nutter right got its knickers in a twist two years ago. It would be correct to say that Goodwin has not been charged with any crime. However, those charged with riot-related offences have presumably not been charged with any offences alleging they have misrepresented their eligibility to claim benefits. If sanctity of contract and the rule of law hold good for financially destructive incompetents reponsible for enormous burdens on the public purse, they presumably also hold good for rioting benefit claimants who are also responsible for enormous burdens being placed on the public purse. In time, it will be interesting to review the numbers, if they are ever made available, and see whether the uninsured losses occasioned by these riots are equivalent to the sums which have been spent propping up the Royal Bank of Scotland. For all we know, The Shred might still be ahead on points.
If benefits were to be removed from convicts in this way, it would be a landslide occasioned by the ongoing erosion of British civic life. The nutter right hates paying tax. This is unfortunate, but also too bad. They must come to realise that they have obligations to the people around them. It would be interesting to see the numbers, if they are ever made available, to see whether uninsured losses occasioned by the recent riots are equivalent in value to, or greater in value than, the amount lost to the British economy every year through perfectly legitimate tax avoidance. It is hard to see how you can demand the right not to pay your share and then demand that others pay for your property to be protected. This is infantile logic, the screams of infants at the breast. If you want police, you have to pay them. In their minds, the blameless poor are equally as guilty as the shameless poor, their mutual crime being their common poverty. If this becomes law, people will stand to lose their benefits if convicted of failing to have a television licence, that most piddling and much-prosecuted of crimes which, to the best of my limited knowledge and earnest belief, is still the crime for which a single mother living on benefits in England and Wales is most likely to appear before the courts.
But they're poor, so they can get stuffed. Its only effect would be to increase property crime, as the poor would become desperate and turn to illegal money-lenders whose primary concerns do not conform to the goals of the Big Society. But they're poor, so they can get stuffed.
The proposed eviction of social housing tenants who have family members residing with them who have been convicted of riot-related offences goes one step further. The permanent exclusion of these people from social housing would not merely create, or enlarge, an underclass of desperate people. It would create a permanent vagabond class, permanent outsiders. Where are these people going to live? We tried this once. Some of them ended up living in Sherwood Forest, and engaged in a notorious course of ideologically-motivated property crime borne of desperation. It didn't work then, and it's not going to work now. As for the local authorities, they would do well to remember that their tenants are their tenants and not their serfs. If tenants are compelled to keep their families under lock and key to ensure their good behaviour, they are also entitled to have tenancies that are warm and dry in areas which are properly maintained and policed and where the bins are collected regularly. The sword that is the law of landlord and tenant is one that cuts both ways.
You would think that these proposals would have Shami Chakrabarti, the Director of Liberty, shouting in rage from the rooftops. Sadly, and once again when she should be out front and centre - you know, when the going's getting tough for civil liberties of the poor, the sick and the weak - Her Shaminess once again seems to have ridden off into the sunset, possibly on Shergar while accompanied by Lord Lucan, and is nowhere to be seen, a recurring and disappointing theme of her career. She may be exercising some influence over policy at the moment; possibly even a gnostic one.
Their abuse of the phrase 'on their watch' has shown that our political class seems to have no regard for the unsuitable deployment of inappropriate and out-of-conext maritime metaphors. With the very honourable exception of Lord Prescott, I would doubt whether any of them have ever served on a ship bigger than a rowing boat. However, I'm afraid I have to use an inappropriate metaphor of my own, one derived from American football, that slowest and most incomprehensible of games.
David Cameron's Monday morning quarterbacking of police performance during the riots will have made him no friends among senior police ranks. I hope that one of them remembers that the Prime Minister has been remarkably coy about his own history of drug use. He could be doing with making friends in those circles, not alienating them. The sound of a multi-millionaire saying that social housing tenants are receiving a service at a massive discount was revolting, particularly when his party gave much of the stock away at massive discounts and at enormous cost to the public purse. It would be interesting to see the numbers, if they are ever made available, to see whether uninsured losses occasioned by the recent riots are equivalent to, or greater in value than, the cost to the public purse in capital lossesand interest charges occasioned by the 'Right To Buy' policy. As if they'd ever let us know.
And That was about it, I think.

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