Sunday, January 19, 2014

Chuck out Chuka and co., and Leave the Squatters!

THANKS to sharp-eyed friend Dave Osler for spotting this little gem of Labour front bench wisdom, which he posted for comments on Facebook:  
"The big difference between 1979 and 2013 is that we are all capitalists now. The question is, what sort of capitalism do we want? We embrace free markets but we want competitive and free markets and more responsible capitalism."

- Chuka Umunna, Labour's business spokesman and former corporate lawyer, quoted in today's Financial Times.

Some people have wondered whether "responsible" free market capitalism is one of those impossible things in which you have to believe, or say you believe, if you want to get on in politics, others darkly question whether political careerists really believe anything except the desirability of office.

But to be fair, this is not the first time Chuka Umunna has shown his dedication to the system, and I see no reason to doubt his sincerity. Having just seen him on TV, I expect we'll be seeing more of him, but a bit of news from back in September should suffice. At the time I could hardly believe my ears, and had to check, but here's what one socially conscious blogger said about it:
As homelessness in the capital soars, three senior Labour Party figures have launched an all out attack on homeless people by demanding new laws to protect property developers and landlords from squatters.

At least we can't accuse the Con Dem coalition of failing to do joined up thinking, when knowing the effect of benefit capping, bedroom tax, soaring rents and house prices, they criminalised squatting to prevent people using their own initiative to find a roof over their heads.

The bill was ushered in with lots of media stories about homeowners returning from holiday to find their house squatted, and supposedly undesirable persons cheekily inhabiting luxury mansions. The truth is that of 33 convictions in in the first six months of the new law, three of which led to jail sentences, not one concerned premises which anyone was living in.   
before they were squatted.

Meanwhile, the great Tory policy to which Labour succumbed, of giving tenants the "right to buy" council homes, has ended up with nearly half of them in the hands of private landlords, espcially in London, and being rented to those who can afford it at well above council rents.

Lambeth council, which once had a more enlightened policy on squatters, has had long-term residents evicted from flats so the developers can get to work. But it seems this is not enough. Having blamed squatters for damage to a local library, which the council had left empty for two years on the promise of an entertainment centre, or other development, Labour has turned to the government for help.

Criminalising squatting on commercial premises would give the police something to do, with so little real crime on our streets, and make the task easier for the brave boys in blue like those in the London Borough of Redbridge who, in order to discourage homeless rough sleepers from kipping in a disused council swimming baths were reduced to   
robbing them of food and blankets. 

It could also strengthen the hand of the state for evicting and punishing workers who occupy factories or other workplaces to resist closures and sackings, or rescue backpay and pensions they are owed. (Visteon workers, whose fight still goes on.).

It would certainly hit many community groups that occupy premises to try and maintain services (Friern Barnet library) that are being closed, or organise cultural activities.

At one time we might have expected a Labour council and local MPs to assist such activity. Now it would at least give the lie to David Cameron's mythical belief in the 'Big Society'!

But hey! "We are all capitalists now!" Or so we are told by Labour's business spokesman. About whom,  as no less than the Daily Mail assures its readers, it can be said he is not so much a British Barack Obama as
A "Black Tony Blair"

The only squatters Labour needs to get rid of are those occupying leading positions at national and local levels whose loyalty and faith is dedicated to the capitalist system, maintaining property and poverty to sustain their privilage.

But I am not holding my breath, any more than you do.  

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