Poor old Guardian. The article started so well, with sad stories of people, all with children in tow (non-parents don’t matter in the media), being forced to share one damp, tiny room in a grotty hostel with unpleasant, sometimes violent, neighbours, all because they can’t afford decent accommodation anymore – they got evicted when housing benefit caps were introduced by the evil coalition.
Then the journalist shot herself in the foot by telling us where the people in question used to live:
1. In a £500 a week (!!) two-bedroom flat in St John’s Wood, entirely paid for by housing benefit. Person doesn’t work due to arthritis.
2. In a flat in Hammersmith, partly paid for by housing benefit. Person works part-time.
3. In a flat in Maida Vale. No info on who paid the rent but person is a carer – not usually a fantastically-paid job.
4. In a shared flat somewhere in Central London. We are told person cannot afford to rent nearby – how did she manage before? Surely there is more than one flatshare in the area.
Apart from the fact that these locations are all very expensive, with Hammersmith being a bit further away and less extortionate than the rest, all the people interviewed keep complaining about having to leave the neighbourhood where they have their roots / GP / job / kids’s school / friends / etc.
Well, I’m sorry but tough titties. Are they not aware that everyone is in the same boat? I lived in Fulham for five years and loved every minute of it. Yet when my circumstances changed and I could no longer afford the rent, I left, broken-hearted, for the unexplored wilds of Zone 4. I am now in Zone 6 (here be dragons) and whinge about it on a regular basis. I’ve had to change jobs as the commute was not realistically doable any longer. Still, I never expected the state to keep me in the style to which I’d become accustomed. So why do they? And why is the journalist enabling them? (stupid question, I know)
My dear Guardian soft-hearted milksop, it’s very simple: nobody has a God-given right to live in central London at everyone else’s expense. And when they ask
“I’ve had the same GP for 20 years, the same hospital. All my daughter’s friends are here. Are we meant to change all these things?”
the answer is :”Yes. Yes, you are. It would be miles better than the grotty B&B in my opinion, but suit yourself.”
The journalist even had the nerve to pre-empt her readers’ legitimate indignation:
“Housing is an emotive subject because most people are struggling to pay rent, or a mortgage, making life-altering decisions about where to live based on how much they can afford to spend – so making the case for the state to be subsidising large chunks of rent for other people to live in London does not instantly elicit sympathy. If you’re in any doubt about this, just glance below to read the comments that inevitably follow pieces on this theme.”
Is that passive-aggressive or what?
On top of that, the people featured appear remarkably helpess and incapable of doing anything for themselves:
“Rana and her mother have responded by no longer using the communal kitchen. Instead they buy food from KFC and McDonald’s.”
That can’t be cheap or healthy (expecially for a child). I’d rather buy bread and stuff and make sandwiches and salads in my room. You don’t need a kitchen to prepare simple food; I once camped for three months with no facilities whatsoever, only a little portable gas stove to heat water. I didn’t crave cooked food once.
“The family don’t cook, because all their saucepans are in council storage […]. They too are surviving on takeaways – junk food and sandwiches.”
“She is not allowed to use the kitchen after 10pm, which means she can’t do any cooking when she gets back late from work, so has taken to eating McDonald’s on the bus on the way home.”
See above. It’s like for these people there’s absolutely no middle ground between home-cooked hot food and takeaways. I’m confused.
“The family stay inside a lot, because they don’t know the area; there is no garden, and they don’t know where the nearest park is.”
Are you kidding me? How about going for a walk one day so they, y’know, find out? There are no snipers in the street, I assure you!
Having said all this, here is my submission for the 2012 Rip-Off Britain Award:
“The family don’t cook, because all their saucepans are in council storage (along with their winter clothes) and it costs £45 every time they access it to get something out.”
Fucking outrageous. If Big Yellow tried to pull this one they’d be out of business within a week. You have to hand it to councils, they could certainly teach the Mafia a thing or two about extortion.