Wednesday 17 September 2014

The apartheid of wealth State we're in

Preface by Swheatie of the Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group

The blog posting below is originally from Community Care magazine and the days of Gordon Brown as Prime Minister. The matters of geographical social inequality raised in that piece have become more urgent as a consequence of the social cleansing that has arisen since the 2010 General Election brought in a cabinet of millionaires with no real electoral mandate for the policies that they have attempted to excuse with the backdrop of the crash of 2008 that really stemmed from the perils of investment bankers being rescued by the State.

The pull quote in the Bob Holman article is:
"The affluent elite tell the government about poverty. Those who endure it are shoved aside." 
These days, that shoving of poor people aside gives rise to the sharp rise in out-of-London-dispersal of poor people reported on yesterday in this blog. While the definition of 'affordable housing' laid down by investment banker-turned 'ennobled'-welfare reform minister David Freud and his ilk makes a mockery of social housing, the debt induced by linking definition of 'affordable' to "80% of [a deregulated housing market] rate" results in a steep rise in homelessness and out-of-London housing dispersals.

Yet with property developers and Central Government pulling Camden Council by the purse strings, we are in for further segregation of wealthy and poor people as this paragraph from a recent Camden New Journal item highlights:
The so-called “affordable” section of the development appears not to have the same entrance, amenity areas and roof terraces as the rest of the building. Even rubbish disposal seems to be segregated; tenants of the affordable flats are expected to take their own rubbish to the bins while the other flats will be provided with a rubbish chute. Moreover it seems that this section, together with the community space, will be directly over one of the most polluted and noisy traffic junctions in Camden. 
It can, ideally, be instructive for people to be 'up close and personal' with what they emit. I close this preface with a link to an item from 2011 about Jeremy Clarkson's sad discovery about such matters.

Poor must meet Gordon

by Bob Holman

Originally posted in Community Care magazine, 20 February 2008

Many of those committed to reducing poverty make the time to lobby the rich but have little contact with those at the sharp end Papers recently released show that Tony Blair had regular meetings with the ultra-rich. They lobbied the prime minister on tax breaks and pensions for themselves and their companies. No doubt they now meet Gordon Brown.

If a lobby for the rich meets in Downing Street why not one for the poor? I do not mean the leaders of national charities who have regular meetings with ministers. Odd that those on salaries of more than £100,000 a year, which help reinforce the idea of inequality, should take it upon themselves to be the poverty lobby.

Anyone who lives in a deprived area knows that many people on low incomes are intelligent and articulate about their plight. In 1998, I encouraged some residents in Easterhouse, Glasgow to write. They did not need to be taught to think or analyse. They did need help in finding a publisher. When the book came out as Faith in the Poor, it soon ran to a second edition.
Bob Holman quote 
One problem is that people in poverty are segregated from the powerful. When I joined the Labour Party in the 1960s, some MPs still lived in council estates, cheap housing areas and pit towns. Not now. As the research of Danny Dorling, professor at Sheffield University, shows, Britain is an increasingly segregated society.

Poverty lobby

The affluent – MPs, leaders of think tanks, government advisers, other senior public figures and all who make up the chattering classes – are geographically and socially distanced from those who struggle to survive. Consequently, it is almost impossible for them to have close friendships with and to act jointly with those who experience inequality. It is the powerful, affluent elite who tell the government and the media about poverty while those who endure it are shoved aside.

The poverty lobby should now campaign on the issue: “listen to poor people rather than us”. If the government agrees to breakfast with those on low incomes, how could it be organised? I don’t know. I do know that organisations such as ATD Fourth World run community and service user groups made up of single parents, pensioners, those on disability benefit, asylum seekers and many more. Their representatives would be a start.

The agenda? That is for them to decide. I do believe that they would demonstrate to politicians that poverty is not because of an underclass or fecklessness or defective personalities but is something imposed by the powerful – the kind of people who make up the ultra rich lobby.

Bob Holman is an author and voluntary neighbourhood worker in Glasgow

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  1. OK, exactly - the way housing is organised in the UK entrenches a kind of apartheid-lite - two nations, innit?

  2. Bob Holman always tells it like it is, and Easterhouse is a great example of people organising on their own behalf