David Cameron is a slippery politician. It is hard to pin his political beliefs down because his language betrays what his government is currently enacting. Behind the flowery rhetoric about fairness and a new progressive politics lies the same Tory tactics of disenfranchising the poor and using the state to protect the rich.
Take the new plans to end lifetime council tenancies — a move that will basically kick the working poor off government housing as soon as they are deemed eligible to move into the private sector. Speaking at a conference in Birmingham, Cameron’s reasoned that:
“There is a question mark about whether, in future, we should be asking when you are given a council home, is it for a fixed period? Because maybe in five or 10 years you will be doing a different job and be better paid and you won’t need that home, you will be able to go into the private sector.”
Cameron believes that the chronic housing problem in Britain is not due to lack of affordable housing, but the poor refusing to give up their homes when they are financially able to do so. Cameron believes that the new rules will increase ‘social mobility’ a catch phrase his goverment has been using a lot (ostensibly because they are the new ‘progressive party’).
So how will this increase social mobility?
Cameron doesn’t of course provide any evidence that terminating people’s right to government housing will help them move up the economic ladder. Given Britain has the lowest levels of social mobility in the western world, the likelihood that people living on council estates will be richer in 5/10 years just because Cameron says they might be is extremely small.
What we are more likely to see is borderline cases of families just able to survive on the private housing market losing their homes and forced into private housing far away from the places they raised their children and made their lives.
London is a prime example of where policies like this would be a complete disaster. Many of the people I went to school with as a child lived in council housing. I lived in a middle class neighbourhood that had lots of government housing, enabling children from mixed income families to go to the same schools. If the government had forced many of those families to move out once they were deemed rich enough to buy accomodation, they would have had to leave my area to buy somewhere more affordable.
While this might improve efficiencies in government allocation of resources, it would break up communities, disrupt education and ruin the lives of those most vulnerable.
But then the lives of the working poor have never been the concern of the Tory party, so it really shouldn’t come as a surprise. However, Cameron’s claim that his party is in fact the champion of progressive politics needs to be debunked so the unsuspecting public can see what he is really up to.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.