Dear Catherine Flint and your colleagues at the Labour Party,
Now it wouldn’t be the first time that New Labour has been accused of being Old Conservative, but for a Labour minister, you, to suggest that unemployed council house renters should be made homeless is actually draw-dropping. Indeed, when it takes the Tories to point out that this travesty is in fact illegal, we should seriously start to worry about where you and your party's head is at. This proposal is not only bad social policy; it’s dreadful politics.
Let’s forget for a moment that unemployment is a structural problem caused by lack of the right types of jobs in the right areas. Let’s forget that many areas of long-term, high level unemployment are places where major industries, such as coal-mining, steel works, manufacturing and textiles, have disappeared and not been replaced. Let’s forget that those areas have been forgotten about by the government as they consistently fail to come up solutions to poverty and structural unemployment. Let’s forget that the government fails to recognise that economic policy needs to apply outside London, and has pretty much ignored the north and especially rural areas. Let’s forget that, as a society, we have been unable to help the homeless we already have, and that they still cost the state money in shelters and food banks. Let’s forget that homeless people don’t have addresses so they can’t be contacted by employers if they apply for jobs; that being homeless has such a stigma that nobody is going to employ you; that being homeless means that you can’t get washed or properly dressed for interviews; that surviving while being homeless takes up so much time that looking for employment is just not possible. Let’s forget about why this is bad social policy.
Let’s look at why this is bad politics. Council Housing, unemployment benefit and welfare were the standing stones that the Labour Party was built on. The working class voter, whose labour this country was built on, but who never reaped the rewards, and instead faced insecurity in employment and poverty in old age, was who you were established to protect. That is your heritage and, while you may have forgotten it in your blind chase of the middle-English voter, this heritage is still what gets you votes. Has it never occurred to you that the parts of Britain where you can consistently rely on winning seats and where you place your leaders, so that they are sure to be elected, are areas of high and structural unemployment? Can you not imagine how terrifying it is for your voters to hear that you are going to make them homeless after government after government has failed to provide them with jobs? Do you not realise that many of your voters, because of the areas they live in, have at some point in their life been unemployed, even if that is not currently the case? Do you not realise that they can remember being unemployed and that the idea that they might have been made homeless will strike fear in their hearts? Do you not realise that these people are who put you in power? And now, in the chase of a demographic that is flighty and untrue, you throw away your values and your heritage and betray the loyal people who brought you into being and gave you power and continue to support you. This is foolishness; it’s bad politics; it’s bad social policy and it’s going to lose you votes.
Where is this General Election?