today's news: 92% rise in repossessions, parklane squatters and a High Court decision whih woll mean the eviction of Dale Farm, a Irish Traveler Site in Essex.
today's news. The biggest, and most worrying for most people who are
feeling vulnerable to the effects of the recession, is the fact that house
repossessions are up by 92 per cent in the last year, according to figures
from the Financial Services Authority.
The promise of home-ownership for the majority of people, including a
large proportion of the working class has been the ruling classes' most
successful 'divide and rule' tactic to date. The fact that, for those
people who are not all that comfortably off, home-ownership in reality
means mortgages which are a struggle to keep up with in the 'good times',
and impossible to do so in the bad, seems to be irrelevant to the
psychology of those who now consider themselves 'property owners', but are
in fact, in the main, only owners of large debts.
Squatting of course, for many of those struggling to keep up with their
mortgage repayments seems unfair: Why should these "freeloaders" get
something for nothing ?
Another of today's housing stories was that a couple of The Duke of
Westminster's properties have been squatted. Of course, the fact that they
have been empty for 20 years or so, and the injustice that property
distribution is so uneven that one person can own most of the West End of
London, will not be included in the undoubtedly splenetic editorials which
will accompany the story.
But how did the Duke come to own all this prime real estate, and his
resulting £7 billion fortune? Well, the story starts in 1066 when a
grateful William the Conqueror grants estates (which now comprise much of
the Present Dukes' estate) in London to Geoffrey de Mandeville, for
services rendered. Between then and the late 17th Century it passed
through many hands, until Sir Thomas Grosvenor, an ancestor of the current
Duke married the heiress Mary Davies in 1677. As London grew it was
developed into the fashionable areas of Mayfair and Belgravia. So in a
phrase, the current Duke did sweet fuck all to obtain his property and
his fortune. Which must make him (to use a favourite "Daily Mail"
phrase) the king of all "freeloaders", not to mention the daddy of all
trustafarians. In fact, you could say that his fortune is based on
pedophilia since Mary Davies was only 12 years old when Sir Thomas
Those who have tried to avoid the property trap, generally come in for the
most stick, like squatters and even more so - Gypsies and Travellers.
Their transitory way of life forms the basis of hundreds of years of
unreasoned hatred. While Roma are currently persecuted in Italy, it is
Irish Travellers who are often the vocal point of this ceaseless
prejudice in the UK. None more so than the groups of Travellers who live
at Dale Farm, Basildon, Essex.
Irish Travellers (and Gypsies) traditionally lived outside the property
trap, either squatting land, or using land provided by law from Local
Authorities. However, in 1994, through the Criminal Justice Act (the same
act that outlawed raves, for those too young to remember) combined with
new local authoriy legislation removed the 'legal' sites and turned those
on squatted site into criminals who could be moved on constantly without
need for those pesky courts.
Travellers were told they should now buy their own land instead and
assurances were made that they would be allowed to settle it, despite
suggestions that Travellers find it difficult to secure planning
So, this is what they did. However, as most Travellers expected, local
authorities were reluctant to give planning permission. The most openly
unjust previous decision of this kind was at Woodside Caravan Park,
Bedfordshire which not only owned by the people evicted but was previously
a Caravan Park. Therefore the refusal of planning permission can only been
seen as racist one, as the Commisson for Racial Equality suggested.
Similarly, in Essex today the prohibition not to build on "Green
Belt" land has been used against the Dale Farm Travellers. Whilst it is
not in dispute that the land is within the greenbelt, the reality is that
the previous use of the site was not a pristine water meadow, but a huge
yard, containing hundreds of car bodies. Nobody, it seems, complained
during the forty years this was in operation, despite the heavy lorries
Now today's High Court Decision, which reverses a previous court decision,
means that Basildon Council can evict the families of Dale Farm without
having to provide any alternative places for them to go, to applause of
many of the locals, not to mention the rabid local Tory MP.
So the Duke and his ilk can sit pretty, comfortable in the knowledge that
any resentment and anger resulting from the struggle to keep up with
mortgage repayments, will not be be directed at them but on those even
further down the ladder of this property-based and obsessed society.