As clause 130 of LAPSA - the criminalization of squatting - enters the House of Lords, the usual hysteria is mounting.
Last week, Chris Moncrieff wrote an article in the Daily Mail in which he whipped up fear in the usual ways, offered not a single fact and shouted that the Moldovans are coming! Moncrieff’s article was entitled ‘It won’t be long before an Englishman’s home is someone else’s castle’, evoking the image of eastern Europeans overrunning the parapets, and reinforcing the siege mentality that some sections of society seem to lap up.
When the phrase was coined in the 16th century, it may have been the case that an Englishman’s home was indeed his castle. These days, of course, so many of us are so in hock to various banks and lending institutions that we may do well to start digging a moat: the bailiffs are coming! We’re more under siege from the mortgage than we will ever be from Moldovans. The daily slog and grind it takes to keep the money men from our door, just to heat our draughty castles, is the real battleground.
Fortunately, the Tories aren’t getting it all their own way, with even their coalition partners, the LibDems, pointing out that criminalizing squatting in all properties would most benefit the wealthy tax avoiders who have the ear of the Tories. We can be skeptical about reasons for the Lib Dem’s sudden discovery of compassion and common sense, but if some Lib Dem peers are prepared to oppose the measures, that’s all to the good.
All of which seems sensible: forget ramparts, if rampant economic inequality and the politics of austerity cause homelessness to surge by 17%, as it did in 2011, of course you’ll get an equivalent surge in people seeking shelter in abandoned properties. But don’t just amputate: if you want a really preventative cure for squatting, how about ensuring that everyone is adequately housed and heated? A much milder, to say nothing of more effective, medicine…
To find out how you can take a stand in the House of Lords, have a look at the Squash Campaign’s website: Lobbying the Lords