By Tim Hardy
Labour abandoned any claim to be a progressive party when they backed the Conservatives to criminalise squatting, legislation that saw a young man jailed last week for squatting in a housing association flat which had been empty for a year and which is now empty again.
Alex Haigh is the first victim of a policy based on a borderline-racist campaign by the Evening Standard who ran fact-free stories about organised gangs of immigrants squatting houses. This is a policy eagerly embraced by three parties who are politically and morally bankrupt and have no ideas at all for the economy beyond keeping an overinflated housing bubble inflated.
The Green Party conference recently agreed the following:
This Conference deeply regrets the recent action of the Coalition Government to criminalise squatting.
We note that it will evict up to 20,000 squatters, the majority of whom are decent, honest and self-reliant people.
We note that these people will either be thrown onto the streets, or into jail, or placed in local authority temporary accommodation, all of which carry a cost to society.
We note that in the vast majority of cases the accommodation they have been squatting will mainly revert to empty status.
We note that there are some 60,000 households classified as homeless in the UK, while some 720,000 houses are currently empty. This is an outrageous, irrational and unintelligent way to run a country.
We note that as well as being a waste of resources, empty houses adversely affect the neighbourhood directly (by causing dampness in adjoining terraced houses) and indirectly through the depressing appearance of boarded up houses.
Therefore we ask our elected representatives to do all in their power to implement our present policies of Empty Property Use Orders as an immediate tactical response to the Government’s criminalisation of squatting, and also to press for a Land Value Tax as a strategic response to the problem of empty housing.
The difference between Labour and the Conservatives on key policies is hard to see. Miliband backs the sales of council houses, the restriction of union powers
and is leaving himself an opt-out by refusing to commit personally to reversing Lansley’s NHS reforms. Several of his colleagues are championing cuts. [Update: to his credit, Miliband finally promised "the next Labour government will... repeal the NHS Bill"].
Labour might limp into government with the help of what is left of the Liberal Democrats but only a fool would claim that a coalition next election might somehow soften Labour’s worst tendencies.
I am the first to admit that the Green Party has its flaws. The worst of these is a tolerance for scientifically illiterate positions on alternative medicine that undermines our overall credibility on the the serious scientific issue of climate change. However, this is nothing compared with the battle needed for Labour to regain its soul.