In politics, there is a very fine line between arrogance and leadership and today, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, came close to proving my point.
He has told opponents of his coalition’s housing benefits caps to “think again” describing the benefits as “extravagant”
He also said:
“Paying over £20,000 a year for the housing benefit of some families is too high. I do not think taxpayers who pay their taxes will understand why we are being so extravagant,”
(I note, however, he failed to mention those in his cabinet who take measures to avoid paying their taxes)
“There are many people who earn less than £20,000 – their whole income is less than £20,000 – who are paying taxes to house people who are getting rents of £25,000, £30,000, £35,000, £40,000. They don’t see that as fair and neither do I.”
However, it seems he has completely missed a very large point.
Many families, particularly in parts of London, have been living in the same accommodation for many years. They originally moved into areas that, at the time, were seen as being deprived and populated by low income communities.
As the economy has grown over the years, many of those areas have been developed becoming ‘trendy’ with the wealthier bonus culture ‘city types’ splashing their cash and changing the locality into a fashionable and desirable address to have. They have invested their money wisely and as a consequence have raised the rents.
That is not the fault of the tenants who now find themselves living in such desirable abodes. They do not negotiate the rents with the landlords. They should not be demonised as being “extravagant” or “scroungers”
It is, also, worth remembering that Margaret Thatcher sold off much of the available social housing to buy votes and raise capital but then failed to invest into providing more modern, affordable properties, to replace it – she was the Tory leader that Cameron aspires to be.
I guess the real question, though, is will our national conscience (is there still one?) remain dormant, if thousands of long term tenants are moved out of their ‘high price’ rented accommodation and shipped many miles to areas where the rents are more ‘affordable’.
For that matter, do we really want to see a capital city, that is known for its diverse and colourful population, turned into an overpriced and arrogant ‘ghetto’ of monied bankers and lawyers.
I am guessing this will not be an easy ride for Cameron or his coalition partners.
I am also thinking he is arrogant and not yet, at least, a great leader