Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Thursday, 20 October 2011

'Make room! Make room!'

Much of the room in question is being rapidly created between Tessa Jowell and the Intergenerational Foundation, who must surely hold some sort of record in the cats and pigeons department.

In a matter of hours, the Foundation's report suggesting that the over-60's should vacate their 'under-occupied' homes for the public good has caused a furore of national proportions, not to mention a certain amount of debate in the blogosphere - see the Moose, Longrider, Angry Exile amd the Cynical Tendency (links in sidebar), to name but a few.

Meanwhile, totalcatholic.com has got something straight from the horse's mouth - or possibly another equine orifice altogether; reading in the Mail that Tessa Jowell had sponsored the launch of the report in a House of Commons hospitality room, Joseph Kelly tweeted  on the subject and was answered by Jowell in person.

"The Intergenerational Foundation is a new charity dedicated to promoting fairness between generations which is located in my constituency of Dulwich and West Norwood. I supported the launch of their first major report in the House of Commons yesterday as their local MP."

Nothing to do with New Labour then - at least not now it's turned out to be a total can of worms and potentially politically damaging. Drawing, perhaps, on the fuss over grammar schools, they must have thought that the huddled masses would rise as one to evict the complacent bourgeoisie, completely overlooking the fact that the elderly dogs in mangers include a fair proportion of the nation's much-loved grandparents.

They also failed to grasp that a substantial proportion of us have an inexplicable aversion to being told what to do - inexplicable, at least, to the Guardian's Comment is Free, where terms like 'hoarding', 'squatting' and 'rattling around' are bandied about with predicatable venom.

Meanwhile, over at the Telegraph, Esther Rantzen has shoved her oar in with a piece describing how she downsized from her family home - nauseatingly described as a 'museum of love' - because she felt she no longer had 'a god-given right to the place'. (I have to admit to being baffled by that one - I don't recall the Almighty being involved in any property transactions I've made.)

If she's trying to ingratiate herself with the IF, she might have done better to leave out the bit about the house being empty now that, her three children having left home, the au pair has moved out too. After all, what is this whole business but thinly disguised class war, as the Guardian comment amply demonstrates?

The Foundation, apparently, will generously allow you to have a spare bedroom. This surely means that a couple ought to be permitted to occupy a three-bedroom house - assuming, of course, that the IF would not go so far as to insist on dictating sleeping arrangements - and pressure to move on would apply only to couples with four bedrooms or more, or, in other words, the better-off.

Meanwhile, the Foundation soundly castigates those who have merely endured the passage of time but says nothing of the increase in the number of divorced parents. I know several children who have two bedrooms each - one with each parent; the arrangement is actually recommended where possible to help children cope with the divorce and avoid friction with step-siblings.

Then there's the matter of second and third homes - some villages round here are virtual ghost towns during the working week; half or more of the local cottages are owned by Londoners, many of whom can be heard in the village pub on Sundays braying about their jobs in the broadcast media. Funnily enough, the news reports haven't mentioned that one.

And Labour's policy of getting 50% of the population into university has meant that vast swathes of family homes have been transformed into student lodgings, sometimes whole streets at a time - no mention of that either, oddly enough. In fact, the whole thing is so biased and highly selective that I initially suspected it might be a practical joke.

Sadly it appears not to be, and I find the implications intensely worrying. The title of this post is from a Harry Harrison novel, in which over-population has led to repeated sub-division of living space as people are forced to move into anywhere they can find.

Hoarding space becomes a crime against the state, and the elderly are put under increasing pressure to downsize, eventually taking it to its logical conclusion. In 1973, they made a film based on the story.

It's called 'Soylent Green'.


  1. ""The Intergenerational Foundation is a new charity dedicated to promoting fairness between generations ..."

    Since I'm pretty sure that load of old flannel would come well, well below abandoned animals, abused children, African famine victims and lifeboatmen in public donation stakes, I'm betting it's a fakecharity.

  2. The DM article points to a London council that encourages old folk in council property to downsize and move to smaller properties in a seaside town.
    I know it's the councils property, but it's a leap to assume all old folk want to live by the sea.
    They dont matter anymore so we'll throw them into a stereotype and insist they like it

  3. Julia, although there are no accounts available as yet, I doubt you'd find any takers for that bet, at least among us cynical bloggers (though you could try at the Guardian...)

    Bucko, it looks like a case of 'out of sight, out of mind', at least as far as the London council are concerned.

    It also conveniently shifts the burden of elderly care to another borough; is there any record of how the seaside town councils are reacting?

  4. no. It was just a breif note in the article and I never thought to look into it.

  5. "When Labour was in government, it tried to persuade older people in council and housing association homes in London and other cities to exchange them for smaller social housing in seaside towns."

    There is the Seaside and country homes scheme which appears to be voluntary and assists older people in moving to smaller council properties away from cities.

  6. Thanks, Bucko, for research above and beyond the call of duty for those commenting on blog posts.

    The scheme's website is certainly persuasive; the whole thing is dressed up like a travel brochure extolling the beauties of Britain's coastline in glowing terms that would baffle anyone actually living there.

    The places offered in Perranporth remind me of the years I spent in Cornwall; there was a kind of predictability about the behaviour of incomers retiring there 'from England'.

    After the first windy, rainy winter, they would grumble a bit. The wet spring would depress them more, then they would perk up in the summer sunshine. Then the autumn rain would set in and, after a second winter of unremitting drizzle, they would usually pack up and go back where they came from.

    This, of course, was heartily welcomed by the natives, who deeply resent the drain elderly incomers place on local resources like housing and places in care homes.

    PS I couldn't get your link to work so I googled it; if anyone else wants a look, this might do the trick:

  7. Thank Macheath. And all that from my bed! I haven't got up yet, I've been blogging in bed all morning. I've just posted my vision of the future and it's gone 2 so I'm going to have to get up and do some proper stuff now.

    The link appears to be corrct but I had serious trouble getting the page to load myself. Maybe they can't handle more than one visitor.

    My only experience of seaside towns goes back to holidays with the parents but I can imagine how residents have to put up with a lot of misguided incomers.

    It's like that chap who took his kids to a fishing village and then complained about the smell of fish

  8. Julia - You've just made my day :-)

  9. Mine too!

    Amazing - the Left have gone so far down the road to hypocrisy that they've come out the other side and just don't care any more.