Westside Action

a motley crew of anarchists and activists from Bristol, Bath and South Wales

Dukes, Squatters, Travellers and Mortgages

Three very different and apparently unrelated housing stories appeared in yesterday’s (22nd Jan) 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.

repo1

(above)Baliff- Scum Evict Man

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?

Duke - Trustafarian and heir to padeophile fortune

Duke - Trustafarian and heir to padeophile 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 married her!

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 permission approval.

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 scrap yard, containing hundreds of car bodies. Nobody, it seems, complained during the forty years this was in operation, despite the heavy lorries and noise. 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.

Advertisements

No comments yet»

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: