by Stephen Tall on August 21, 2012
I had a leeetle bit of a moan about Twitter at the weekend — in particular its tendency to turn even normally quite intelligent and courteous people into the worst kind of insult-spewing trolls — and I’m afraid I’m going to do it again now…
Yesterday saw the launch by the think-tank Policy Exchange of a report entitled Ending Expensive Social Tenancies. Now I’ve not had chance to read it yet. (It’s 48 pages long.) But then I doubt that many folk have.
You don’t have to agree with its reasoning or conclusions to try and engage with its arguments.
Unless you’re Lord (John) Prescott, of course.
In which case, you see the name ‘Policy Exchange’… you think “That’s Cameron’s favourite think-tank. Therefore they’re evil. And everything they say is wrong”… and you immediately launch an oh-so-lolarious Twitter hashtag, LOLicyExchange (geddit??!)… all so that you can dodge accountability for any of the issues that 13 years of Labour government failed to get to grips with.
Thankfully, there are some serious folk around who did bother to read the Policy Exchange report, and recognised its virtues — as well as its flaws. The best I’ve read is by Ian Mulheirn of the Social Market Foundation: it’s to the point, constructively critical, balanced and — even better — brief. Here’s its intro…
Yesterday’s Policy Exchange report proposing that valuable social housing be sold off to pay for more housing in cheaper areas caused a predictable furore. Opponents quickly united around the claim that the idea would lead to social segregation. Proponents pointed out that social segregation is exactly what’s currently experienced by many of the 1.8 million families on social housing waiting lists.
Hyperbole aside, any balanced interpretation of the idea must recognise that there are valid concerns on both sides of the debate. Selling all valuable social housing would indeed exacerbate social segregation, and no reasonable person wants to create social housing ghettos. But that’s not sufficient reason to be against the idea in principle. Tying up billions of pounds in property in central London to allow a few families to live in places that nobody else can afford, while millions of families are denied housing, surely doesn’t serve anyone’s social priorities. The principle advanced by Policy Exchange is therefore entirely reasonable – the debate we should be having is how far to take it.