Liberal Literati miss the point on poverty again

Time for a bit of controversy…

Spikes in Southwark designed to put off homeless people

Spikes in Southwark designed to put off homeless people

The reaction to this appalling indictment of modern British society was utterly simplistic and inadequate.

By and large, the reaction was to attack the tenants for placing the spikes, and to condemn the current UK Government for somehow creating such nastiness. Actually, it is precisely this thoughtless, partisan reaction which lies behind our comprehensive failure to tackle poverty and stop this sort of indictment of society from being deemed necessary.

This is because, as ever, we ask the wrong question and ignore the detail. It has little to do with the current property bubble and nothing to do with welfare reform (which, frankly, hasn’t actually happened yet).

The real question is who would have been hoping to sleep at this location and why?

We cannot know this absolutely. However, the chances are that anyone who would have considered sleeping here would not have been employed for some time, probably missed out on educational opportunities, may well be heavily indebted and almost certainly suffers from addiction. These are long-term, structural social problems which have left that person isolated and with no option but to seek shelter here.

To be clear even here, on the South Bank of the Thames, there exists accommodation. However, that will usually have some conditions for entry, like it or not – from cleanliness through to no substances. More people than we care to admit can’t meet such conditions, as a result of the aforementioned long-term structural social problems.

You want to know what definitely will not solve this? Political partisanship! The issues of educational under-achievement, structural unemployment, indebtedness and addiction long pre-date the coming to power of the current Coalition Government – so anyone blaming it alone is guilty of political point-scoring rather than seeking a genuine set of solutions. Frankly, the problems pre-date even the previous change of government in 1997. The very reason we don’t solve these complex, detailed, structural problems is we are too busy blaming the other side for them for the sake of political gain (or just giving ourselves a pat on the back for caring) rather than reaching a consensus, which will inevitably have to be all-party, on what we are going to do about them in the short and long term.

I cannot help but feel that too much commentary on such things is the middle-class Liberal Literati expressing disdain so they can feel good about themselves without actually having to deal with the complex reality. Their failure even to come close to identifying the real underlying problems does not bode well for promoting adequate solutions to them. It is time we tried less partisanship and more consensus towards dealing with the real issues behind appalling indictments of society such as this.


7 thoughts on “Liberal Literati miss the point on poverty again

  1. Akin to spikes on statues and awnings, homeless people are not effin’ pigeons, Ian! By all means we need to get serious about the issue of homelessness. But I am as outraged by this state policy of dealing with the symptom (people deemed to be sleeping in inappropriate places) as I am with the erection of physical barricades to not deal with sectarianism. Both are so-called temporary measures of relief, symbolising a failure to adequately addressing the causes.

    If these spikes were an artistic protest to increase awareness of homelessness, that would be ingenious. For a government to install this as public policy is disgusting.

  2. Feltching says:


    On 7 June 2014 “Inventing torture instruments against homeless people is appalling. Installing them is barbaric and criminal. What next? Poisoning the poor?” appeared on facebook.

    This surely fits the criteria of Liberal Literati. Presumably made so that “the middle-class Liberal Literati expressing disdain so they can feel good about themselves”.

    The person making such a self patting on the back remark was a certain, Duncan Morrow, who has been described on this blog as “the most articulate and learned Progressive advocate there is in Northern Ireland apart from Naomi Long” on 27 May 2014

    • See my exchange with him on Facebook.

      Actually I don’t count Duncan as among the Literati due to his huge practical experience – but many academics are, frankly!

  3. The anti-homeless spikes were removed from the block of flats #PeoplePower

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