Time for a bit of controversy…
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.