1970s >> 1974 >> no-839-july-1974

So They Say: Yes, Who Does?

“Just who does make the decisions on housing — one of the most sensitive political issues in Britain?” asked Matthew Coady in the Sunday People’s “Week in Politics” on 9th June.

He recalled the document “Better Homes — the Next Priorities” produced by the Heath government last year. Its “tough stuff” was not included in the Tory Housing Bill eight months later; and the Labour critic of their absence was Anthony Crosland MP. Coady went on:

   Mr. Crosland is now Britain’s housing supremo and has HE seized his chance to right these wrongs which so affronted him ?
   The answer, alas, is NO . . . Although it contains useful and welcome reforms, his new housing bill is not very different from that which the Tories sought to introduce early this year.

“So,” Coady demands, “WHO rules the roost on housing?”

Wrongs They Can’t Right
“These wrongs” in the housing situation were emphasized in The Guardian. On 1st June it reported COUNCILS FEAR SLUMS MAY STAY ON:

   Local authorities with some of the worst housing stock in the country, fear that the Housing Action Areas planned by the Government may divert effort from slum clearance and rebuilding programmes which are essential for the future.

Attempts to solve one problem lead to another; but so do attempts to solve the other one. On 5th June the Guardian Planning Correspondent told that the five major city areas outside London — Tyneside, West Yorkshire, S.E. Lancashire, Merseyside and the West Midlands — in the twelve months up to March “demolished or closed 11,276 more slums and adjoining properties than they managed to build new”. She went on:

  This zeal to demolish cannot but have intensified the overall housing problem in each city. It comes on top of rising house prices which have put buying beyond the means of many average families, thus increasing the pressure and size of local waiting lists. Their hopes of council accommodation are in turn reduced by the need to rehouse families from the clearance areas.

And on 11th June it was HOUSE SLUMP GOES ON:

  The house building industry in Britain is sinking to its lowest level for 18 years. A Government survey estimates that only about 155.000 private houses will be started this year. The last time the figure was at this level — 30 per cent down on last year — was in 1958.

Obliged for the Answer
Socialists have always known the reason for the persistence of the housing problem. It is simply that capitalism produces things, including houses, not for people’s needs but only for profit. In case it is thought “experts” would dismiss this as a silly explanation, an “expert” has just said it is so. Writing about the finances of housing in the June issue of Property and Investment Review, Anthony Shiffley says:

   To appreciate the problems we must first clear our minds of certain pre-conceptions. First, and most important, we must rid ourselves of the notion that a house building company is some kind of fairy god-mother dispensing dwellings to meet the needs of the people. It is nothing of the kind. It is a purveyor of land on which in most, but not all cases houses have been built.

A Mote and Beam Story
According to the 8-volume History of the Second World War published by Purnell in 1966, 24,517,000 combatants on both sides were killed, of whom 452,000 came from Britain and the Commonwealth countries. It may be assumed that the number in the navy approached or ran into six figures.

 

So it was strange to see in the Sunday Mirror on 12th May an item on the shock and concern because a young sailor had died — through falling from a window — after seeing the horrific film “The Exorcist”. A picture showed navy policemen asking questions at a cinema, and a navy spokesman was reported:

 

   “Although there is no proof that the film had any connection with it, there are suggestions that it might have done.” He added: “The Navy does have responsibility for these young boys.”

 

Any young man’s death is a sad happening. But there seems to be a rum sense of proportion here.

 

Communists as Ever
The new regime in Portugal, following the coup on 25th April, announced on 9th June the establishment of diplomatic relations with Russia and Yugoslavia. In addition, according to a Guardian report, the Communist Party in Portugal has come into the open. The CP secretary-general, Dr. Alvaro Cunhal, is Minister without Portfolio in the new Cabinet and a Communist trade-union leader, Acelino Concalces, has become Labour Minister.

 

The Portuguese working class, specially the Left, no doubt looked forward to something good. Alvaro Cunhal quickly told them otherwise:

 

   Much to the dismay of Maoists and Trotskyites, who appear to be the party’s most vociferous enemies, he has appealed to workers to be responsible and cooperative in their demands for higher wages, pleading for a unified front between the people and the armed forces’ movement.

(Guardian, 10th June)

 

What is Portuguese for Plus ça change, plus ça reste la méme chose?

 

Pass the Pistol
In the 1929  depression tales were told of ruined American businessmen queueing to jump from high buildings. It is now reported from Japan:

 

   Hirozawa Toshikuni was Japan’s first business suicide of the financial new year . . .  In March three heads of small firms, capitalised at about £13,000, sought relief from bankruptcy in death. In that month, 1,306 firms folded: the largest number since May, 1968 — 500 to 600 bankruptcies is the monthly average.

(Guardian, 5th June)

 

The report says the suicide rate “is an indicator of the economy”—in particular, of the monetary squeeze which is the government’s attempted remedy for its share of the worldwide economic troubles. Less than two years ago, Japan’s spectacular growth led to its being called “the bullet economy”; the phrase seems to have taken another meaning now.

 

Nothing to do with Class
In an interview published in The Observer on 9th June, Prince Charles explained (i) that he was not at all confined to “a narrow circle” of friends; (ii) that he was “perfectly free” to marry outside royalty and aristocracy — “It’s nothing to do with class, it’s to do with compatibility”; (iii) that he had no preconceived ideas of special education for his future children, and (iv) that the Services had done for him “what they had done for thousands of other young men from every walk of life”.

 

Interviewed later at her parents’ home in Wolverhampton, Miss Ruby Glumm told of the Prince’s circle of friends. “He comes up the Bingo with my mum and Florry and me, and he’s ever so familiar with all the girls from the brawn factory where I work.” She confirmed the rumours of romance and the Prince’s freedom to marry as he liked, and said she would be calling on the vicar tomorrow on her way home from the pre-natal clinic. As for education, she referred to his remarks about the Services and said jovially: “I bet Crippen Street Secondary Modern can do for royal kids all it’s done for thousands round here.”

 

Robert Barltrop