Lower than a convict

Today’s news: convicted prisoners are to get the vote.

It’s one more tiny token of just how marginalised you can be by the economic exclusion of being stuck in the private rental market.  As in, when I moved here I lost the opportunity to vote, by being ineligible to get onto the electoral register in time for the election.  I even asked the council about it, and they confirmed that I couldn’t vote.

It’s not even as if I had a choice about when to move house.  Private tenants have no security, and my former landlady gave me notice to quit because she was selling up and returning to her native Switzerland after divorcing her English ex-husband.  Unlike the rich (homeowners) or indeed the rich-by-proxy (social tenants), we are completely at the mercy of a total stranger.  And now, just to rub it in, convicts in prison are elevated above us.

FWIW, I first had the vote in a UK general election in 1983, when I was a postgraduate student at Cambridge.  We’ve had six further elections since then, but I’ve had the vote in exactly one of those.  Lifetime track record of the universal franchise: two of seven!

Still, it’s all pretty symbolic.  The real kick in the teeth is the living conditions we endure.  No security, arbitrary rules and restrictions (like not putting a picture up on the walls), and above all paying rents in a market massively inflated by taxpayer-funded housing benefit.

But here’s the rub.  Maybe if we’d had the vote over the years, governments would have noticed.  Maybe we’d’ve been spared decades of paying three times over[1] for property pimps to get obscenely rich exploiting us.

[1] First through taxes, some of which are channeled into housing, both in ‘affordable’ and ‘social’ housing, and in housing benefit.  Second through rent, which is inflated by having to compete with housing benefit recipients who have no incentive to seek a good deal.  And third, if I get rich enough to buy, by prices inflated by all that public money, including not least the inflated yields (rents) for property pimps.

Posted on November 2, 2010, in democracy, housing, politics, uk. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. If you’re on the electoral register at your previous address, can’t you vote as from there? Shouldn’t matter that you’re no longer living there – as long as you’re only registered in one place and voting once, you should be golden. (But don’t take my word for it…) And for a couple of those elections you were an ex-pat, which means you can vote, it’s just hassle.

    I think the real issue is, people who rent tend to be more transient than those who buy their houses. That is to say, there’s a less than average chance that they’ll still be living in the same constituency when the next election comes round. For the same reason, you’re less likely to form a strong network of local friends and family. All of which adds up to “political featherweight” – you’re unlikely to be worth more than one vote, and may well be worth less (because you’ll be in another constituency) at the next election.

    Whereas convicts, now… most criminals are not great travellers, they tend to live their whole lives within a small area, often in the same town and same neighbourhood where they grew up. That’s because social networks are extremely important to a criminal. And for the same reason, they can often swing quite a few votes – they are often extremely close with their friends and family, and can influence them if they feel strongly about something.

    There’s probably an interesting sociology essay waiting to be written here, but you’d have to find someone better informed than me to write it.

  2. Hi Have you searched online to reg before?

    We have been in the same boat for quite a while…

    I think this is where we went:
    http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/

    Hope that helps?

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