Monthly Archives: November 2010

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.

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