Johnson Government must address the homeless crisis

Featured in Comment Central: Homelessness is a Public Health crisis that must be treated like one, says Ted Jeffery.

In 2016, the Department of Energy and Climate Change was disbanded and merged with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The idea behind this scheme: to put the issue of Climate Change at the heart of the British economy. It provides the subject with more funding, expertise, attention to detail, and as we’ve seen recently, overwhelming amounts of scrutiny. Homelessness should be getting the same treatment. As a Public Health issue that has government targets to meet by 2022 and 2027, it deserves the attention of more than just one departmental boffin.

The coalition government tried showcasing their concerns on the issue by investing money and support into five different programmes. According to Gov.UK in 2014: “Over £65 million of funding from across Whitehall is being offered to councils and other organisations to tackle homelessness around the country.” This may seem like a step in the right direction. However, when you read reports from Homeless Link, you begin to question whether or not the government is aware of the most effective means of tackling the issue.

The report in question is from their ‘Young and Homeless’ executive summary from 2018. It gives a healthy breakdown of key characteristics and trends in youth homelessness and also provides a detailed bar chart on the main prevention initiatives offered by Local Authorities. In this chart it clearly states that the most crucial prevention initiatives for young people are:

1) Education in schools on life skills, healthy relationships and support;

2) Mediation for dealing with tensions in and around family life before they reach boiling point;

3) Early intervention during childhood targeting the family, not just the young person.

Although these are listed as the top three most effective methods, unfortunately they are also in the bottom three per cent of prevention initiatives provided by Local Authorities. The government is injecting all this money into trying to tackle the issue, but they haven’t even considered the right approach.

For instance, look at the vast myriad of factors that indicate why an individual is found to be in a state of homelessness. You start to realise that for the government to class the issue as solely a matter for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to deal with is an insult.

It is insulting for our government to overlook the Health department’s role in tackling homelessness, especially when mental health is a fundamental issue for many in society. It’s a problem for those who live in fear of voicing their concerns and struggle to find the right support, and for those who live on the streets and fear persecution at night. Why is it that we don’t hear about the Health department’s role in tackling homelessness? Because for them It’s below their pay grade.

Furthermore, our government continues to ignore the Education department’s role in being able to carry on the baton in this homelessness relay. Education plays a crucial role in the race. It’s part of the curve round to the home straight in eliminating and preventing rough sleeping, but also in creating a beacon of hope to those that are part of hidden homelessness – an under-represented section of society that often gets overlooked when discussing the issue.

It would be a sterling approach if the Education department looked at schemes involved in re-training, teaching life skills and offering apprenticeships. Organisations such as Beam have been set up to help get funding from the general public to fund training for homeless individuals who are seeking to get into a trade – a simple plan executed wonderfully. It is easily something the government could be seen supporting or getting on board with.

Asking for support on the matter from DWP shouldn’t be that much of an arduous task. However, this is a department that has provided the UK with an outrageous Universal Credit system. It’s a benefits scheme that rolls six payments, including tax credits, housing benefit and unemployment benefit, into one lump sum. To even the untrained eye, this stands out as a ludicrous risk. For individuals who struggle as it is to delegate their finances, this system presents itself as a deadly minefield. Not only is it reckless in nature to leave it up to the individual to manage their finances, there is research from think tanks such as Resolution Foundation that suggest the new system leaves some low-income households in Britain £1,000 a year worse off. It’s an abhorrent scheme with ‘Poll Tax’ levels of unpopularity.

If the government is genuinely passionate about treating homelessness as a Public Health issue, they must look at representing it in a selection of appropriate departments. It is not just for a low-level Minister to mull over now and again. They have a target to meet in halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it by 2027. However, with a seemingly ineffective approach from Local Authorities, many should be concerned as to whether or not the government will end up meeting this objective. 

Boris Johnson is a Liberal Opportunist

Featured in Comment Central: Ted Jeffery argues Boris will always have a liberal-Tory ideology just like his political idol, Sir Winston Churchill – another progressive Tory of his time.

Boris Johnson is by no means a nationalist pariah. He is, if anything, a liberal opportunist. He may slip into the tendencies of a Trump-esque character, but when he does, you should remember it’s all a part of the Boris act.

An act which started all the way back in the establishment riddled halls of Eton. A prestigious public school that in many ways was an economic class above the Johnson household. It was only because of a bursary that Boris managed to secure himself a place at the notorious Prime Ministerial factory. Eton provided a highly competitive environment, which taught a young Alexander (Boris) about how to make the most of life’s opportunities. Whether it was becoming The Telegraph’s top man in Brussels, or by bumbling his way through a grilling on ‘Have I Got News For You’, Boris has launched himself at these gigs, which in return made him a household name.

So what about his frankly less than liberal columns? Well, like most journalists, Boris knows how to provoke his audience and how to turn a slightly dreary topic into a controversial talking point. For instance, look at his ‘Burka letterbox’ piece. Yes, it was tasteless and didn’t do much for standing up against oppression. However, I believe the reason Boris made those remarks is no different from the reason he wrote about the EU wanting to inflict Nazi-style “punishment beatings” on the UK. For him, it’s about the thrill factor. Boris doesn’t believe a great deal of what he says. He alludes to the fact that he might for his very own ‘shock genre’.

Each column that Boris writes reads as if he is delivering a speech to the Oxford Union. He always seeks to invigorate his audience.  Every journalist knows that to ensure regular readership week after week, you’ve got to have 60% of your spectators viewing your content because they agree. Meanwhile, the remaining 40% look on in the hope of being brassed off by your rhetoric. Boris understands this better than anyone else. This is why he continues to be contentious: because he knows it’ll bring in the traffic. It’s very unlikely you’ll see this trait during his time as PM, mainly because he isn’t fighting for anyone’s attention.

The truth is his pro-immigration, pro-same-sex marriage and pro-Union mantra is something that still solidifies him as a progressive, One Nation, Cameroon Tory. His self-appointment as Minister for the Union stands out as a principal liberal value that some say has been lost over the past four years of Brexit discourse.

By creating this role, Boris has cleverly sent out a message saying that he won’t be the Prime Minister for just the 52%. He understands the importance of the Union and won’t see it fall under his Premiership. It’s all just one more reason why the PM has been spending time touring the north, fighting for the Northern Powerhouse legacy.

Although the future of HS2 is still up in the air, this hasn’t stopped Boris from announcing a £39bn transport plan to help rejuvenate the railway network in the North of England. On top of this, he is looking to invest £3.6bn into some of the most deprived towns in the UK. So as opportunistic as he might seem, his liberal values of caring for some of the most culturally and economically damaged places in the UK have not been lost. Boris is by no means an Angel from the Heavens above, but he does understand the importance of investing in some of the UK’s most neglected regions.

Even Boris’ unpublished Pro-Remain piece is awash with liberal values that I can hardly believe he has lost over the past four years. He wrote about the benefits of the Single Market, saying:

“This is a market on our doorstep, ready for further exploitation by British firms. The membership fee seems rather small for all that access. Why are we so determined to turn our back on it?”

Boris understands and appreciates the liberal nature of the Single Market. It is visible through his ability to bask in the deferred gratification of receiving access to a convenient trading model that offers us so much, in his own words, for so little.

It’s precisely the kind of ‘dirty talk’ that Anna Soubry and Chukka Umunna get off on. So why did Boris chuck these principles in the bin? Because he wanted to ride his populist horse straight into Number 10. However, Brexit was never a battle Boris expected to win. It was merely seen as another opportunity for Johnson to create some havoc for the then Prime Minister, David Cameron. But once Dave had resigned, the doors of 10 Downing Street were left wide open for Boris to stroll into eventually. That was until his Vote Leave chum, Michael Gove, notably the present Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, stabbed him in the back. Boris then had to wait an arduous three years before fulfilling his dream.

It’s difficult to tell whether or not Boris is going to have enough capital to inject into issues like policing, housing and the NHS. With a potential recession on the horizon, there will undoubtedly be an impact as to whether or not Boris can begin any form of a spending spree. It may also be a matter of this Tory PM having to increase borrowing to pay for all these pledges. Funnily enough, this is all starting to sound less and less Tory.

Boris will always have a liberal-Tory ideology just like his political idol, Sir Winston Churchill, a progressive Tory of his time. And, just like Churchill, the only way Boris will get through the next few months of party disunity, Commons warfare and voter fatigue is likely to be to “Keep Buggering On”.

Cybernats are a dark presence within the independence movement

It’s never pleasant to describe a fellow being as a bully.

The definition of one is ‘a person who habitually seeks to harm or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable.’

When you line that definition up with the behaviour of a vast array of Scottish Nationalists lurking on Twitter, it’s all too evident that there is a disgusting tumour within the independence movement in the form of idiotic nationalism. These so-called ‘proud Scots’ adopt the mindset that if you aren’t with us (pro-independence), then you must be against us.

During the 2014 referendum campaign, many celebrities came out in support of both sides. Supporting the Yes vote, you had the likes of Sean Connery, Alan Cumming and Gerard Butler. Meanwhile, coming in support for the ‘No Thanks’ crowd were Steve Coogan, Judi Dench, Emma Thompson, JK Rowling and the late, great, David Bowie.

Now, it shouldn’t matter what side of the debate you find yourself on – being persecuted for simply believing in a different vision for one’s own nation (the United Kingdom) does not warrant a tirade of abuse.

But these Scottish Nationalist Twitter trolls, otherwise known as Cybernats, seem to think the exact opposite.

Some of the Cybernats’ victims include:

  • In 2013, media sources had reported that Sir Chris Hoy, who had publicly backed unionism, had been subject to online abuse for expressing his support.
  • The Daily Telegraph reported in March 2014 that a retired soldier had received some abusive messages from Cybernats, after SNP politician Roseanna Cunningham posted a message on Twitter showing a letter from the soldier asking for donations to Better Together.
  • In June 2014, the author JK Rowling was subjected to online abuse by Cybernats after donating to Better Together.
  • On 11th January 2016, the Daily Mirror reported that ‘Scottish nationalist trolls took to social media to celebrate the death of “foreign unionist” David Bowie’.

Among those to attack Bowie were Yes supporter John Harvey, from Dundee, who wrote: “Rip Bowie I telt you no to get involved in politics ya no voting c*** womble.”

While Shelley Detlefsen wrote on a Facebook post: “They say he got diagnosed 18 months ago. Maybe unionism gives you cancer?”

I’ve had my fair share of beratement from the IndyRef2 lot. However, it has not been anywhere close to the treatment to which these Cybernats have subjected many a Unionist supporter. They’ve previously hit out at me on the basis that I couldn’t possibly have an opinion on the issue of independence, based on the fact that I was born in England, live in England and sound English.

Yes, the more eagle-eyed amongst you will pick up on the fact that does indeed make me English. Well… to some extent, I do agree with you. However, I’m a firm believer that your national identity is more about where you are socialised than your place of birth.

These Cybernats may not be a complete representation of the independence movement in Scotland, but the sad truth is they are an uncontrollable result of what the SNP has been stirring up since 2011. The type of campaign that Alex Salmond, in particular, tried to run and to some extent still does today, with his RT chat show, is a populist cry for freedom.

For as long as he, Nicola Sturgeon and the rest of their SNP chums are sitting cosily within Holyrood, there will be a Scottish government that plays the victim, the prisoner and the agitator. But they should be careful, as playing populist games like these will only backfire, especially when there very well could be a campaign to come in the not so distant future whose sole aim is to expose their track record in government, the lies, the deceit and the inevitable broken promises in their dream for independence.

Oh yeah, as well as unmasking those Cybernats who deem it necessary to habitually seek harm and intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable.