Quick: dig a moat…

Dark clouds over an Englishman's castle...

This week Chris Moncrieff wrote an article in the Daily Mail (you can read it here), in which he whipped up fear in the usual ways, offered not a single fact and shouted: the Moldovans are coming! Chris’ article was entitled ‘It won’t be long before an Englishman’s home is someone else’s castle’, evoking the image of east Europeans overrunning the parapets, and reinforcing the siege mentality that some sections of society seem to lap up.

When the phrase was coined in the 16th Century, it may have been the case that an Englishman’s home was indeed his castle. These days, of course, the vast majority (roughly 99%?) of Englishmen (and all peoples of the world) are so in hock to various banks and lending institutions that they may do well to start digging a moat: the bailiffs are coming! Englishmen are more under siege from the mortgage than they will ever be from Moldovans. The daily slog and grind it takes to keep the money men from our door, just to heat our draughty castles, is the real battleground.

Look, if rampant economic inequality and the politics of austerity employed by our coalition government cause homelessness to surge by 17%, as it did in 2011, of course you’ll get an equivalent surge in people seeking shelter in abandoned properties. But don’t just amputate: if you want a really preventative cure, how about ensuring that everyone is adequately housed and heated? A much milder, to say nothing of more effective, medicine.

If you think that Chris might not have quite hit the mark with this misguided metaphor, do let him know. A Squash campaigner sent this letter to him and his employer, and would be delighted if you sent it, or one like it, too. It’s packed full of wholesome and nutritious facts:

Dear Chris Moncrieff and Daily Mail editors,

I am writing to make a complaint re: your article ‘It won’t be long before an Englishman’s home becomes somebody else’s castle’ (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2088803/It-wont-long-Englishmans-home-somebody-elses-castle.html)

The article is completely biased and is totally unfair on the majority of homeless squatters who use squatting as a last resort to gain a roof over their heads. It is a one sided rant which doesn’t even attempt to hear the point of view from the other side of the story. (Squatters, Homeless people, Homeless charities etc). The article uses one rare example to make a more general point about criminalising squatting. This is distorting the bigger picture as no mention is given to the cases where squatting provides benefit for society.

The new law being talked about to criminalise squatting is completely unnecessary as existing criminal law is fully adequate – it already protects residents and soon-to-be residents. Furthermore, I am extremely concerned that it will exacerbate and criminalise homelessness in a worsening housing crisis and will put greater strain on the public purse in a time of severe cutbacks.

A recent briefing to the House of Lords from the SQUASH campaign details this further:


In response to the government’s consultation entitled ‘Options For Dealing with Squatting’, the Metropolitan Police, the Law Society and the Magistrates Association were amongst the 96% http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/consultations/options-dealing-squatting-response.pdf of respondents who do not want to see any action taken on squatting, along with homelessness charities and concerned members of the public.

Liberty, a civil and human rights campaign who are also opposing the bill, have said:

“We are concerned that the proposed new offence will largely affect empty or abandoned homes and will expose vulnerable homeless people to the criminal law. If passed, clause 130 could leave individuals with no choice but to sleep on the streets”.

Yours Sincerely,

 E-mails to contact are: news@dailymail.co.ukletters@dailymail.co.uk