“An official portrait of Prince George has been released to mark his fourth birthday,” reports the BBC, as well as just about every other media organisation. “The picture, taken at Kensington Palace ahead of his birthday on Saturday, captures a smiling future king.” I have absolutely nothing against Prince George who, after all, was born into royalty and had no say, and will have no say, about anything that happens in his life. He will go to the best private schools that money can buy, he will go to university for a degree that will be completely unnecessary for his future working life and he will probably join the armed forces, before he starts a lifetime of being driven around and shaking hands with people. The poor lad. In other news, the BBC adds that “the number of homeless children being housed in temporary accommodation rose by more than a third in the last three years, according to official figures. The Local Government Association (LGA) said councils in England were now providing temporary housing for 120,540 children with their families.” What sort of country are we living in?
I am not going to argue about the rights and wrongs of having a monarchy. Although I don’t personally see the need or relevance of the kind of monarchy we have, or any other form of monarchy for that matter, I am not wholly blind to the fact that most people like it. It’s an argument not worth having given the scale of support for the royals, but the fact that we have so many children living in temporary housing, like bed and breakfast accommodation, is surely immoral.
Despite the nature of the national debt and the financial deficit, Britain is still a relatively wealthy country. We are, after all, able to cut taxes for the very richest people and corporations and we are able to maintain the triple lock on pensions. We are able to afford vast sums for the armed forces, which receive huge increases in funding every year, as well as a vast army of well paid civil servants to support them. This is a matter of priorities.
That hundreds of thousands of people are forced to use food banks is a societal choice, as is a society in which millions are paid poverty wages in zero hours jobs. None of these things need to exist, but because of our political choices, they do.
The national housing situation is a disgrace where millions are simply excluded from the housing ladder. Rents in many areas are extortionate, houses are ludicrously expensive almost everywhere. The rich and affluent, not least those with second and third homes they have purchased to make money through renting, do very nicely out of this insane market whilst 120,540 children have no homes to go to.
I am no hard left Corbynista who believes that every single aspect of our lives should be controlled by the state but I cannot believe the current ludicrously unregulated housing market should be left as it is. If we had a genuinely meritocratic country where people had an equal opportunity in life regardless of wealth and class, it would be better, but we don’t.
For those of us who have never suffered homelessness, it must be hard to imagine, but I have worked with the homeless at various times in my life and it is as frightening as it is distressing. Not just those poor women and men who live on the streets, but those families who are forced to live in squalid accommodation or they live nowhere at all.
I read the papers a week or so ago when the first of “our” new aircraft carriers was unveiled, the pair of which will cost an eye-watering £6.2 billion and, as Private Eye reported this week is essentially part of the United States Navy. The first carrier, by the way, has no actual planes yet, so it is hard to see how it will be of any use to the country, but hey-ho: it looks nice, even if it costs an arm, a leg and pretty well all of a large torso. But if we can afford two new aircraft carriers, why can’t we insist on people getting properly housed?
Still we can relax now.The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said: “This government is determined to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping – that’s why we’re investing £550m to help tackle the issue.” That’s about a twelfth of the cost of two new aircraft carriers and proves beyond reasonable doubt, the skewed priorities of our country.
Have a great birthday, Prince George, who we are told smiled for the camera (who knew?), and maybe we can now spend a little more time and money looking after those at the other end of our hopelessly divided country. The people want vast spending on the armed services and the royal family so how about finding a few bob for people who haven’t got anywhere to live?