14/12/2009

Colour me suspicious

This morning, a story made my Crackers sense tingle.  Not to tell me that a tabloid story was rubbish, but to tell me that something behind a few tabloid stories was very fishy indeed.  there are wavy lines coming out of my head right now.

'Single mother of eight living in a £2.6m mansion - so much for Labour's housing benefit crackdown' is currently the top story on the Mail Online website.  It's funny that Labour's housing benefit crackdown gets a mention in the headline, because the council responsible is Kensington and Chelsea, the toriest of tory councils.

The four-storey villa in Notting Hill, West London, which costs taxpayers £7,600 a month, has five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a double living room, study and roof terrace.
says the article.  And here's why the family in question has been housed there:
Miss Walker was given the house last September on a three-year lease because a rule introduced in April 2008 forces local authorities to place tenants in private properties if suitable council homes are unavailable.
Hey, I know this is Kensington and Chelsea, but do you think there might be cheaper properties in the borough.  Like around Ladbroke Grove, or the World's End Estate or down towards Olympia and the West Ken Estate?  Surely there are ex-council places up for grabs.

So, in the run up to an election year, a tory council just happens to reveal an extreme example of something that might make 'Labour's housing benefit crackdown' look stupid.  With a single mother as the beneficiary.  A dark-skinned single mother.  A dark-skinned Muslim single mother.  Ticks too many 'Daily mail hatred' boxes to be an accident, right?

How about 'Taxpayers pay £1,600-a-week for family of ex-asylum seekers to live in luxury five-storey home'.  Hey, this one ticks a lot of boxes too.  Ex-asylum seekers (who ought to be referred to as 'refugees' by the Code of Practice that the Mail's Editor is in charge of) no less.  Another set of tabloid boogeymen put in a really expensive house, this time in Westminster - the council involved in the infamous gerrymandering scandal of the 80s.  We know there are lots of ex-council properties in Westminister, because the council sold off as many as they could to potential tory voters.

This time, the paper makes sure we're told:
'It's important to note that the amount of housing benefit payable for tenants is determined by government policy and not local councils. This rate is calculated and updated on a yearly basis according to the value of the local rental market. We have absolutely no discretion in this area.

'Property rents in Westminster are among the highest in the country so it is perhaps unsurprising that a family claiming housing benefit for a property of this size would need to submit a claim for this amount.

'We would, however, like to see the entire housing benefit system changed to enable councils to have more control'.
All Labour's fault, you see.

This story mentions another from last year for a win triple - 'Inquiry ordered over Afghan family living in £1.2 million 'council house''.  Ooh, brown asylum seekers given ridiculously expensive housing in a tory council.  Where have I heard that before? 

Okay, I heard it here first since this is the oldest story, but this one caused a furore in which people ended up sackedIt took Smellyface to make the connections for us this time.

And those aren't the only differences between the first story and the two new ones.  Check out the picture in the earliest story, with Ms Saiedi peeking out from behind her front door, not even opening it far enough for even the sneakiest of peeks to the inside of the house.  Now look at the pictures in the two newest articles, as the residents allow an 'MTV Cribs' style showcase for the Mail.

Why, it's almost as if someone spotted the story from last year and said, "Hey - that's a jolly good way of attacking Labour," and deliberately contrived a couple more cases of scary tabloid boogeymen being given ridiculously expensive new accommodation.  And then thought to remind us of the original with 'Afghan family STILL in seven-bed £1.2m house taxpayer has been funding for a year', with the nationality of the family ion the headline.  You know, in case we forgot.

What's the betting nobody gets sacked or disciplined this time round?  Not because these two were deliberate in any way, of course, but because it's Labour's fault.  I'm sure Westminster Council would never become involved in any trickery with their housing system to cynically troll for tory votes.  Again.

I'm absolutely certain nobody looked at the way the loophole that allowed the original incident to occur was closed and thought, 'Ah, capped at a five-bedroom limit, eh?  Let's see what we can do with that!'

That would be dishonest.

7 comments:

FlipC said...

"Crackers sense" you weren't bitten by a radioactive tabloid reporter were you?

Yes it's odd that the headline isn't "Tory council house Muslim family in £2.6m mansion" sub-headline "and it's all Labour's fault" that might have made some people think a bit and we can't have thinking Daily Mail readers; who knows what they might do.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

There's a Marvel comic plot here somewhere...

Five Chinese Crackers said...

would make a bit of a rubbish comic if I'd been bitten by a radioactive tabloid reporter:

"By day, he's a mild mannered blogger, but when darkness descends, he becomes...a fucking wanker!

romanhousing said...

What makes the Mail story worse -and yes, it can get worse - is that they have been here before. With exactly the same story and the same photo of the woman and kids.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1101248/Its-great-says-mother-living-2-6m-townhouse-paid-you.html

So, almost a year on and rehash a story, add a year onto her age, tell us that it is now in Kensington not Notting Hill (posher area y'see) and there you go. 900+ comments later...

This has made me bloody mad today. Gutter journalism at its worst.

Alex said...

I've been reading these tab-watch blogs too long. When I first read "Single mother of eight living in a £2.6m mansion - so much for Labour's housing benefit crackdown", my first thought was "It doesn't specifically mention benefits. She might well be paying for it out of her own pocket".

Five Chinese Crackers said...

Thanks for that Romanhousing. i think I'll have to follow this one up.

Anton Vowl said...

Originally done by the Standard, I believe:

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23607854-revealed-the-26m-council-house-family.do

All rather odd.