In 2008 it was the Chinese government being condemned for socially cleansing its streets in the build up to the Beijing Olympics. In 2018, the latest authoritarian regime to engage in social cleansing is Windsor Council. The council’s leader, Simon Dudley, is determined to rid the streets of beggars before the royal couple, Harry and Meghan, tie the knot this year on 19th May.
In a tweet addressed to the Thames Valley Police, the local Tory leader states that, “Residents have had enough of this exploitation of residents and 6 million tourists per annum.”
In Dudley’s ‘through-the-looking-glass’ view of the world it is Windsor’s millionaire residents and the royals who are the exploited and victimised. The homeless and beggars, meanwhile, are classed as “exploiters”, having “[chosen] to reject all support services to beg on the streets of Windsor[!]”.
Dudley justifies his assertion by citing the council’s former initiatives to rehome the dwellers of Windsor. These include the provision of a night shelter and assistance service.
Clearly there are a variety of reasons why the homeless do not use these services (where they are even accessible). The Tory council leader avoids the central question, however: why are they on the street in the first place?
Dudley is completely unable to answer this. Ultimately it is the policies of his party - and the crisis of the system that they uphold - which has led to this scourge.
The homeless are constantly accused of begging as if it were a life choice. The homeless do not wish to beg on the streets of Windsor - they are driven there.
It is the crisis of capitalism and the ensuing austerity cuts that have produced this prevalence of homelessness. A lack of decent paying jobs; rising rents; cuts in benefits, and particularly the roll-out of universal credit; as well as attacks on mental health services: all these factors have fed into a rise in rough sleeping
In order to clear the streets, Dudley has invoked the 1824 Vagrancy Act. This is a draconian throwback from the period after the Napoleonic Wars when government cuts caused a crisis of homeless army veterans. Sound familiar?
It should also be noted that this man - who has such callous disregard for the most vulnerable in our society - is one of four Tories on the Homes and Communities Agency (now Homes England) board: the very agency in charge of social housing.
The backlash from the council’s action has forced Theresa May to denounce Windsor Council’s initiatives. But her statement that councils should “work hard to provide accomodation for those people who are homeless” is bitterly ironic, given that four fifths of the Grenfell Tower fire survivors are still homeless to this day.
Who are the real scroungers?
Whilst hundreds of thousands sleep rough every night, there is of course one family of scrounging beggars to whom the government are continually at the beck and call: the Windsors.
The Crown Estates are worth a massive £12 billion. 15% of the profits from these assets go directly into the pockets of the Queen herself. This is before we consider the Queen’s personal property empire, the so-called Duchy of Lancaster, which comprises 45,550 acres of land worth another £472 million.
If we assume 10 units of housing per acre of land, we could in fact house the entire country’s homeless population on the Queen’s land!
The price of Harry’s wedding has yet to be revealed. Judging by the cost of his brother’s wedding, we can assume it will be around £30 million. This money is enough to house the whole homeless population of Windsor!
If we really are to tackle aggressive begging in Windsor, we suggest starting with the royals themselves: let them pay for their own wedding!