Posts Tagged ‘Kensington’

Kevin Logan on Grenfell Tower, Justice and Patriotism

June 19, 2017

This is an angry, impassioned rant by Kevin Logan against the gross social injustice of Tory Britain that has produced the Grenfell Tower fire. Logan’s a male feminist, who makes vlogs attacking the Alt-Right and Men’s Rights movements and their lunacies.

Logan begins the video by discussing the fire itself. He mentions how Grenfell Tower is an area of low-income housing in Kensington, one of the richest places in Britain. As it is a pocket of low class housing – he calls it ‘slum’ – amidst extreme wealth, the local council decided to cover it in cladding, so that the richer residents wouldn’t have to look at it. The fire spread rapidly because this cladding was inflammable. The disaster was entirely avoidable, as fire-proof cladding was only an extra £2 per unit more expensive. Thus it would have cost a mere £5,000 more to protect these people from the horror that engulfed them.

He also queries the official figures for the number of victims. At the time he made the video, the official death toll was 30. This, he states, will be revised upwards. It may well go over 100, and some have suggested that the real figure will be over 300. We don’t know at the moment, as the government has decided that it’s politically sensitive and so have slapped a D notice on it.

He lays the blame for this tragedy firmly on the Tories, and specifically David Cameron, George Osborne, Theresa May and Boris Johnson. George Osborne is responsible, as he was the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who launched the Tories’ austerity policies. David Cameron was the Prime Minister, who stated clearly in 2012 that he was against the culture of health and safety. He therefore was determined to repeal the ‘red tape’, which means the laws actually protecting humans beings. And Theresa May is responsible because she cut emergencies and the number of fire stations in London when she was in charge of the Home Office. As for Boris Johnson, he made the situation worse by cutting the number of counsellors available to help fire fighters get over the horrors they’ve seen. There were 14 of them before he took office as mayor of London, and those weren’t enough. But Boris then went and reduced them to two.

Logan states quite clearly that austerity kills. Not just through cuts to the emergency services, but also in cuts to hospitals and the welfare state. He also states that this country needs to decide what it is. Either we’re a nation too poor to afford to give decent cladding that will protect people for a mere £5,000, or we’re a nation so rich we can afford to give billions in tax cuts to millionaires. Not to mention the fact that we’re spending another £100 billion on nuclear weapons. He states that he isn’t going to get into the debate about nuclear weapons, only that apparently we can’t afford to feed and shelter the poor, but we can find money for nuclear weapons, and bombing brown folk elsewhere in the world.

He also informs his viewers how Jeremy Corbyn attempted to introduce legislation to protect people in poor quality housing, but 311 Tory MPs voted against it. This included 80, who were private landlords. This was a massive conflict of interest, which should never have been allowed to happen. And the media are complicit in it because they have remained silent on it.

Over half of the video is Logan discussing patriotism, and the question, often asked, whether he is patriotic. He states that when a tragedy like this occurs, no, he can’t be patriotic. Not for a country that cares more for the rich, than to spend £5,000 stopping poor people from being burned alive – or, rather, killed by smoke inhalation, in their beds. He states very clearly that there needs to be riots about this, and for those responsible to be properly prosecuted. He doesn’t know where legal responsibility for this tragedy lies, with local council or elsewhere, but a large number of people need to be prosecuted, far larger than a small number of sacrificial lambs. He states that corporate manslaughter needs to be taken far more seriously in this country. The politicians responsible should be given absolutely no peace until they either resign or pass the necessary legislation to protect people against further tragedies like this.

He also predicts that the Tories will find some way of tricking people out of their homes. They’ve said they won’t, and that the residents will be rehoused in the borough, but they will do it anyway. Logan states that it is wrong that there are people, who are homeless, while there are mansions, owned by the rich, that are going empty. The people made homeless by the fire could be housed in them, and the state could pay for their accommodation. But this won’t happen, because the rich always come first.

He says that he isn’t interested in what we claim to be, or what we were, but what we are and will be, before he will say he’s patriotic. He doesn’t hate the country, but we have to stop being a Tory vassal state. And Theresa May needs to go. If, however, we want to be a country where the rich come before stopping the poor die, then as far as he concerned, you can burn the country to the ground.

I agree with nearly everything he says here – about the twisted system of values we have in our society, where the profits of the rich come before human life, and where invading nations in the developing world for the benefit of multinationals is far more important than tackling the poverty back in Britain. As Mike and other disability rights bloggers – DPAC, Stilloaks, Johnny Void and many others have shown time and again, austerity is killing tens of thousands each year. There is absolutely no question about it. And neither should there be any question about who is responsible for this carnage as well. It’s the Tories.

I reject the call to riot, and his angry rejection of patriotism. Rioting only results in local residents having their lives and property threatened and damaged. It doesn’t threaten the politicians and corporations ultimately responsible for the iniquities against which the riots are aimed. And it allows the Tory press to dismiss those protesting as thugs and extremists. We’ve already seen it happen this weekend, when a peaceful crowd spontaneously invaded Kensington council offices to make their voices heard. No-one rioted, there was no violence, and no begging. But that didn’t stop the media and Tory press from claiming there was. All to frighten the millions watching and reading the papers away from supporting them.

As for patriotism, I’m a patriot in the sense that I want the best for my country and its people. There is still much that is good in this country. But its government is mendacious and corrupt. And the very people, who insist that we all be patriotic, are usually those responsible for the injustices that mar it. Like the Tories under Thatcher, who made much about how they stood for Britain and patriotism. Or the right-wing nationalists in the NF, EDL, BNP and similar organisations.

There’s a lesson here for the Alt-Right on why many people in the West don’t feel patriotic. According to the Alt-Right and similar right-wing ideologues, it’s all due to ‘cultural Marxism’. The Frankfurt School has undermined western self-confidence in order to destroy its culture, and place everyone under the Communist heel. It’s also because of ‘cultural Marxism’ that feminism is making such inroads to the point that men are being treated unjustly.

No, ‘cultural Marxism’, if it even exists, doesn’t have anything to do with the rejection of patriotism by many in the contemporary West. It’s gross injustices like the Grenfell Tower fire. Decent people are outraged by a social system that has gives such massive, disproportionate power to a rich minority, and has allowed the poor, non-Whites and women to be mistreated and oppressed. But I very much doubt that this obvious fact will make much impression on them, as they’re not going to listen.

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Thoughts and Prayers to the Victims and Emergency Teams of the Grenfell Tower Fire

June 17, 2017

Like the rest of the country, I was shocked and horrified by the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower in London. I have also been profoundly moved by the great community spirit of the victims. The people of the block were of all ethnicities, cultures and religions, but they all pulled together to support each other escaping from this horrific event. I also have nothing but admiration for the courage, professionalism and sheer heroism of the fire fighters and other first responders, who did what they could to save people from this conflagration.

I therefore send my thoughts and prayers to the victims and rescue workers, and the various charities that worked to give them somewhere to sleep after their homes were destroyed, and were collecting to provide for them after they lost everything in the fire.

I hope they will be housed soon, and will get satisfaction from the Kensington Council and this despicable Tory government, who have passed the legislation that allowed this to happen.

Mike has put up several fascinating posts about it, but one of these is particularly suitable for this post. It’s simply of a sweat/T-shirt on which someone has written their message of love to the victims. You can see it at:

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/16/this-image-speaks-for-itself/

Private Eye on Daily Mail’s Lord Rothermere Purchases Parking Space with Offshore Company

March 15, 2016

Private Eye in their issue for 20th December 2014-8th January 2015 published an article on how Lord Rothermere’s tax dodging had gone so far that he had actually used an offshore company to buy a parking space in London.

Offshore Ownership
Why Lord Rothermere Is Parking Mad

Daily Mail proprietor Lord Rothermere, also known as Jonathan Harmsworth, appears to go to extraordinary lengths to keep his millions out of the taxman’s clutches. The Eye has discovered that he has even bought a parking space near his Kensington office through an offshore company.

Land Registry data shows that in February 2009 a company called Harmsworth Holdings Ltd bought a 125-year lease on space number 76 at the exclusive underground private car park under York House, just across Kensington High Street from the Mail’s Derry Street offices. The company is registered in St Lucia, 300 miles off the South American coast.

Why Rothermere would need this bizarre arrangement is not clear – he would not comment on the matter to the Eye – but buying assets through offshore companies controlled by family trusts carries big tax advantages for “non-domiciled” taxpayers like Milord Rothermere (see Eyes passim).

The company owning the parking space is considered an overseas asset and remains outside the scope of a “non-dom’s” future inheritance tax bill. And if the parking space was bought out of the ample income received by the Bermudian company and offshore trusts through which Rothermere controls Daily and General Trust plc, there would be no “remittance” to the UK to generate an income tax bill.

The same St. Lucian company also owns land and one further, unidentified property in the Kensington area. Yet another Rothermere company, Harmsworth Trust Co (PTC) Ltd, registered in the British Virgin Islands, owns 10 English properties, most of them near the Rothermeres’ neo-Palladian pile in 200-acre Ferne Park in Wiltshire.

(Most non-doms, incidentally, would lose the inheritance tax break once they lived 17 out of 20 years in the UK. But Rothermere can thank his father for choosing France for his tax exile and thus bequeathing it as his country of domicile, since a longstanding agreement between the UK, and France happily overrides this rule.)

Rothermere isn’t alone in using an offshore company to own 12 square metres of tarmac and a precise 1.9 metres of airspace under York House. Fifteen further spaces – each said to be “large enough to accommodate a Rolls Royce”-have been bought in the same way: five through companies incorporated in the BVI, three in the Isle of Man, two in Liberia, one each in Jersey and Guernsey and a couple of unknown origin.

Rothermere’s purchase was for an unquantified amount, although other spaces bought around the same time went for £100,000, the top price being £149,500. Investors in what is described as “London’s first boutique car park” seem well-pleased. “What a delight,” says one. “Having suffered for many years with the aggravation of trying to find a parking space at night, let alone the frustrated nanny on the school run [sic]. This car park has solved all my problems.”

I’m astonished both at how expensive parking space in the rich areas of London are – £100,000 and over! – and how no purchase seems to be too small or too petty for the Rothermeres and people like them to purchase through offshore trusts. Though if they’re paying up to £150,000 for a parking space, you can see why they’d try a tax dodge. Do they do their weekly shopping at Harrod’s or wherever through offshore accounts? And their bespoke tailored suits – are they owned by them, or similarly the property of a company in the British Virgin Islands or St. Lucia!

Private Eye on Lord Rothermere’s Ownership of London Property in Offshore Accounts

March 11, 2016

A few years ago, Private Eye ran a piece about how Lord Rothermere, the owner of the Daily Mail, was using his non-dom status to avoid paying British tax, despite the fact that he is very much resident in this country. I found this piece in Private Eye’s issue for 13th-20th December 2013 about how Rothermere was also using offshore accounts to avoid paying tax on prime pieces of real estate he’d purchased in London.

Lord Rothermere

A Capital Idea

“Offshore investors avoiding millions in tax spent £7 billion on London’s lavish properties in last year sending market prices soaring.” So screamed a Daily Mail headline a year ago. What the newspaper didn’t report was that a chunk of the “offshore” purchases of prime London property were accounted for by its very own proprietor, Lord Rothermere.

Home for Rothermere, his wife Claudia and their five children is Ferne House, a neo-Palladian mansion in 224 acres of grounds in Wiltshire. But the family also has a London house on Addison Road, Holland Park, a ten-minute walk up Kensington High Street from the Mail’s Derry Street headquarters. This is no pokey pied-a-terre either. property website Zoopla, part of Rothermere’s Daily Mail and General Trust plc group, values it at £21.75m.

The London house was bought in 2001. This was couple of years after the Rothermeres had bought Ferne Park and commissioned the mansion from architect Quinlan Terry – not by the Rothermeres themselves, but by a British Virgin Islands company called West Land Assets Ltd. for £9.5m with no mortgage required against the property.

A 2003 application for planning permission for changes to the property, including an extension for a swimming pool, made in the names “Lord and Lady Rothermere” indicates that this was an offshore vehicle for the Rothermeres. The following year, the house was sold again for £8.5m with the new owners now given on Land Registry documents as Lord and Lady Rothermere themselves, subject to charge, almost certainly relating to a loan, from private bankers Hoare & Co. A clause in the title document suggest the Rothermere’s did not become owners outright but as trustees of a trust. Such are the undemanding requirements of British property registration and the secrecy of trusts that its location and beneficiaries are secret.

The Rothermere’s affairs appear to be run largely by accountant David Nelson of Dixon Wilson, who replaced Lord Rothermere on title documents for the Addison Road house – and thus, it appears, as a trustee alongside Lady Rothermere – in September 2010.

More recently what is almost certainly the trust behind the property was (unusually) named when a footnote in a DMGT financial results announcement last month mentioned that in the previous year the company “disposed [sic] certain assets for consideration of £0.1 million to The Addison Road Settlement whose trustees are Lady Rothermere, wife of the company’s chairman and David Nelson, a non-executive director of the company”.

The beancounter Nelson thus has feet firmly in both the Rothermere family camp and the publicly traded DMGT, where he sits on the board’s remuneration, audit and investment committees. On his own firm Dixon Wilson’s website he boasts of “considerable experience and expertise in helping wealthy families, and their businesses, and landed estates concerning tax … with a particular emphasis on the UK aspects of international tax, offshore trusts and the UK resident who has retained a foreign domicile”. This explains his usefulness to Lord Rothermere who, despite being born and bred in Britain and permanently occupying some swathes of British soil, claims “domicile” in, er, France (exposed in the Eye four years ago).

This privileged tax position, under which offshore income is taxed only when remitted to the UK, along with the inheritance tax and stamp duty advantages, goes a long way to explain the trust and offshore companies. While complex Bermuda/BVI/Geneva channels for Rothermere’s income, revealed in Eye 1231 and 1351, transform it into offshore income, valuable property can allow money back in tax-free as loans secured against the bricks and mortar rather than as taxable income.

In January 2011, four months after Nelson appeared as trustee of the Addison Road settlement, a new lender appeared in offshore banker RBC Europe. It is reported in Land Registry records as being “under an obligation to make further advances” against the security of the £21m townhouse, which would facilitate such a scheme.

Rothermere’s other tax-efficient offshore property deals include the 2005 purchase of Ferne Park Cottage on the Wiltshire estate for £640,000 in the name of the same BVI company, Harmsworth Trust Co Ltd, that acts as trustee to the trusts holding Rothermere’s jersey investment vehicle, Rothermere Investments Ltd. Since October last year it has been subject to a charge in favour of Barclays Private Bank and Trust Co in Jersey which is also set to “make further advances”.

In December 2011 yet another trust run by Claudia Rothermere and David Nelson, “WM Trust”, bought The Garden House, also on the Ferne Park estate, for £3m, although documents suggest it entered the Rothermere property empire around the same time as Ferne Park Cottage a decade earlier. Ferne House and Ferne Park themselves, worth upwards of £50m, are registered in Lord and Lady Rothermere’s names but again this appears to be as trustees of a trust and “care of Dixon Wilson”, ie David Nelson. There is no mortgage against this property, but when in 2006 Rothermere added new east and west wings to Ferne House he did use £50m worth of DMGT shares held by his Bermuda vehicle Rothermere Continuation Ltd as security for a loan (without properly declaring the matter to the stock market).

Thus, with the help of an accountant who specialises in “offshore trusts and the UK resident who has retained a foreign domicile”, the proprietor of the newspaper that judges who does and doesn’t love Britain also enjoys one of its richest and most tax-avoiding property portfolios.

It’s probably worth adding here that the xenophobic Daily Mail probably shared UKIP’s belief that London housing is scarce because of all those immigrants from eastern Europe. The reality is that it’s scarce, because rich investors are pushing the prices beyond ordinary people’s ability to buy them. And this shows that Rothermere and his wife are two of them.

Private Eye on the Non-Dom Press Barons of Fleet Street

April 22, 2015

Ed Miliband’s announcement a few weeks ago that he would end non-dom tax status was greeted with howls of derision from the right-wing Tory press. The Evening Standard, Torygraph and the Heil all claimed that if the various millionaires resident in Britain, who weren’t paying their taxes here, were forced to do so, then they would all leave en masse.

As Private Eye pointed out in last week’s issue, these paper’s stance has hardly been disinterested. Their owners are all non-doms. Evgeny Lebedev, the Russian oligarch, who owns the Evening Standard, last year dodged the Eye’s questions on where he pays his tax. The weirdo Barclay brothers, the owners of the Torygraph, are tax exiles in Monaco and the Channel Islands. And the Mail’s Viscount Rothermere is another one. He inherited his non-dom tax status from his father, despite not living abroad and building something that can only be described as a stately home in the south of England.

Sky also decided to join in the criticism, while obviously not mentioning that its owner, Rupert Murdoch, also doesn’t pay tax in Britain. Neither in fact, does Dirty Rupe’s papers, the Sun and the Times, which the Eye revealed a few years ago to be registered abroad for the purposes of corporation tax. So much for the true-blue British patriotism of these papers.

The Eye refuted all this criticism by printing the views of Jolyon Maugham, a QC who has advised both Labour and the Tories on tax policies. Maugham pointed to the similar criticisms levelled at Labour by the papers when the party first started levying taxes on non-doms in 2008. Then the Mail predicted a massive stock market crash, and it, the Telegraph and the British Banking Association all warned that Britain’s millionaires were considering leaving the country. In fact, the opposite was true. By the end of 2014, according to the Eye, about 54 per cent of property sales in Kensington were to foreign purchasers. At the moment, there are 115,000 non-doms in London, because the capital is still an extremely attractive place for millionaires.

The article also points out that the Financial Times also supports the ending of non-dom tax status. They suggest, however, the paper didn’t come out and make its opposition to the tax status earlier because until 2013, it was partly owned by Dame Marjorie Scardino, who would have been entitled to non-dom tax status on her London flat.

Readers of Johnny Void’s blog will know about the problems created in London by the presence of the global super-rich, and the way they are pushing ordinary working and lower-middle class Londoners out of the city. In a post I reblogged here a few days ago, Mr Void described the appalling destruction of London’s working class and counter- or alternative cultural heritage. Like the historic Black Cap gay bar, Soho, Tin Pan alley, parts of Camden market, and the relocation of St Martin’s school of art. It does seem that the capital’s real, living heritage that has grown up over decades and centuries, is being gutted in order to leave the capital another sterile, homogenous global environment for the planet’s super rich.

This has to be resisted – not just in London, but all over England and the UK. It’s part of a general process throughout Britain where gentrification and the desire to please and attract the wealthy from across the world is destroying working class communities, and the places they live, work, shop and relax across the UK.

The problem isn’t that if Ed ends the non-dom tax bracket, there’ll be an exodus of oligarchs and multi-millionaires, as the Week put on its cover last Friday. The problem is the opposite – that if the power and cupidity of the super-rich isn’t curtailed, they’ll price the poor out of their homes altogether. It’s most acute in London, but if it isn’t stopped, it’ll come to somewhere near you very quickly.

Huff Post on Kipper Throwing Strop at Bristol Uni on Any Questions

March 1, 2015

Radio 4’s political debate programme, Any Questions on Friday was at Bristol Uni. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the radio equivalent of BBC 1’s Question Time. A different panel of politicians appear at various locations up and down the country each week, and are asked questions by the audience. On the panel this last week was David Coburn, a UKIP MEP. Coburn’s odd in that he’s openly gay, yet opposes same-sex marriage. He’s accused its supporters as ‘equality Nazis’. Which is weird, considering that the Nazis most certainly did not favour equality, and were very firmly against male homosexuality. During the Third Reich gay men were sent to the concentration camps, and identified with a pink triangle on their camp uniform. It’s quite bizarre, considering that in the bio that was sent to the audience, he described himself as ‘a big, screaming poof’.

The Huffington Post’s article, Ukip MEP David Coburn Got Slow Hand-Clapped So Called BBC Audience Names, reports how the students were definitely not impressed by Coburn’s remarks about immigrants pricing British people out of the housing market. So they started to give him the slow handclap. This enraged Coburn, and he started ranting about how the audience was ‘Green’ and full of ‘Lib Dems’. The article begins

Ukip MEP David Coburn appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions programme on Friday evening. He got slow hand-clapped by members of the audience. So he called them names.

Coburn got into a fight with the audience at Bristol University during a discussion about housing. “How would we know how many houses we need? Because we don’t know how many people are coming into the country,” he said, having dismissed the “wind” from Labour’s shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds.

Coburn, Ukip’s MEP from Scotland, said Britain should leave the EU in order to be able to properly understand how many houses needed to be built. Members of the audience then started to loudly slow handclap the MEP.

“This is a blatantly Green [Party] audience,” Coburn shot back, as host Jonathan Dimbleby tried to keep things calm. “Many of these people sitting around here, all very nice bourgeois Greens and whatever and so on and so forth, what about the working man? How can he afford a house if he is competing with open door immigration?”

The article’s at http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/02/27/ukip-mep-david-coburn-was-slow-hand-clapped-by-bbc-audience_n_6772468.html. There’s an audio file with it, so you can hear this broadcasting train wreck for yourself.

Now I don’t know how many people in the audience were Green party members or Lib Dems. I’m sure there were a number, but probably far less than Coburn believes. The Lib Dems have lost a lot of student support, and created a great deal of hostility for themselves on campuses up and down the country through raising tuition fees. I’ve been at conferences on medieval history, where speakers have compared Nick Clegg with some of the Middle Ages most notorious liars and slippery customers. It’s one of the reasons why I believe that Labour’s plan to cut tuition fees from £9,000 down to £6,000 should be a vote-winner.

The party political allegiances of the students there probably wasn’t the only reason they showed their disapproval so audibly. There’s now a global market in education, and people come to British universities from all over the world. And increasingly vice-versa. Brits are now also choosing to study in America, and also at continental universities, such as Paris and Brussels. Many members of the academic staff are also foreign. Among the lecturers at the archaeology and anthropology department at Bristol, for example, were academics from across Europe – Greece, Germany and Portugal. There were also visiting speakers, who gave seminars and lectures to the Arch-Anth Soc (Archaeology and Anthropology Society) from across the world. The students were no less diverse, coming from places like Greece, America, Canada, India and Thailand. This is part of what makes going to uni such an enriching experience. Quite apart from the purely academic study, you get to meet and mix with people from different, often vastly different backgrounds and cultures.

And your own understanding of the world, its immense problems and vast opportunities, is broadened.

With so many in the audience either foreign, or the friends and fellow students of people from outside the UK, it really isn’t surprising that the audience disliked Coburn’s comments so strongly. They are simply narrow and xenophobic. And many of the foreign students are going to find them particularly hollow, as the fees for them were much higher than those for domestic students. They were, however, living in the same halls of residence, and the same types of student accommodation. So they probably didn’t feel that they were pushing house prices up.

Quite apart from the experiences of foreign students and their circumstances, Coburn’s attempt to link it to immigration from the EU, or anywhere else, is quite wrong. There have been cases recorded in the right-wing press, like the Daily Mail, where large numbers of immigrants have placed a strain on available stocks of council housing. However, the root cause of the lack of affordable housing is because the incomes of the very rich have increased far beyond those of the working and lower middle class, regardless of ethnicity or immigrant status. Not enough houses have been built, and since Thatcher the government has been trying to get rid of council housing. In fact Thatcher expressly forbade any more from being built. As for affordable housing, for many people this is a grim joke. The rents for affordable homes are pegged at 80 per cent of the market rate, which for many people in London still means that they will be unable to afford them. The rich, through their immense wealth, push up property prices, beyond the ability of the lower income groups to rent or purchase.

And if immigrants from the continent really were pushing us all out of house and home through their sheer numbers and obscene wealth, why is it then that, according to the stats Johnny Void has put on his blog, 34 per cent of rough sleepers in London are foreign?

The only areas of which I can think, where Coburn’s comments about immigrants pushing up property prices might be true, is in the very affluent parts of London, like Kensington and Knightsbridge, where luxury apartment have been built aimed at the global super-rich, such as the Chinese, or bought up by Russian oligarchs. Now the last time I looked, China and Russia were not part of the EU.

Coburn was given the slow hand-clap by Bristol Uni’s students, not just because some of them were left-wing, though that was probably also part of it. But also because they knew from their own experience at Uni that Coburn was talking dangerous, xenophobic nonsense. And they reacted accordingly.

The Bulgarian Peasant Party’s Solution to the Housing Problem

June 1, 2014

Last week I blogged on the several contemporary issues, which were similar to those tackled by the Bulgarian peasants’ party, BANU, nearly a hundred years ago. These were a local village power company, which was run as a co-operative by the whole community. It was thus similar to the idea of the Utopian British Socialist, Thomas Spence, for the communal ownership of land by the individual parishes, and also to the idea of the Bulgarian peasants’ party for the transformation of Bulgarian agricultural society through the formation of peasant cooperatives. I also remarked on the way the Bulgarians had also set up a policy of allowing the banks to provide loans on reasonable rates to credit cooperatives as a way of driving out the moneylenders. This is a problem that now besets British society, through the return of loan sharks and payday loan companies, like Wonga, that offer extortionate rates, because of wage freezes and cuts to welfare benefits.

Bulgaria, like modern Britain, also suffered from a housing crisis, made worse by the influx of thousands of refugees displaced by the First World War. They attempted to solve it through a mixture of policies, one of which was similar to the Bedroom Tax. They laid down the maximum amount of space that a family could occupy in a property, so that there would be more space available for the homeless. They also set about building cooperatively owned tenement blocks. R.J. Crampton describes these policies in A Short History of Modern Bulgaria (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1987) 90).

The principle of maximum holding was applied to urban as well as rural property. The post-war refugee invasion had placed severe strains upon the already hard-pressed housing resources of Bulgaria’s towns, particularly Sofia. According to Agrarian legislation no family was to occupy more than two rooms and a kitchen, with an extra room for every two children over fourteen. Office space was also subject to restriction, and in the case of both domestic and office accommodation commissioners acting on behalf of the ministry of the interior had extensive powers to enforce the new and widely resented regulations. A second and more popular response to the housing shortage, and one much in conformity with Agrarian philosophy, was to encourage the building of new apartment blocks cooperatively financed and thereafter owned by their inhabitants. This reform survived the fall of the Stamboliiski regime and cooperative building continued through the inter-war period.

The German radical Socialist party, the USPD, also had a similar policy in the same period, for the same reasons: to solve the shortage of housing caused by the First World War.

What’s needed isn’t the Bedroom Tax, which is really an excuse to cut Housing Benefit by pretending to withdraw a subsidy that never in fact existed, if tenants of supposedly under-occupied properties don’t move out to suitable homes, which also don’t existed. What is needed to solve the problem is simply building more social and genuinely affordable housing, which the Conservative actively seem to oppose. When the ‘right to buy’ legislation was passed, councils were forbidden from building more council houses, and ‘affordable’ properties are only pegged at 80 per cent of the market worth, which means that in many parts of the London houses are well out of the price range of the very poorest, who need them. It’s possible that cooperation schemes, like those enacted by the Bulgarians, might be part of the solution.

Something like the Bulgarians’ legislation limiting the maximum amount of space families can occupy could also be applied to private housing. The Bulgarian policy was based on the view that you should only possess what you can actually work yourself. Thus there was a maximum amount of land allowed to be cultivated by peasant farmers. Large landowners were forced to sell the excess land to the smaller peasants, so that each peasant farmer had just enough for his needs and those of wider Bulgarian society.

The great French anarchist, P.-J. Proudhon, had a similar view. Much of his Mutualist anarchist system was based on his experience of peasant society in the Jura, where he grew up. While he didn’t set the maximum amount of space people could occupy in their houses, he did recommend that people should lawfully own only what they could actually practically use themselves. Thus, landlords, who held multiple properties, which they rented out, should have all but the property they themselves lived in expropriated and given to the people, who needed them.

I believe a similar policy could be usefully implemented today. Perhaps we need the ‘right to buy’ principle extended to all the private tenants, now forced to rent homes at exorbitant rents because of the way available housing was bought up by people seeking to rent them out later in the housing boom of the 1990s. I also believe that there are many under-occupied private homes, with considerable space going without tenants, in certain parts of London, such as Knightsbridge, Kensington and Westminster.

And possibly Chipping Norton. I can’t see how Dave Cameron, whose government is responsible for the Bedroom Tax, and who has said repeatedly that ‘We’re all in it together’, would possibly object to having to share his home with a couple of crusties.