Housing: Another victory for chumocracy under Johnson’s reign – and a shot in the kneecap for the rest of us

What the hell am I talking about?

Answer: the new planning bill put forward by Conservatives or the “developer’s charter” (as it is known by the Labour Party) which makes it easier for developers to ride roughshod over local interest groups and “gags” residents in the area who object to any new developments.

Why are the Conservatives putting such a bill forward?

Answer 1: the Conservatives have said that they are pushing the bill forward in order to make sure that future generations have housing options.

Answer 2: Seeing as how house prices are already sky-high (as a result of millionaires, billionaires and their mates flooding the housing market with dirty money) it seems unlikely that the next generation would even be able to afford whatever houses or apartments that develops might offer.

Most likely answer: Therefore, the most likely reason for the cutting of red tape would be because the Conservative party received wads of developer’s cash. Shadow Community Secretary Steve Reed is quoted in the Guardian as saying that “donations from large developers had risen by 400% under the Boris Johnson leadership.”

How many times have we seen ministers get up in front of parliament and call for some kind of legislature after they have received funding from a vested interest? Clearly the same thing is happening right now. Developers have provided huge swathes of money to the Tory party and now they want to see the return on their investment.

They are getting that return in spades. With no local residents or interest groups (one would assume this includes environmental groups) allowed to stand in their way, developers are free to build where they like, when they like and damn the consequences. An effective green light that would put even more power in the hands of big business whilst cutting themselves free of any collective power that the people should have in their hands when it comes to changes that effect their lives.

Developers are already given wiggle room and the freedom to make their own (often disastrous) choices, the prime one – especially in my area – building on flood plains, using less than suitable building materials or often using no materials at all as was shown in the reason deluge of complaints against Persimmon Homes. Building and selling houses has never been more lucrative, and with the lack of waiting times when it comes from purchasing land to building properties as a result of this bill, they are set to up their profits considerably.

With a flood of properties into the market, one might think that homes might become more affordable. However, houses are never developed at a rate that matches the increase in prices. Unaffordable homes will be shoved on unsuitable land and they will fall directly into the hands of property companies and private landlords at the expense of the next generation. This will add to the wealth divide and we all know what horrors that can bring.

Data funnelled from NHS to private companies will ruin your insurance

Listening to the radio yesterday, it wasn’t all that surprising to hear that the Conservatives were overlooking the selling of private data from NHS medical records to third parties. The Conservative government are aching to make money from any and all methods.

Not too long ago, I wrote about the issues that I had faced getting life insurance. A history of mental health issues means that I am unlikely candidate for life insurance and therefore, if I got hit by a bus tomorrow, I wouldn’t be able to help my partner pay for the house with anything other than the pittance in my savings account.

The reason why I bring up the mental health issue in regards to the selling of your medical data to third parties is because third parties can be advertising firms, betting companies, social media platforms, media companies and, of course, insurance companies. Advertising companies and betting firms are one thing – we can block these if we want to and not all of us are subjective when it comes to companies trying to sell us crap on the old interweb machine.

Insurance, however, has the ability to wreak havoc on our very lifestyles in a very real way. If a motor insurance company has your data and finds out that you have diabetes, they may reject your claim. Now, diabetes is already labelled on insurance questionnaires which already drives up premiums. But let’s say that the same insurance company also knows that you visited the hospital twice in the past six months because you had concerns regarding your insulin levels. You have just become a higher risk despite taking twice daily blood sugar checks and managing your diet. The insurance company doesn’t care. The data says you have visited hospital for concerns regarding your health. Your premium just went up. The car needed for work is suddenly unachievable because, on a tight budget, you cannot afford to drive to work.

Data was worth more in 2019 than oil. Your attention and how to gain it has an incredibly high price. Data regarding your health is a completely different ball-field. Algorithms can now predict your ailments before you know what they are yourself. If you have a loyalty card with Tesco and you suddenly have cravings for certain foods that are associated with pregnancy, the algorithms at Tesco can spot that trend and start advertising baby products. And then, bam. They know about it before you’ve even peed on a stick. You’re scratching your head and wondering why you are getting coupons or emails for reduced baby clothes…

Cambridge Analytica proudly promote themselves by claiming that they can sell things to social media users by using over 5000 pieces of information that they have acquired for every user whose data they examine. We know this to be possible. If insurance companies use this kind of algorithmic technology, it means that they could very well predict what ailments you may or may not have in the future depending on your medical records and those of your elders. You might never develop any hereditary diseases or illnesses but that doesn’t matter too much because the insurance companies are looking at probability, possibility, and risk. Health insurance, life insurance, travel insurance, car insurance, worker insurance – these are all now at risk and so is your very ability to purchase a new house, go on holiday or the opportunity to own a car.

“Politics of Envy”

As humans, we want. It’s in our nature. It could be something trivial, or it could be something vast and seemingly unachievable. For instance, I want to end the climate crisis and make sure that we stabilise the now fragile ecosystem. I don’t know if I want that because I can’t fathom a life without nature and an abundance of animal and plant life, or whether it is because, on a primal level, I fear for my own survival and that of my family.

But there is so much more than that. As someone who was raised in a working class family, I want a house. I want a roof over my head and a bed and car so that I can live my life in comfort. If I’m being honest with myself, that’s not all I want. As a working class person, I want the same kind of life that I see other people living. A wage that would not just buy me a car, but a car that is better for the environment than the grade of car that I can actually afford.

But I am being envious of those who have. Because I am someone who does not “have”. Why is expecting the same level of comfort or wanting more money to achieve fiscal security envious?

We are told that if we want to earn more, we should work harder and progress. That we should have a stronger work ethic. Maybe we should become entrepreneurs and make something new or get a skill that is in demand. This raises the question: why does the person who works all the hours under the sun just to get by earn less than someone who came up with an idea? After all, we are not all inventors. We don’t all spot some diamond in the rough that we can mine and make our riches. Many of us are just hard workers who turn up day after day to a job that we don’t care about but that brings in money to get us by. And we are told that we don’t have a good work ethic? That we lack dedication?

We are made to feel like we are not as deserving as someone who had a bright spark of an idea. What is worse is that “politics of envy” is not a term commonly used by people who have built a life for themselves from the ground up. It is used most by people who were born into wealth. People who have never known what it is to be working class and who have never had to worry about getting food on the table.

The very term “politics of envy” is in itself a clear indicator of the psychology of its users. It is to highlight a distinction between an “us” and “them.” The “us” have it, the “them” don’t. The phrase also drips with a disgusting level of contempt that the average worker. When this kind of phrase is used by someone within the upper echelons of society (someone like Jacob Rees-Mogg for instance) it has biblical and thus sinful connotations. Most disdainfully, it feels like a language of an authoritarian looking down at the lowest rungs of society.