In post-Renaissance Europe, there can be no excuse for ugliness, and yet it abounds. Some people see no problem; many things which are ugly happen to be cheap and convenient, and perversely popular. This points to one thing: that some people are not receptive to beauty.
It does not point towards one of the most irritating, hackneyed and untruthful phrases in circulation: that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, which implies subjectivity. I propose, from observation, that beauty is an objective truth. Those of us with notions of beauty will agree on what is beautiful. Sunsets, fertile valleys, swallows in flight—who will refute it? If the matter was subjective, would someone not wish to assert that the warm glow of dusk is an aesthetic abomination?
We may quibble over minutiae because beauty is metaphysical, its laws written not in numbers as the language of physics, but perceived through feeling rather than deciphered through equations. But as it exists objectively, we perceive it in broadly the same way.
I now speak only for myself, but as one who feels exalted by beauty, you may imagine how the opposite effect is induced by its absence. A while ago, standing on the platform of East Croydon station, it occurred to me that I could see nothing beautiful, and it occasioned a sadness which was profound enough to be memorable.
Take also the example of Edridge Road, off the Croydon Flyover. Face south and bask in a sense of homeliness as you look past the modest Victorian bricks and mortar to the spire of St. Peter’s Church. Then have your cosy contentment shattered as you about-turn 180 degrees and look north to the hard, jackbooted tower blocks of the town centre, mocking you with their indomitable girth.
But I am fortunate. I am not entirely cut off from beauty as long so long as I live in leafy suburbia and travel the country for work. Consider the person raised on an inadequate housing estate, forced to drive every day along an anonymous dual carriageway to work in a post-war town centre designed by accountants. What nourishment does their soul get? What lifts their minds higher?
It is common today that certain egalitarians should denigrate true beauty as elitist, because it takes time, money and effort to create, and some people have little aptitude for it. But far from being elitist, anyone may be touched by beauty, and its benefits are limitless. It gives the aimless aspiration, brings joy to the depressed and is something to he who has nothing.
Let us reject the weasel words which justify bad art and architecture — ‘innovative’, ‘diverse’, ‘inclusive’, ‘subversive’, ‘empowering’ and ‘progressive’ — and make planning authorities, developers, the Arts Council and other organisations responsible for the physical and cultural landscape work towards a beautiful world, for everyone’s sake.
There is only one course of action – to totally and utterly reform the government, clearing out every amoral politician and stringently regulating future elections to ensure only those who are demonstrably learned, wise and possessed of a genuine concern for the welfare of individuals are able to enter Parliament. We cannot expect anything good to come from a Chamber stuffed with the scientifically, historically and economically illiterate, or a load of self-serving sociopaths.
Ordinary people have two ways of influencing government policy, persuasion, and force, and both were tried and failed. Scientists and medical professionals, business owners, religious leaders and philosophers all made well-substantiated rational arguments to no avail. Protests were a display of force but achieved little. To dissent was to be ridiculed or suppressed, or even criminalised and brutalised by police.
The underlying fact is that lockdown is a form of tyranny and must be treated as such. Past tyrannies have only fallen with the help of external powers. The Nazi tyranny ended after a war in which millions died. The Soviet tyranny collapsed through weakened governance which Western efforts worked to undermine. The Chinese Communist tyranny has never collapsed because nobody has stood up to China.
Of course, overthrowing the status quo and completely starting again is pure fantasy; it isn’t workable, so I will alter the question because there can be no guarantee against future lockdowns, and instead ask: what should we do in the event of another?
The first thing is to defy it entirely, and maintain normality as far as we are able, hardening ourselves against the threats from government and the frowns of fuzzy-brained neighbours. We must forge connections with those who are of a like mind for the sake of mutual support.
If we can thus sustain ourselves, our next imperative is to become evangelists. We will be mistreated by the media and censored on line, so commence pamphleteering and try to bring one person to reason at a time. It worked well for Martin Luther and Thomas Paine. A child will consent to being locked down in his bedroom to avoid the bogeyman until, daring to step outside and goad it, he discovers it does not exist. In the same way, it must take courage and reason to expose the fearful superstition on which lockdowns depend.
Councillor Pender also spoke on Lockdown and wrote: I was greatly heartened by the first half of the event, focusing on how we can ensure that the kind of coercive polices we saw for two years following March 2020, can be firmly consigned to Britain’s past. I was pleased to see the group’s commitment to resistance; to acting against such policies, if they were ever implemented again.
He also wrote in summary of the event as follows: It was great to hear the diverse range topics people addressed in the second half. I was pleased to be reminded of much of the deeper reasoning for, and benefit brought about by, the right to buy policy of the 1980s, which extended far beyond merely the leg up it gave to the individuals exercising the right. It was lovely to hear a beautifully constructed speech on the importance of beauty itself, particularly in art and architecture. I found myself being drawn into further agreement on the need for new UK nuclear, something which we see Government will remain in firm agreement on whoever wins the current Conservative Leadership election.
Mike’s speech on the importance of maintaining humility in local government was very convincing. This humility should lead us to prioritise the core functions of a local authority, while “getting out of the way” in many other areas. This was well illustrated by numerous convincing examples from Croydon, under Labour.
The concept of social housing was introduced just over 100 years ago. It started with the intentions of improving the living conditions of renters but has resulted in replacing slums 100 years ago with slums today.
My contention is that it is an outdated concept and selling off better social housing to private landlords and demolishing tower blocks would benefit the community, by encouraging tenants into work, improve property repairs and create an economically mixed tenant base.
The Housing and Town Planning Act (Addison Act) of 1919 was the beginning of social housing in the UK, enabling local authorities to use government funding to build social housing for the working classes. The aim was to provide high-quality homes with gardens in greenfield areas, with indoor toilets and fitted baths for working families who could afford to pay higher rents. Local councils began to compulsorily purchase farms, using the land for development.
These houses were spacious but expensive to build. The next phase saw former slums cleared and replaced with flats between 3 and 5 stories high, being a cheaper alternative to family houses. These flats were also 35% smaller than houses but still had 3 bedrooms.
Construction stopped during WW2. At the end of the war, the government restarted replacing homes lost by bombings with prefabricated houses, which could be made off-site and quickly assembled. These prefabs were supposed to last for 10 years, although there are still some in existence today.
Another cheaper solution was precast reinforced concrete, where unskilled labour could be used in construction. High-rise blocks of flats were developed using precast reinforced concrete.
So the quality of construction diminished. Instead of “high-quality houses”, families were housed in high-rise flats.
In 1980, the Right to Buy scheme was introduced, resulting in around 1 million homes sold in 10 years, with tenants buying mainly the better-quality homes. Council housing stocks diminished. The precast concrete properties were found to have structural issues and prospective purchasers had difficulty securing finance.
Councils were then left with poorer quality homes considered “hard to treat”. Councils were encouraged to hand over these properties to housing associations and other social landlords who could secure funding for regeneration works.
Private tenants do not have a right to buy – quite rightly in my opinion. However, they do have a proper choice of where exactly they want to live and the type of property that they want to live in, depending upon how much rent they can afford.
Up until the 1980s, rent was collected weekly and repairs could be reported at the same time. Council officers would undertake a pre-inspection unless the job was routine and their own workmen would carry out the repair. As landlords, it could be said that councils were fairly hands-on. Housing associations used small, local contractors but would carry out pre and post-inspections. This gradually changed, so now most social landlords contract out their entire maintenance operations to large maintenance contractors, including reporting repairs.
Opportunities to examine high-maintenance issues, from “lifestyle” to building deficiencies can be overlooked.
Private landlords generally want to maintain their properties to a high standard as ignoring issues increases damage and costs in the long run. Most provide a much better repairs service than social landlords as they have a financial interest in the property.
In 1996, a total of 26.6m households in owner-occupied properties, 5.97m in social housing and 3.54m in private rented properties.
Statistics from June 2022 show a total of 26.62m households in owner-occupied properties, 5.94m in social housing and 8.72m in private rented properties. So the number of owner-occupied and social rented properties has stayed fairly consistent over the last 26 years, but the private rented sector has increased by 250%.
By May 2019, claimants of Housing Benefit had reduced to 3.6 million, while 1.1 million households were receiving the housing element of Universal Credit. 73% of HB recipients (2.6 million) were tenants in the Social Rented Sector and 27% were in the Private Rented Sector (970,000). So much for the working families who could afford to pay higher rents!
Social landlords are moving from being councils to housing associations. Although they are “not for profit”, chief executives often earn six-figure salaries, and most management boards are paid. Housing associations do not pay tax on profits.
There is a regulator of social housing, who is responsible for ensuring that housing associations are properly managed, given the scale of public funds that they receive.
Contrast this with private landlords who only receive tax relief at 20% on mortgage interest and contribute to the treasury with tax on their profits.
Social housing is allocated on “need”, so having children, medical problems and no job all help to secure a home. Tenants also must prove that they are the responsibility of that local authority. Contrast that with private landlords – referencing to make sure that tenants can afford the rent so preference for those in work. Competition between landlords to have the best properties and secure highest rents. Complete choice for tenants – you can live anywhere that you want if you can pay the rent. The incentive is to have a successful career and many private tenants go on to buy their own properties.
Dumping tenants with mixed social needs together on estates simply results in chaos. High rates of crime, gangs and drugs. Private landlords are usually in mixed owner-occupied / private rented areas, so less anti-social impact.
My contention is that if all social housing was sold to private landlords – not property companies but individuals – there would be less worklessness, less crime, better properties and more tax for the treasury.
Selling 5.9m properties at half average value would generate £800 billion. If each property generated a £5k profit annually, there would be an additional £6 billion in tax.
The Licensing Act 1872 – among other things – stopped the practice of adding salt to drinks, which was originally put in beer to increase thirst and sales. This ‘improvement’ was made by the government to help us as consumers. I often think of how government intervention fails to improve things, as I pay for my own salted crisps to accompany a pint.
Words from my article for the Croydon Citizen from four years ago. The article was extensively about how Croydon Council had destroyed the bustling night time economy of the town centre of my youth, through a series of bright ideas to “improve the town”. These included a presumption to refuse new applications in the town centre for “premises used exclusively or primarily for the sale/supply of alcohol and/or loud amplified recorded music”. The council was thankfully finally reversing this initiative.
When they were running, I wrote in the Citizen about how plans to make Croydon a living wage borough, risks jobs at the proposed Westfield Shopping Centre, I note it has never been built. I also wrote about how the council spending £1.1 million on improving Surrey Street Market had led to over a 20% drop in traders.
At our last My Tuppenceworth, I spoke about how we needed a Democratically Elected Mayor of Croydon, we now have one. I now want to speak about how I implore that he and his council, leave my town, our town, alone.
We hear Westfield are once again looking to develop in Croydon. This is great news, and something is much needed. Now clearly the council needs to be involved in granting planning permission, and no doubt will need to weigh in on changes to roads, parking, and public transport. They have a statutory duty to be involved in these areas, beyond that, I ask they stay well clear.
The old Allders department store building, which before the council’s intervention had reinvented itself as a successful Village Outlet store, now has plans to become an arts venue. The idea of a venue where you can, too quote “lose oneself in art, beyond digital culture, where we can connect in the real world, in deeper and more meaningful stories.”, frankly sounds potty to me. But so what, I’m not their target market. What business is it of mine if someone wants to build this? What business is it of Croydon Council’s politicians or officers if someone wants to spend their sweat and treasure on building this? Their initiative is to be welcomed, but please Croydon Council stay out of their way. Beyond that, stop with any bright ideas, grand plans, and great initiatives. I’m sure if you just get out of their way, you will find many willing to invest in our great town.
Solidarity, the Polish Trade Union, brought 10 million people together. It survived a period of martial law imposed to crush it and helped bring about the downfall of their Communist government. On November 9, 1989, it was announced that starting at midnight, citizens of East Germany were free to cross the country’s borders. East and West Berliners flocked to the wall. As the border guard in charge frantically called his superiors, they gave no orders. Overwhelmed he gave the command to “Open the barrier!”. Both of these serve as a reminder that by coming together people can achieve the seemingly impossible.
Mahatma Gandhi, said “Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state has become lawless or corrupt. And a citizen who barters with such a state, shares in its corruption and lawlessness.”
The Reverend Martin Luther King said, “One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
Or as Aristotle put it “It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen.”
I’m not sure if we can stop a future lockdown. My suspicion is government will be reluctant to impose another full lockdown. They will instead salami slice our freedom away with the imposition of more and more restrictions that never fully disappear. These will be much harder to oppose as each one will be minor and have some alleged practical argument in favour of it. Whilst we may not be able to stop them, we can disobey them.
We need to build a polarity if not a majority. We need all of those who objected to any part of lockdown to come on board. We don’t need to insist on total agreement or compliance, after all we are not them. We are the free, we are the people who believe in live and let live.
That means we will often find ourselves arm in arm with those we disagree with, and with whom we share little common ground. But the common ground we have, the area we can agree on, and the way we build a group large enough to oppose lockdowns, is by banding with those who all agree we must once again, be not only free, but free from the fear of more government restrictions.
We should never try to impose this on others, we may need sometimes to follow the rules and pick our battles. We should also never mock those who follow the rules. Instead, we can simply go about our lives as a free people regardless of what government says or others do.
If the restrictions come again, we can meet in the park as many have, or better still pop round to each other’s homes. If you can go into work, go in. We can meet-up on public transport or at the supermarket. With the exception of medical environments, refuse to wear a mask. We can’t go to the pubs if they are closed but bring a bottle and you are all welcome around mine for drinks.
We need to build networks of the widest set of people. Not those who agree with us 100%, but who agree on this one issue. In May we organised a hustings of otherwise disparate political parties who were all pro freedom and anti-lockdown. Despite their differences, on this overwhelmingly important issue, they agreed and came together. We must all do that, find that common ground with as many as possible, and defy anyone that ever tries to lock us down again.
Our second My Tuppenceworth turned out to be another great free speech event. We had 8 speeches on the night from 5 speakers, each followed by a lively Q&A. Where people have shared their speeches, we have published and linked to them below.
The first half of the evening was on the topic of “How do we ensure there is never another lockdown?”. The following people spoke on the subject:
My tuppenceworth is back, on Tuesday 2nd August 2022 at the South Croydon Conservative Club.
You are the star!
This is your opportunity to speak to those assembled on an issue that really matters to you and give your tuppenceworth. Each speaker will have up to 3 minutes to speak about an issue dear to their heart, followed by a short Q&A.
The first half of the evening we invite speakers to speak on the topic: “How do we ensure there is never another lockdown?” In the second half we are open to any topic, but we do ask all speeches are non-partisan and remind you the laws of slander still apply!
Come prepared or do off the cuff, this is your opportunity to exercise some free speech.
If you do have notes, we can publish to increase the reach of your ideas as we have done previously.
The committee by the
nature of who attends it, are likely to have more than 5% of the companies
shares so they could call an EGM within 14 days to vote on a resolution that
they have just written. That resolution would also include up to 1000 words of
explanation and be sent to every shareholder on the shareholders
The board would also
likely have to rebutt the resolution which given that the petitioners are some
of the very largest shareholders vs their servants the board of Directors would
be interesting and most likely shareholders would favour the largest
The committees cheap,
simple formation would solve excessive pay, bonuses for failure, stop board
infighting and politiciking over the top job of being a CEO, select truly the
very best team leader for the job regardless of the commissions payable
to the headhunters (related to high pay, high bonuses, high share awards) and
the upping entire boardroom pay regardless of performance.
Also it enables the
owners to smoothly replace bad CEOs or Chairman before they do too much damage
without being ransomed or blackmailed. Also if the company needs a rights
issue, the Chairman just asks those around the table if they would back the
rights issue and job done 3 underwriters!
priveledged access given to the gatekeepers :- the big fund managers
Blackrock, Legal & General, Norges Bank, Insight who don’t want to increase
their costs or accountability to manage or be involved attending the committees
and unable to trade on ‘insider hints/tips’ they gained.
Weak points of this
opposition: public press embaressment of pension funds refusing or just not
attending a short meeting with the chairman when they have £100million invested
in them (It worked in Sweden!) – they then attended the next year!
1) invite chairman and
the largest beneficial chairman to a meeting with Sharesoc of many plcs
2) gather 140 activists,
give them a single share plus add a large shareholder and submit a full
shareholder resolution requisitions to plcs.
Option 1 is cheaper and
Option 2 is involved but
gets wide coverage and attention.
Hmm thanks to this I
think I should add a draft resolution to the wikipedia page and add SNAC.