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Separate But Equal, Part 1

Instituting a new series to examine disturbing cases of deliberate self-segregation of “marginalised” communities carried out in the name of social justice

Forget “the only gay in the village” – Manchester City Council is putting forward plans for a majority-LGBT housing community for people aged over 50. In this socially engineered ghetto, eligibility to live would depend not on one’s ability to afford the rent but one’s ability to satisfy the diversity checklist of a local government busybody.

Once again, the best intentions of the social justice community result in the most extreme and counterproductive of solutions.

From the Guardian’s report:

Manchester city council has announced plans to create the UK’s first retirement community aimed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

According to the local authority, the city is home to the country’s largest number of LGBT people outside of London and is due to see a rapid growth in the number of LGBT residents over 65 in the next two decades. More than 7,000 over-50s living in Manchester identify as LGBT.

A recent report by the Manchester-based LGBT Foundation, commissioned by the council, revealed that older LGBT people experience higher levels of loneliness and isolation.

Many were fearful of discrimination in existing accommodation and there was a desire for affordable LGBT-specific housing where people could be open about their identity in later life.

The extra care scheme – a targeted development for older people – will house a minimum of 51% LGBT residents, but heterosexual people will also be welcome to apply to live in the accommodation.

The housing will have specially trained staff based on site and pets will be welcome. As well as the LGBT Foundation, the project is being supported by Stonewall Housing and the Homes and Communities Agency.

As one sceptical interviewee in the BBC report wisely asks:

The issue we are going to come up against along the way is that we’ve fought for equality. Do we need a separate space?

Quite.

Of course, the gimlet-eyed do-gooder at Manchester City Council responds, patronisingly:

It’s not necessarily about ghettoising particular communities. It’s offering people who want it that opportunity to spend their time with people who they know will understand them.

Ah well, that’s fine then. If people want to withdraw from wider society into strongholds (weakholds?) where fragility is pandered to rather than resilience developed, of course it is the sacred and noble duty of local government to assist them in their folly at every turn. Who are the guardians of the public purse to question the latest social justice orthodoxy?

Some may say that this is a local decision for local communities, and ask what standing a writer from London possibly has to weigh in on a decision made by Manchester City Council? And I would be amendable to that argument if it were actually the people of Manchester on the hook for this experiment in social divisiveness. But of course they are not.

In overcentralised Britain, the dominant single source of local authority funds – 40% in the case of Manchester – are disbursed by central government after having been raised through general national taxation. And besides the obvious social folly inherent in creating fragile, unresilient and homogenous minority communities in the name of social justice, the fact that all British taxpayers are funding this folly makes it directly my concern, and that of everyone else.

If a private developer wants to create an ethnically, gender or sexuality-based homogeneous environment for private tenants or homebuyers then that is a separate discussion fraught with its own parallel legal questions about discrimination and equality. But in the case of a public initiative and social housing, the government has absolutely no business discriminating along these lines, setting quotas or engaging in any other form of naked social engineering.

We should not be unsympathetic to some of the stories of older LGBT people featured in the BBC News report – being ostracised by friends and family of one’s own generation after coming out must be incredibly hard, particularly in older age. But it should be for institutions of civil society to step in to address these real social problems, and we must get out of the habit of immediately pivoting to local and national government for a solution to each and every problem – especially where the mitigation involves the use of general taxpayer funds.

Heavy-handed governmental interventions such as this only serve to crowd out independent solutions from civil society, and reinforce the expectation that government must play an active, watchful part in nearly every area of our lives. And no matter how well-intentioned individual schemes may be, British taxpayers should not be left on the hook for implementing a social justice revolution in Manchester or anywhere else.

 

Separate is NOT equal - Stonewall - segregation - LGBT

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It’s Local Election Day. Who Cares?

Zac Goldsmith or Sadiq Khan for London? Who cares?

“I think voting is great, but if I have to choose between a douche and a turd, I just don’t see the point” – Stan Marsh, South Park

Apparently Thursday 5th May – local election day across the UK – is being dubbed “Super Thursday“.

Except that unlike the Super Tuesdays of the American presidential primary calendar, there is nothing remotely exciting about these local elections, with the partial exception of the Scottish and Welsh assembly polls.

In London, we are bestowed with the awesome privilege of choosing between two leading candidates for mayor – Zac Goldsmith and Sadiq Khan – neither of whom have any meaningful executive experience and both of whom fail the first test of competence and political courage by failing to support the immediate expansion of Heathrow Airport. For this dismal failure alone I cannot bring myself to vote for either man.

Depressingly, the only remotely praiseworthy recent act of English localism – the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners – has been badly administered and (with a few honourable exceptions) increasingly captured by the same mindless party line approach to voting seen elsewhere. And the scheme does not even apply to London – here, the mayor holds the powers of police commissioner, meaning there is no possibility of a New York style Giuliani-Bratton double-act to crack down on crime. Nobody in London specifically responsible for crime can be removed at the ballot box.

Granted, “Super” Thursday carries a little more weight if one is hugely invested in how aggregate tallies of local council seats reflect on the leadership of the main political parties. But with all the parties committed to campaigning for Britain to remain in the European Union (save UKIP, who often may as well be fighting for the Remain camp) again there is little incentive to specially reward or unduly punish one of the parties currently engaged in the process of selling out our democracy more than any other.

Besides, if you are choosing the person to represent your local ward or district because of something that David Cameron or Jeremy Corbyn said on TV or because everyone in your family/workplace/pub votes a certain way out of tribal loyalty, then you probably don’t understand how local politics is supposed to work. But then I cannot really fault those who do so, for in nearly all cases local authorities have so little real power in over-centralised Britain that it doesn’t much matter who controls the council anyway.

So, if you are a hardcore Sadiq Khan or Zac Goldsmith supporter (assuming that a human watercolour painting like Zac Goldsmith actually has any hardcore fans) – good luck today. May your man win, and may you dance in the street in celebration.

To those pundits waiting to pounce on the results as they come in, and speculate feverishly about whether significant council seat losses for Labour will bring forward the much-anticipated coup against Jeremy Corbyn – knock yourselves out.

To my bloggers-in-arms, fighting the good fight to make the thinking person’s case for Brexit and the restoration of our democracy – keep doing what you are doing. Working alongside you is an honour and a privilege.

…and may all your Super Thursdays be bright.

 

Zac Goldsmith - Sadiq Khan - London Mayoral Election

Bottom Image: The Guardian

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