Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

Scapegoats And Distractions

Only a few discerning observers pointed out, amid the flurry of media attention following the BNP victory in Millwall, that the real problem was one of housing.

Squall 5, Oct/Nov 1993, pg. 17.

According to the series of vox pop interviews with locals, the common grudge expressed by Tower Hamlets’ white residents, was that ‘coloured’ people were being given tenancies while white, indentifiabley native East Enders were still waiting.

What emerges is that Joe Public’s tendency to seek scapegoats, has made a racial issue out of a housing problem.

There is indeed a well known correlation between racism and recession in the history of this land and indeed the world. However, it becomes more obvious where Joe Public (Caucasian) should be directing his anger, when one examines the Tower Hamlets’ skyline that provided the backdrop to the vox pop interviews.

There stands Canary Wharf - Government funded to the tune of millions - mostly empty.

There stands luxury housing built and waiting for the Docklands to catch on with businessmen and women as a hip place to live - empty.

There will soon be a partly Government-funded extension to the underground system, designed to service the empty luxury.

Meanwhile, the nine Bangladeshis squeezing into a council allocated flat in the Isle of Dogs have become the target for Joe Public’s discontent, as Joe himself is still waiting.

Empty luxury housing is the backdrop to Joe’s misdirected accusations and it seems obvious that there are those who are fairly content that Joe continues to miss the point.

In 1986, a home affairs select committee urged an immediate increase in Tower Hamlet’s housing grant, warning: “It is hard to imagine anything more damaging to racial harmony in Tower Hamlets than competition between different communities for increasingly scarce housing.” It seems quite apparent that this advice was ignored.

In September this year John Major said: “All social policy begins with economic policy.”

The pristine, expensive docklands sits as a product of economic policy, empty and rich. It ought to be obvious to the people of Millwall that, if a fraction of the money spent on it had been diverted to the rest of the borough’s social problems, we would not now have white Joe Public squabbling with his negro/asian neighbours for the meagre scraps falling off the economic table.