Saturday, 13 March 2010

The Big Issue issue

Do Big Issue sellers upset other people? I have got to the point where I cross the road rather than walk past one. It's not because the last time I bought one the bloke snatched it back saying 'Hey, don't take it; it's my last one!' Nor is it because the previous one I bought turned out to be second-hand and out of date. No, it's because they make me feel powerless to help. I can't walk past without looking a vendor in the eye, and I don't want to buy a magazine that I don't have time to read.

The Big Issue has been going for twenty years and during that time governments have done little or nothing to cure the problem of homelessness. On the contrary, houses have become increasingly a speculative asset. The replacement of the rates by council tax lightens the burden on people who own houses without occupying them, and grotesque increases in house prices give speculators an incentive to hold out for a profit.

It is all part of the growing inequality in our society, and I am sure there are cures for that. We should send a mission to find out how they do things in Scandinavia; I'm sure they don't have tens of thousands of people sleeping rough in the snows of Norway or Sweden. But which MPs are going to take a lead on that? They all seem to have second homes anyway.

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