We have got used to being the world’s nanny, wagging a finger as we tell other countries that they must live up to the standards of “the international community”. So how do we take it, when that international community has a look at us, and says that we’re not up to scratch? Not well, I’m afraid.
Raquel Rolnik, UN investigator, came to look at housing in the UK. Having recently visited slums in Indonesia, she said our problems were equally urgent. She spent a fortnight talking to ministers, council officials and tenants. She went to Belfast, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and London, looking at council estates, crisis centres and housing associations. Her conclusion was that the bedroom tax was having a disastrous effect on the most vulnerable members of our society, and should be scrapped.
The immediate response of the DWP was that this was “anecdotal evidence based on a handful of meetings.” Grant Shapps wrote to the UN to complain that she hadn’t spoken to appropriate ministers, although she had requested meetings with DWP ministers, and had been allocated interviews with Cyril Pickles and Don Foster. Newspapers variously described her as “a Brazil nut” or a “dabbler in witchcraft”, while A Tory MP dismissed her as “ a loopie Brazilian leftie with no evidence masquerading as a serious UN official.”
So here’s the question. If our rulers had got it wrong, how would they know?