The news that Wandsworth Council has backed away from its decision to pursue the eviction of the mother and 8-year-old sister of Daniel Sartain-Clarke, who was convicted of burglary during the August riots, is an important victory for the Labour opposition in Wandsworth and a defeat for the vindictive and punitive wing of the Tory Party, including Cameron and Shapps and their local henchman, Council leader Ravi Govindia. The decision has greatly disappointed the Daily Mail.
Immediately after the riots, when the idea of evicting the families of rioters who were social tenants was first raised, I argued on Red Brick that this approach ‘may allow politicians to sound tough. It may be what people want. But it isn’t justice. It’s double punishment, it’s guilt by association, it’s discrimination on the grounds of tenure, pure and simple. ‘
Such was the furore raised by the right wing media, a bandwagon immediately jumped on by Cameron and Shapps, that it was a brave decision by the opposition in Wandsworth to stand against the decision in principle. The disgrace is that the Council moved against the tenant before her son was convicted of anything and before the circumstances of the case, and whether there was any mitigation, became clear. The Tories, nationally and locally, were driven by the cheap headlines they could get and the desire to find someone, other than themselves, to blame. As ever, social housing tenants were an easy target as people like Iain Duncan Smith tried to place the blame on ‘estates’.
I know nothing about Daniel apart from what I read in the press and on Wandsworth Labour’s website. An 11 month sentence certainly seems to comply with Cameron’s instruction that rioters should all go to jail. But I would commend a brilliant blog post by Jules Birch on the double standards involved, comparing and contrasting the treatment given to Sartain-Clarke and another double-barreled thief, Antony Worrall Thompson, who was a repeat offender but a celebrity who got away with a caution and an apology. Certainly no-one argued that Worral Thompson’s family should be evicted from their home.
It is unclear whether any other council or housing association is still pursuing the eviction of a tenant because of a riot-related conviction, currently the law would appear to allow this if it could be classed as being in the neighbourhood of the property concerned. It is also uncertain whether Shapps and Cameron will actually pursue their plan to extend the law in a move that would entrench the double punishment of the guilty, the punishment of the innocent, and discrimination against social tenants.
Stop press: a good update from Wandsworth Labour Councillor Leonie Cooper here.