Please Note: This Article is 5 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.

Property Rights:

Jeremy Corbyn has called on Government to take over luxury ’empty’ homes in Kensington and Chelsea and give them to survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire.

The horrific Grenfell Tower fire, which has left dozens of families bereaved and homeless, has prompted a surprising reaction from Jeremy Corbyn’s challenger government. There is great sympathy for those affected by this terrible event, and a desire to see them taken care of properly and re-housed without delay, but is this extreme suggestion by an MP a harbinger for tyranny and the road to a state modelled on Chávez’s Venezuela?

The Labour leader’s call to ‘requisition’ houses was being supported by several Labour MPs when their newly empowered leader suggested that the supposedly empty homes in and around Kensington could be used as an ideal solution to an immediate re-housing problem.

David Lammy, the Tottenham MP, added on Twitter shortly after the event: “Lots of homes left vacant in Kensington & Chelsea by overseas investors. I would like to see them requisitioned by Government to rehouse victims.”

Have these Labour MPs crossed a line when it comes to private property rights, freedom and democracy? Do they realise how this undermines hard won British democratic values?

Could it be that property rights, a cornerstone of Western Democracy, and enshrined in Magna Carta, the US Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) – six hundred years of individual freedom and democracy – would be sacrificed so freely by a government led by Jeremy Corbyn?

“Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions…” says the ECHR.

Philosophy Professor, Roger Scruton, writes: Magna Carta forms the basis for the establishment of secure human and property rights and considers “the underlying institutions needed for democracy, human rights and freedom to exist in a country and indeed [the] property right feature as essential.”

On the other hand, the Marxist view on property rights and the state is entirely different:

“…modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few. In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: abolition of private property.”  The Communist Manifesto 1848

Can we really be saying that landlords and property owners should be afraid of having their properties requisitioned by the state merely because they may be for sale or to-let and therefore vacant for a period of time? That would mean we would be entering a period of Venezuelan politics in Britain if that were the case!

In today’s Venezuela, ostensibly, private property rights are still supported, but:

“In actual reality, something significantly different from what the constitution states occurs in Venezuela. Since 2001, and particularly since Chávez’s re-election in December 2006, private ownership of the means of production and private assets, such as real estate, has been constantly under harassment by the regime.” PanAm Post Oct 2013

Jeremy Corbyn’s call for the state to ‘requisition’ the houses, almost certainly illegal in the UK in peace time, is apparently supported, even by more moderate Labour figures, including Harriet Harman.

Mr Corbyn has said:

“Kensington is a tale of two cities. The south part of Kensington is incredibly wealthy, it’s the wealthiest part of the whole country. The ward where this fire took place is, I think, the poorest ward in the whole country and properties must be found – requisitioned if necessary – to make sure those residents do get re-housed locally.

“It can’t be acceptable that in London we have luxury buildings and luxury flats left empty as land banking for the future while the homeless and the poor look for somewhere to live.”

However, the so called Buy-to-Leave phenomenon, where hundreds of properties in London are left empty, is largely a myth, suggests recent research by the London School of Economics (LSE).

The claim that thousands of homes in London are bought by foreign buyers, only to be left empty, is brought into question by this latest study after the LSE report, commissioned by the new Mayor of London, found that almost no London homes owned by overseas buyers are being left empty.

The LSE study could find almost nothing to support the claims; that “there was almost no evidence of units being left entirely empty certainly less than lpc”, says the report.

Having campaigned on the issue for his mayoralty, Mayor Sadiq Khan faces embarrassment over the issue after arguing that developers were not giving Londoners “first dibs” on homes.

Please Note: This Article is 5 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.


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