special disco mention #2: raquel rolnik


So, then, Raquel Rolnik: Senior UN official with an expertise in housing and human rights or The ‘loopy Brazilian leftie’ who ‘dabbles in Witchcraft’ and offers animal sacrifices to Marx’ according to members of the tory government/right wing press.  

After being invited over by the government and commissioned to write a report on the current housing situation in the UK, the UNs special rapporteur was then slapped down in a vitriolic, very public witch hunt led by Grant Schapps, Minister without Portfolio – (who has put in a formal complaint to Ban Ki-Moon head of the UN) and backed up by various ministers and frothing-at-the-mouth newspapers/ broadcasters. Rolniks crime, for which she was attacked so savagely by the government was, seemingly, to tell the truth. You have to wonder what the Tories expected? 

Even from the rosiest of perspectives, the housing situation in the UK is pretty fucked: ridiculous house prices have alienated all but the richest; rents continue to soar as wages remain static or fall; social housing is fast disappearing at a time when its needed more than ever; and, to add the cherry on top, the Bedroom Tax is seemingly designed to crucify the most vulnerable members of society. So, what was Rolnik supposed to conclude? 

Dear David, Everything in and around the UK housing situation is peachy, human rights are being upheld to the highest order, keep up the good work!

In truth, even the most deluded of Tories must have expected some negative conclusions to be drawn, it’s pretty much beyond discussion that there is a problem with housing in this country – the debate, instead, is how to fix it. So it would appear that it is not what Rolnik said about the situation that got the Tories knickers in such an almighty twist, but the way she said it. And that is exactly why she is deserved of this weeks Special Disco Mention: Raquel Rolnik spoke her fucking mind, and in politics these days that is the rarest of things.

Here’s the thing – the country has fallen so deep into petty cross party feuds, so headlong into a bickering but cautious politico-etiquette that anything remotely outside of the mainstream, in terms of a point of view, is immediately shot down as being the voice of the lunatic fringe. The creep towards the political ‘middle’ (aided by the Lib dems subjugating all principals within the current coalition and the spineless, union-baiting Labour leadership of Milliband), has meant a political conformism and homogeny of ideas like never before. When it comes down to it, on a lot of issues you could slide a sheet of rizla between the current policies (and even ideologies) of Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems. The fact that this is the case is a very bad thing for politics and democracy: If all parties offer the same thing, does the voter really have a choice at all? It would seem that the mainstream parties are aware of this, so have devised a cunning course of action which involves Never Saying Anything Meaningful At All. Get through every line of questioning, every speech, every debate by reeling off a series of platitudes, non-answers and corporate-speak-waffle.

Seeing Glenda Jackson talk in parliament after the death of Thatcher, speaking with great conviction and, yes, emotion, was genuinely shocking. Why? Surely the politicians tasked with upholding the principals and values of their parties should show conviction, authentic feeling and emotion at work? Isn’t that why we vote them in? You realise how far we’ve fallen when an outsider such as Rolnik comes and shines a light on our political situation and is subsequently smeared about her background, appearance, nationality, gender, personal beliefs, manner and political persuasion – all criticisms that have nothing to do with the issue. Clearly, Rolnik didnt get the memo, the one that read: Never Say Anything Conclusive.  Her expertise in housing and human rights has seen her rise to her position on the basis of merit, and her visit to the UK was specifically to measure these things. That is exactly what she did, and the fact that she found the situation shocking and said so in no uncertain terms should be the start of a proper, open debate on how we get ourselves out of this situation, but, for those in the political class, it was such a terrifying ordeal, such an almighty shock to hear an honest opinion that instead, it became a Marxist-bating, xenophobic cluster fuck. So, boo to the politicians of this country – youre a shameful bunch. And yay to Raquel Rolnik, we salute you and your old-fashioned honesty, please come back and sort us out, we’ve lot’s of work for you to do.    

Read Raquel Rolnik’s report here.

Joe Evans