Homeless highlight our outdated democratic system

COMMENT: Entrenched problems, like homelessness or housing provision, require radical policies that are far less likely to come about under the current electoral system

Thursday, 10th February

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‘The chaotic reality of sleeping rough is far worse than what we might imagine’

EVERY day we all will walk past at least one homeless person, perhaps while looking the other way with a sense of unease at our almost total inability to be able to offer any real or meaningful help.

Most of us will hope somewhere someone is out there working behind the scenes to help our neighbours on the pavement find a permanent home.

Any unruly behaviour, signs of addiction, bundles of belongings that might be taking space on the sidewalk, are all understandable symptoms of a harsh life on the street.

The chaotic reality of sleeping rough is far worse than what we might imagine. Few weeks go by without a homeless person coming into our offices with a harrowing story of how they have been robbed, beaten or far, far worse.

Hostels are often terrifying places, considered by many who use them as more dangerous than the street itself.

The testimony of the homeless, who spoke from their tents to the New Journal, evokes their overwhelming desire to be left alone alongside their desperate need for help. On both these fronts, the police appear to be failing us.

There are two basic strands to the housing crisis in London. There are those at the mercy of renting from private landlords, looking for something permanent but having no chance of getting a council or housing association home. And then there are those who are living on the very edge of emotional breakdown in tents on the street.

Entrenched problems, like homelessness or housing provision, require radical policies from lawmakers and fresh eyes in government.

They are far less likely to come about under the current electoral system that, as Hina Bokhari says, “maintains the same old faces, same old values and same old ideas”.

The First Past the Post System has maintained conservative governments, of both political stripes, for a few hundred years.

Our society and democracy have developed and changed beyond recognition in that time. Our voting system has failed to keep pace.

Minority rule leaves people in “safe” wards and constituencies disenfranchised. Parliament fails to reflect the people it is supposed to represent.

You would think Labour would embrace proportional representation. But deep down the party appears in favour of holding the centrist line, reform-not-revolution and maintaining the status quo.

Next time you walk past a homeless person on the street, you might ask yourself: is the whole system in need of a change?

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