Forcibly removing rough sleepers from the streets is one way to maintain an illusion of affluence,
Not one that politicians with a conscience should countenance. That such a device looks cruel is obvious even to one who advocates it:
Simon Dudley, the Conservative leader of Windsor and Maidenhead borough council, describes homelessness as “completely unacceptable in a caring, compassionate community” in a letter to Thames Valley police.
While urging action to remove the evidence from public view.
Mr Dudley focuses his displeasure on a sub-category of the homeless whom he accuses of “aggressive begging and intimidation” and whose plight he sees as “a voluntary choice”.
This distinction between deserving and undeserving poor is as old as it is bogus. It is probably true that some of Windsor’s homeless offend the council leader’s sense of propriety and make choices other than the ones he would recommend.
But genuine compassion reaches beyond such narrow parameters.
It is also true that extreme poverty changes the character of a town that attracts millions of tourists and will be a focus of international attention when Prince Harry marries Meghan Markle in Windsor Castle in May.
A local politician’s interest in removing social decay from the scene is obvious.
It needn’t even be a despicable ambition if the royal wedding were set as the deadline for genuine action to address destitute people’s needs with resources allocated accordingly.
But that would indicate different priorities, a different moral outlook. It would require seeing homelessness as a source of collective national shame and not a quasi-criminal act best referred to the police.
This obtuseness reaches the top of the Tory party.
Theresa May has said she disagrees with Mr Dudley’s approach but she shows no willingness to accept that, under her government, homelessness is becoming an emergency.
In one prime minister’s questions session last month, Mrs May asserted that “statutory homelessness peaked under the Labour government and is down by 50% since then”.
The statistical lens deployed there, was so warped as to present a reversal of reality.
The peak that Mrs May described was in 2003.
Reflecting the persistence of a problem that had become entrenched under the Tory government that lost office in 1997.
Labour got to grips with the issue and numbers fell until 2010,
when Downing Street was recaptured by the Conservatives. Progress then went into reverse.
Read the following article on the homeless crisis