Partly, that’s simply because I find it hard to believe that any part of the UK state could really, in the twenty first century, be planning to uproot families and move them hundreds of miles into areas where it is highly unlikely that they will stand any chance of finding the employment which is ultimately the only way of improving their situation.
I can’t think of many parallels for such a forced movement of people in any democratic state. Families have been forcibly moved en mass for projects such as slum clearance, but have almost always been rehoused either close by or else in the new homes constructed on the site. Children were evacuated from London during the second world war; but it was done for their safety, and was always understood to be a temporary measure.
But thousands of families given the choice of homelessness where they are or moved hundreds of miles to the cheapest housing which can be purchased, purely on economic grounds? I can’t think of a parallel in recent times which comes close.
Then I wondered whether this might not be more of a political game than a real prospect, and from two different aspects. The first is that it’s far from unheard of, sadly, for local authorities to propose something outrageous, either to attract such opposition as to persuade the central government to back down on some policy or other, or else to enable it later to propose something not quite so outrageous so that people accept the lesser of two evils. Either seems possible in this case.
The second is, of course, that offering a London family a house in somewhere like Merthyr might well lead to a refusal; and people who refuse the offer of ‘suitable’ accommodation can then be deleted from the waiting list. And that’s just another way of making homelessness someone else’s problem, even though some of us might think that there’s rather more to the definition of ‘suitable’ than having four walls and a roof.
I’m not sure which is worst – seriously proposing such a policy, or unseriously suggesting it in order to achieve other aims. In either case, they’re treating those families unfortunate enough to be homeless in London in an utterly shameful fashion; more as commodities or problems than as people with human needs.