BCfm’s weekly politics show presented by Tony Gosling
For all the shows back to Easter 2009 visit the Friday Drivetime archive page
First hour: Is Bristol still a feudal city? What has the former Lord Mayor learned about who really owns and runs the city? Bristol’s elite networking groups include: The Bristol Savages; The Guild of Guardians; The St. Stephen’s Ringers; The Merchant Venturers; The Dolphin Society; The Anchor Society; News review with Labour Councillor for Bedminster & former Lord Mayor Colin Smith. His time as Lord Mayor, and who’s really in charge of Bristol; 0.8 % growth in the economy – are our worries over?; energy prices; Welsh Water not for profit company; cost of living crisis and what’s Cameron going to do about it – citizens income; co-op bank bought up by a hedge fund – North Dakota banking discussed; Plebgate – is it about cutting the police, Police Federation were clearly lying but have still not apologised to former Tory Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell; was US investigative journalist Michael Hastings murdered by Mercedes car hackers? Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)’s Kathleen Fisher on shocking car software vulnerabilities, viruses from service centres, even CDs and the hacking of cars; Derek Pickup, Bristol Labour councillor has resigned and complained selection process for Labour councillors is unfair and run by an undemocratic , cabal like, panel.
Second hour: the great land rights debate – Is Britain still a Feudal country? With author of Who Owns Britain, Kevin Cahill and editor of The Land, Simon Fairlie. Discussion on land with Kevin Cahill, author of ‘Who owns the world’ and Simon Fairlie, producer of The Land magazine. Is Britain still feudal? discussed. The Queen owns a sixth of the planet and all the land in this country. As homeowners do we have more influence than we realise? Farming also discussed – self sufficiency, small farms, mega farms and town and country planning. Marina Morris’s voxpop on housing. Also rent seeking and land value taxation. Land reform: The Diggers, The Chartists, The Crofters, The Irish Land League and today’s criminalized squatters have been spoiling for a fight about the iniquity of eviction, landlessness and destitution for hundreds of years. Britain has a land-mass of around 65 million acres and around 65 million people, that’s roughly a football pitch per person, or around three acres for the average family. Britain was a free gift to its people, just as the Earth was to mankind. Back in medieval England most land was farmed collectively, few actually owned it but did have the right to a cottage, to stay, and to pass those rights down the generations. But the landowners’ parliament instituted 17th- and 18th-century land privatization, enclosure, evicting hundreds of thousands. A vast factory workforce of destitute landless citizens was created, ripe for the dark satanic mills of England’s industrial revolution. Across the Irish Sea one million died between 1847 and 1851 in the Irish Famines and a further million were forced to emigrate. So in the late 1800s, with fire in their bellies, the Irish led the way in taking back the land, setting a precedent for today’ solution. Exploiting the balance of power in London, four laws were forced through delivering interest-free government loans. Penniless Irish tenants could now buy land and build new homes, repayments being far less than those crippling rents. It was one of history’s most successful land reform programs to date. Figures are hard to come by today but 40,000 ‘land millionaires’, 0.05 percent of the population, now own around half of Britain, most of which they have never set foot on. A further 30 percent is owned by 1 percent of the population, and the remaining 20 percent is owned by banks, corporations and other institutions. Though many have ‘bought their own home’, actually the bank owns it until they pay off their mortgage. This leaves around 50 percent of the population, or 30 million people, effectively landless, either with a big mortgage, renting or homeless. Britain today too carries the shame of roughly 200,000 homeless people, either overcrowded, sleeping on friends’ floors or sofas, squatting or sleeping on the streets. A Short History of Enclosure in Britain: Over the course of a few hundred years, much of Britain’s land has been privatized — that is to say taken out of some form of collective ownership and management and handed over to individuals. Currently, in our “property-owning democracy”, nearly half the country is owned by 40,000 land millionaires, or 0.06 per cent of the population,1 while most of the rest of us spend half our working lives paying off the debt on a patch of land barely large enough to accommodate a dwelling and a washing line. The great property swindle: The myth spun about Britain is that land is scarce. It is not — landowners are paid to keep it off the market. Modern British history, excluding world wars and the loss of empire, is a record of two countervailing changes, one partly understood, one not understood at all. The partly understood change is the urbanisation of society to the point where 90 per cent of us in the United Kingdom live in urban areas. Hidden inside that transformation is the shift from a society in which, less than a century and a half ago, all land was owned by 4.5 per cent of the population and the rest owned nothing at all. Now, 70 per cent of the population has a stake in land, and collectively owns most of the 5 per cent of the UK that is urban. But this is a mere three million out of 60 million acres. Through this transformation, the heirs to the disenfranchised of the Victorian era have inverted the relationship between the landed and the landless. This has happened even while huge changes have occurred in the 42 million acres of rural countryside. These account for 70 per cent of the home islands and are the agricultural plot. From being virtually the sole payers of such tax as was levied in 1873 (at fourpence in the 240p pound), the owners of Britain’s agricultural plot are now the beneficiaries of an annual subsidy that may run as high as £23,000 each, totalling between £3.5bn and £5bn a year. Urban dwellers, on the other hand, pay about £35bn in land-related taxes. Rural landowners receive a handout of roughly £83 per acre, while urban dwellers pay about £18,000 for each acre they hold, an average of £1,800 per dwelling, the average dwelling standing on one-tenth of an acre.