Thurrock Council officers are drawing up plans to address “the alleged violation of planning regulations at Buckles Lane in South Ockendon, which includes unlawful development in the greenbelt”. Buckles Lane is a mobile home site, originally intended for the use of travelling showmen but which in recent years, has expanded to include people who are not travellers or show people. This is how it’s being covered in the local media: Council plots restrictions to bring Buckles Lane down in size.

It looks as though the council are planning a multi-faceted approach which they claim will “create a safe and well-designed residential environment for the showmen community in Thurrock”. The council claim they will be working with the Showmen’s Guild in order to achieve this. Basically, they’re alluding to a divide and rule approach in dealing with the community at Buckles Lane. Part of that approach is relying on rags like the Sun, Mail and Express to draw attention to the number of migrants from Eastern Europe currently residing there. ‘Good residents’ are the showmen. ‘Bad residents’ are – let’s face it, Romanian migrants and travellers to name just two groups who are an easy target for demonisation in the current climate.

Once the divide and rule approach that pits the showmen on the one hand and the migrants on the other against each other has been encouraged to run for a few years, it makes the whole process of reducing the number of people living on the site a lot easier. Unlike Dale Farm where Basildon Council had to face off a united and determined community (plus their supporters), Thurrock Council hope they will be dealing with a fractured, divided site where they’ve tacitly generated a situation where the ‘good residents’, the showmen, will be only too glad to see the back of the migrants. By continually playing up the divisions, the authorities hope they can avoid outside supporters rallying round in solidarity when the inevitable evictions eventually start. It would seem that they’ve learnt a lot from Basildon Council’s disastrous and confrontational dealings with the travellers at Dale Farm.

What’s this really all about? In it’s simplest terms, it’s about the authorities loathing of anyone who has the temerity to provide their own, relatively low cost housing solution. This detestation of anyone adopting an ad hoc, do it yourself approach to getting a roof over their heads is not new in this region – it goes all the way back to the denigration of the plotlanders in Laindon, Basildon and Pitsea whose makeshift but much loved homes were written off as nothing more than a ‘sprawling rural slum’. Once the plotlands had been written off like this, it made the job of compulsory purchase, eviction and levelling of existing homes to make way for the planned estates of the new town easier for the authorities.

Whether it’s a cabin or a mobile home that’s providing a roof over someone’s head, they’ve found a housing solution that eats up a lot less of their (precarious) income that paying an eye-watering amount in rent to an extortionate landlord. It also means not being shackled to paying off a mortgage for thirty years of your life. Basically, it means people have gained a bit of independence from a system that wants us slogging our guts out for decades just to secure a roof over our heads. The last thing the authorities want is a growing number of people who have a bit of independence from a system of wage slavery where we’re encouraged to see ourselves in competition with and fearful of each other rather than having any sense of solidarity.

This is why anyone who opts for a low cost housing solution such as a mobile home ends up being demonised while the rest of us who are mug enough to pay an extortionate amount in rent or a mortgage are egged on to hate them. The problem is that too many people buy into this demonisation of mobile home dwellers while celebrating the long hours they slog their guts out just to hand over a significant chunk of that to a landlord or a mortgage company. The question is this – do we willingly accept this divide and rule crap, or do we take a step back, think about the situation we’re in, and then offer our support to anyone who’s trying to buck a system that keeps screwing us over?