Why George Clarke's Council House Scandal should have made you angry about the housing state we're in

George Clarke wants to change the way we see council housing
George Clarke wants to change the way we see council housing
Share this article

From the title of George Clarke’s Council House Scandal (Channel 4, Wednesdays, 9pm), you might have thought the genial self-build botherer was setting himself up as a slum landlord. However, it became clear the Mackem Frank Lloyd Wright was on a different mission.

In 1919, the Addison Act was passed, the first law which saw central Government building social housing. Built to high standards, with indoor plumbing and their own hot water supply, these homes were a model for decades to come.

By the early 1980s, 6m council houses were putting roofs over the heads the most vulnerable in Britain. But then came Thatcherism, boom and bust, Right to Buy and austerity, and now there are only 2m council houses and the number is shrinking.

Clarke, who spent the programme getting progessively angrier, grew up in a council house, and is determined that social housing should lose its stigma as the modern workhouse – the last resort for the undeserving poor – and actually be restored to its original purpose.

He wants clean, well-built homes so people can go out to work, their children can be educated and they can add to their community. A pinko Leftie Corbynite

utopia right?

Well, judging by that has been achieved elsewhere, no. In Vienna, there are beautiful council blocks, with gyms and swimming pools, where people in jobs are safe, secure and happy. Meanwhile, in towns like Harlow, Essex, developers are turning office buildings into tiny studio flats and charging £600 a month for the pleasure.

Clarke might become the Jamie Oliver of houses – annoying the nation with his drive to improve ourselves – but if, by the end of this programme, you weren’t as angry as him, there’s something wrong with you.

Judging by The Chef’s Brigade (BBC2, Tuesdays 9pm) we have moved on from an overwrought bloke in a white coat swearing like a navvy. Chefs are more touchy-feely, but the food still looks great.

The Handmaid’s Tale (Channel 4, Sundays, 9pm) is getting – if it were possible – even darker, and now I’m beginning to lose sympathy for Elizabeth Moss’s June. I’m not sure how much further it, or I, can go.