Given ‘our’ MP and the City of London council’s good friend Mark Field’s new found visibility after he physically assaulted a Greenpeace activist at the Lord Mayor of London’s gaff the Mansion House, we weren’t surprised to read in The Guardian today of a new scandal breaking around him. Further revelations about Field may well follow this one since his leaked email on homelessness might not have been treated as news if he’d not already been in the spotlight. We don’t know where the leak came from but it seems possible that there are those in his own party who’d like to unseat him for a variety of reasons and not simply because he’s an utter embarrassment:
The suspended minister Mark Field has referred to a homelessness charity in his constituency as a “magnet for undesirables” in a leaked email, the Guardian can reveal.
Field was suspended as a Foreign Office minister in June after the release of a video that showed him pushing a female Greenpeace activist against a pillar and grabbing her neck while she protested at the chancellor’s Mansion House speech.
He faces fresh criticism after revelations that he described The Passage, a local charity in Westminster, central London, that helps vulnerable and homeless people, as a “magnet for these undesirables to flood into Victoria”.
Field said: “It is high time that The Passage … started to take a little more responsibility for its ‘clients’.”
The MP, who lives in Westminster, made the remark in response to an email from a neighbour who complained about the level of antisocial behaviour linked to homeless people in the area.
The resident said: “The soup kitchens which act like a magnet for not just vagrants but also drug dealers with consequences that have been sufficiently highlighted by my neighbours in words and images … Day in and day out, night in and night out we see the same faces sleeping rough, same voices shouting and swearing, same sleeping bags in the same places.”
She continued: “We have seen mothers grasping their children on their way to school while loud and inappropriate discussion takes place among homeless in the street … Many of these problems are caused by people with mental health, alcohol and drug abuse issues who should not be there. Many of them are not British.”
The email concluded: “Ultimately this is a police responsibility. The police numbers have, however, been substantially reduced.”
He replied to the email, copying in Westminster council figures and Michael Gove, the environment secretary. Field said: “I would totally endorse every word [of the email]”, before going on to criticise the local charity for their handling of the situation.
Mark Field calls homelessness charity ‘a magnet for undesirables’: MP said in leaked email it was time charity started to take responsibility for its ‘clients’ by Sarah Marsh and Patrick Greenfield, The Guardian, 2 July 2019. Read the full story here: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jul/02/mark-field-calls-homeless-charity-a-magnet-for-undesirable
A Guardian comment piece includes a response to questions sent to the MP’s office from the newspaper:
In the past month, the Guardian has reported on councils putting up walls to keep homeless people away from the one place they are allowed to be: the streets. Homelessness minister Heather Wheeler faced calls to step down after using “racist” language when referring to homeless people. And on Tuesday, it was reported that the Conservative MP Mark Field called a local homeless charity a “magnet for these undesirables to flood into Victoria”.
We might write this off as a singular case of a particularly nasty man – Field was, after all, suspended as a minister after frogmarching a peaceful protester out of a function. But his words were in response to a constituent who raised concerns about rising homelessness – seemingly not out of concern. They had written: “We have seen mothers grasping their children on their way to school while loud and inappropriate discussion takes place among homeless in the street … Many of them are not British.” When the Guardian wrote to Field’s office, he simply pointed out that it was probably factually correct that many homeless people aren’t British.
It would be unsurprising if a party that has presided over a hostile environment for migrants and soaring homelessness were to treat being homeless or foreign as if it were an insult in its own right. But there is a deeper problem with this language. In his book Less Than Human, the philosopher David Livingstone Smith shows us how dehumanisation starts, and how it ends. It begins by depicting groups of people as somewhat less than human – perhaps by referring to them as undesirables, tinkers or vagrants. The impact of this dehumanisation is emotional: conjuring up feelings of revulsion, fear, anger or hatred. The sort of feelings that make you want to clutch your children when you walk past; or that cause you to fear homeless people “flooding in” to an area – as if they were contagious, or an infection.
These feelings swiftly become the justification for cutting services for that group of people. They become the basis for extreme policies, that slowly but surely remove the right for them to exist. The sort of cuts that hit hardest in areas with the highest numbers of deaths among homeless people. The sort of policies that forbid homeless people from being in the vicinity of those who are trying to enjoy a nice party…
Mark Field called homeless people ‘undesirables’. But it’s not just Tories who think this by Poppy Noor, The Guardian, 2 July 2019. Read the full piece here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jul/02/mark-field-homeless-people-mp-charity-victoria
The header above shows the ‘Right Honourable’ Mark Field MP assaulting Greenpeace activist Janet Barker at The Mansion House in the City of London on 20 June 2019.