The commitment by the new mayor of London to build "thousands of new affordable homes to buy and rent" is to be welcomed, but his promise to "stop those rogue landlords who are exploiting renters" by "naming and shaming" them is less encouraging (Morning Star, 01/06/16).
When first mooted as a method of ending unsavoury behaviour, probably around twenty years ago, the idea that embarrassment, caused by widespread public knowledge, would deter such activity sounded plausible. For most, possible discovery by close family and friends would be sufficient, if self-control proved inadequate, so if millions were likely to learn about objectionable conduct, habits and actions would improve. Or so it was thought. The trouble is, they haven`t!
Naming and shaming, under the guise of transparency, fails as a deterrent, and this has been proved time and time again. The public know about the obscene amounts paid out to CEOs, but does that stop them taking home around 183 times the pay of their average worker? Have bankers stopped demanding bonuses, and getting them, even though it is public knowledge that their greed played a hugely significant role in the 2008 crash, and that their jobs are actually "socially useless"? Have the expensive tastes of MPs been changed by the expenses scandal of 2009? Has the Speaker stopped claiming for travel expenses after it was discovered that he claimed more than £31000 in travel and accommodation expenses between April 2014 and April 2015, including such arduous trips as the 0.7 mile trip to Carlton House from Parliament, for which he claimed £172?
Many companies and individuals have been named as tax avoiders, but the practice of denying governments vast amounts of revenue has not abated. There is no shame when it is claimed no laws have been broken; there is no moral responsibility to pay towards workers` education, health and transport, nor even to the firms` security from vandalism , robbery, fire and such like. Being named as a tax-avoiding company holds no fears. "Morally repugnant" their actions certainly are, but none have "smelt the coffee", with the government preferring to make "sweetheart deals" rather than enforce proper payment. Sadly, boycotts of such firms by the British public are so badly supported as to have minimum effect.
Will the possibility of having their exploitation of tenants exposed in local and national media stop landlords from charging exorbitant rents from desperate families for rooms in properties failing to meet the basic standards of health, safety and habitation? There are countless examples, and the answer is invariably "no".
Where there is action disagreeable to the majority, a reliance on the fear of discovery to change it, is laughable. What is needed is legislation and regulation. Stopping tenants` exploitation should be easy given the amount of expertise in this area at Westminster; the number of MPs earning extra income by renting out properties rose by a third in the last parliament, increasing to 153, and of course, including Cameron, Osborne, and the present Minister for Housing and Planning, Brandon Lewis!