After private renters welcomed the news about an end to no-fault evictions earlier this week, one particular interview caught people’s attention for all the wrong reasons.
Sky News anchor Jayne Secker – who conducted the interview with London renter and housing campaigner Kirsty Archer – has since spoken out, explaining that she “got the tone and content of an interview wrong”. But is that a good enough excuse for sharing views that have widely been criticised for being patronising and ignorant?
It started on Monday (15 April) when Archer explained how she would welcome the abolition of Article 21, after experiencing the pitfalls of renting and the huge expenses that come with it. Secker cut in by saying that the housing crisis isn’t the fault of landlords, then continued: “I suppose some would say, and I am speaking as someone who has rented flats and who also rents flats out, that especially with the younger generation, you very often find that the younger tenants don’t really know how to do a great deal in homes.”
Secker went on to give a personal example, saying: “I, for example, have had tenants complaining that lights have popped because they don’t know how to change lightbulbs. I’ve had tenants complain about heating and they haven’t turned the boiler on. It’s just very obvious things.” She then asked: “Have you found amongst your friends that you perhaps aren’t equipped with all the necessary skills to rent?”
Puzzled at why Secker considered renting a choice rather than a necessity for many young people today, Archer replied: “That’s a bit patronising really, I mean, we weren’t complaining about things like a lightbulb.”
Cue: a Twitter storm.
Journalists, celebrities and politicians are among the hundreds of enraged people who have tweeted about the interview, with many agreeing with Archer that it was patronising and way off the mark. Singer Ellie Goulding wrote: “She used what could have been an informative interview as a chance to moan about her tenants, and was incredibly patronising suggesting people who can’t afford the rent perhaps don’t deserve to because they can’t change lightbulbs.”
And Labour MP David Lammy added: “Shocked by the condescension and lack of humility here. Renting is not a choice. People need somewhere to live. The housing market - particularly in London - is broken. We need to re-balance the rules in favour of tenants.”
Secker responded to the backlash, writing something that slightly resembles an apology, which read: “Clearly yesterday I got the tone and content of an interview wrong and it has upset many people. I am sure many of us will have made a mistake at work - unfortunate for me mine is a lot more public than most. Please be assured I have taken the many comments on board. Mea culpa.”
But many people aren’t convinced, including Archer, who wrote in The Guardian on Wednesday (17 April): “The idea that I am somehow responsible for being evicted from my home because I don’t have the ‘necessary skills to rent’ is deeply patronising.” She continued to write about the effects that the precariousness of renting has on people’s mental health, then added: “Secker shone a light on the mainstream media’s poor representation of people from low-income backgrounds.”
Considering if Secker’s apology is enough, Archer hits the nail on the head on why no - it’s probably not.
Images: Getty and Sky News