Brown emerges and quashes ill-health rumours

How claims that Brown was receiving “psychological treatment” fell apart.

It was good to see Gordon Brown respond to claims that he's been spending stints at an Edinburgh hospital for "psychological reasons" with the wit for which he was once renowned.

On a visit to a school in his Kirkcaldy constituency, he told reporters:

The only times I've ever been in hospital were for the birth of my children, for my eyesight, for Fraser . . . and when I was once up a mountain with John Smith and accidentally stabbed myself in the leg with a penknife.

Guido Fawkes had claimed that Brown was receiving treatment at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital and, although he noted Brown's public appearance yesterday, he is yet to make a retraction. Over at Liberal Conspiracy, a contributor has pointed out that Brown is unlikely to have gone anywhere near Edinburgh Hospital for two reasons. First, he is in the wrong catchment area and second, it's inconceivable that the former prime minister wouldn't have been spotted in a hospital that has no private wards.

Speculation about Brown's health is legitimate enough (though I thought Andrew Marr's infamous question about prescription pills was entirely inappropriate), but the tone some commentators employ when doing so is crass, crude and thoughtless.

Guido, for instance, featured an image of the former Labour leader bearing the legend, "Is Brown bonkers?" One had hoped that society had evolved to the point where such comments had become as unacceptable as references to "cripples" or "spastics".

Elsewhere, there is evidence that Brown is enjoying his new-found freedom. The Telegraph's Tim Walker reports that the former PM is no longer forced to "tone down" his Scottish accent for English voters.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Grenfell survivors were promised no rent rises – so why have the authorities gone quiet?

The council now says it’s up to the government to match rent and services levels.

In the aftermath of the Grenfell disaster, the government made a pledge that survivors would be rehoused permanently on the same rent they were paying previously.

For families who were left with nothing after the fire, knowing that no one would be financially worse off after being rehoused would have provided a glimmer of hope for a stable future.

And this is a commitment that we’ve heard time and again. Just last week, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) reaffirmed in a statement, that the former tenants “will pay no more in rent and service charges for their permanent social housing than they were paying before”.

But less than six weeks since the tragedy struck, Kensington and Chelsea Council has made it perfectly clear that responsibility for honouring this lies solely with DCLG.

When it recently published its proposed policy for allocating permanent housing to survivors, the council washed its hands of the promise, saying that it’s up to the government to match rent and services levels:

“These commitments fall within the remit of the Government rather than the Council... It is anticipated that the Department for Communities and Local Government will make a public statement about commitments that fall within its remit, and provide details of the period of time over which any such commitments will apply.”

And the final version of the policy waters down the promise even further by downplaying the government’s promise to match rents on a permanent basis, while still making clear it’s nothing to do with the council:

It is anticipated that DCLG will make a public statement about its commitment to meeting the rent and/or service charge liabilities of households rehoused under this policy, including details of the period of time over which any such commitment will apply. Therefore, such commitments fall outside the remit of this policy.”

It seems Kensington and Chelsea council intends to do nothing itself to alter the rents of long-term homes on which survivors will soon be able to bid.

But if the council won’t take responsibility, how much power does central government actually have to do this? Beyond a statement of intent, it has said very little on how it can or will intervene. This could leave Grenfell survivors without any reassurance that they won’t be worse off than they were before the fire.

As the survivors begin to bid for permanent homes, it is vital they are aware of any financial commitments they are making – or families could find themselves signing up to permanent tenancies without knowing if they will be able to afford them after the 12 months they get rent free.

Strangely, the council’s public Q&A to residents on rehousing is more optimistic. It says that the government has confirmed that rents and service charges will be no greater than residents were paying at Grenfell Walk – but is still silent on the ambiguity as to how this will be achieved.

Urgent clarification is needed from the government on how it plans to make good on its promise to protect the people of Grenfell Tower from financial hardship and further heartache down the line.

Kate Webb is head of policy at the housing charity Shelter. Follow her @KateBWebb.