Telegraph Men: Isn’t that just the Telegraph?

Does the Telegraph's new section A) aim to expand the boundaries of masculinity, or B) feature the same group of blokes whining about the same old rubbish?

The Telegraph has launched a new section exclusively for its male readers, Telegraph Men, with the tag line “Sharp opinion and expert advice for the modern male”. There was a swish launch party with lots of dapper looking lads and lasses at Rook & Raven on Tuesday evening, followed by a website and Twitter launch today.

The Mole cannot help but wonder at the logic behind this new development. The Telegraph is already strongly weighted towards the Y chromosome both in terms of its writers and the issues that it covers - if you'd like to test this out, visit their blogs page and scroll down - today I counted 18 men, not a single woman. Are we seeing the creation of a new platform on which to debate questions of masculinity, looking at the issues that really affect British men? Will there be space for gay and trans writers, or will everything that does not conform to a GQ-slick template of dark blues, suits, sexism and materialism? (And a vehicle, excuse the pun, for advertising expensive cars?)

The Guardian’s Hadley Freeman tweeted this morning:

Clearly she is not prepared to give Telegraph Men the benefit of the doubt. But this Mole keeps an open mind. There is room in the media landscape for writing which takes a contemporary view of parenting, mental health, identity and masculinity – will Telegraph Men be it?

 

Welcome to Telegraph Men.

I'm a mole, innit.

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The private renting sector enables racist landlords like Fergus Wilson

A Kent landlord tried to ban "coloured people" from his properties. 

Fergus Wilson, a landlord in Kent, has made headlines after The Sun published his email to a letting agent which included the line: "No coloured people because of the curry smell at the end of the tenancy."

When confronted, the 70-year-old property owner only responded with the claim "we're getting overloaded with coloured people". The letting agents said they would not carry out his orders, which were illegal. 

The combination of blatant racism, a tired stereotype and the outdated language may make Wilson seem suspiciously like a Time Landlord who has somehow slipped in from 1974. But unfortunately he is more modern than he seems.

Back in 2013, a BBC undercover investigation found 10 letting agent firms willing to discriminate against black tenants at the landlord's request. One manager was filmed saying: "99% of my landlords don't want Afro-Caribbeans."

Under the Equality Act 2010, this is illegal. But the conditions of the private renting sector allow discrimination to flourish like mould on a damp wall. 

First, discrimination is common in flat shares. While housemates or live-in landlords cannot turn away a prospective tenant because of their race, they can express preferences of gender and ethnicity. There can be logical reasons for this - but it also provides useful cover for bigots. When one flat hunter in London protested about being asked "where do your parents come from?", the landlord claimed he just wanted to know whether she was Christian.

Second, the private rental sector is about as transparent as a landlord's tax arrangements. A friend of mine, a young professional Indian immigrant, enthusiastically replied to house share ads in the hope of meeting people from other cultures. After a month of responding to three or four room ads a day, he'd had just six responses. He ended up sharing with other Indian immigrants.

My friend suspected he'd been discriminated against, but he had no way of proving it. There is no centrally held data on who flatshares with who (the closest proxy is SpareRoom, but its data is limited to room ads). 

Third, the current private renting trends suggest discrimination will increase, rather than decrease. Landlords hiked rents by 2.1 per cent in the 12 months to February 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics, an indication of high demand. SpareRoom has recorded as many as 22 flat hunters chasing a single room. In this frenzy, it only becomes harder for prospective tenants to question the assertion "it's already taken". 

Alongside this demand, the government has introduced legislation which requires landlords to check that tenants can legitimately stay in the UK. A report this year by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants found that half of landlords were less likely to rent to foreign nationals as a result of the scheme. This also provides handy cover for the BTL bigot - when a black British tenant without a passport asked about a room, 58 per cent of landlords ignored the request or turned it down

Of course, plenty of landlords are open-minded, unbiased and unlikely to make a tabloid headline anytime soon. They most likely outnumber the Fergus Wilsons of this world. But without any way of monitoring discrimination in the private rental sector, it's impossible to know for sure. 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.