An open letter to Jess Phillips, the camper van beef over

An open letter to Yardley’s new MP. It has to be open as we’ve not got a fixed address to sent it to.


Dear Jess,

Congratulations on the election. We were chuffed, never big John Hemming fans, and we had a good joke lined up for when you beat him. You’re a breath of fresh air. Much like the fresh air you say you intended to camp out under in protest at the cost of London accommodation.

But we’ve got a question to ask, about your methods. Nice van, but the plan is dodgy.

Were you planning to:

a) camp illegally? In the UK camping is controlled by several pieces of legislation, including the Public Health Act of 1936 and the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960. And well – it’s not going to be a restful night with all the undesirables that live locally. There’s that Cameron chap for one.

But essentially, Jess, you can’t just park up for an overnight snooze wherever you fancy.  In Westminster, and we checked with their privatised call centre, you should be OK to park up on single yellow lines after 6:30pm, but you need to be gone by 8:30am the next day and then you’ll need to pony up to park somewhere. There’s the congestion charge to think about too, and even before that you can claim £46.40 each way for the 116 miles from the Swan Island to Westminster — 280% the price of a return on the train. This is just bad value for the taxpayer.

b) take up one of the 676 legal spaces for travellers in London? We don’t think that’s very many to be honest, and they also cost councils a fair few quid. Advice from Shelter says that:

“You can’t just move onto a council site. You have to apply for a place first. Usually you need to complete an application form, which you can get from the council’s housing department or from the site office.”

The council may refuse your application if, for example, you have:

“rent arrears from a previous stay on a council site or  had problems with a tenancy on a council site in the past, for example, due to antisocial behaviour”

So watch out.

c) pitch up and camp at the Lea Valley Camping and Caravan park – the nearest to your work?  It is some one hour six minutes on public transport from Westminster, though so to be honest it would almost be easier to commute from Birmingham. Might be a nice holiday in Zone 5 though.

Or was it:

d) just bullshit to get press? If so we’re disappointed in you, and the idiots who fell for it.




Author: Howard Wilkinson

Director of Satire, Paradise Circus. Howard adds stability at the top, taking a strategic overview of operations whilst also stepping in from time to time in a caretaker author role.