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Rebecca Tyrrel

Rebecca Tyrrel: 'There is no record of what Mick Jones thinks of his MP cousin's squatter plans'


Who knew that Grant Shapps, the Tory Minister of State for Housing tipped for promotion in the imminent Cabinet reshuffle, was such an enemy of traditional Conservative family values?

We all know that Shapps' first cousin is Mick Jones from The Clash, because Shapps boasts about it in interviews. What he never mentions, however, is that cousin Mick first met Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon in a dirty squat in Shepherd's Bush. Yet far from venerating the squat as the birthplace of our greatest and most Thatcherphobic punk band, as familial loyalty would appear to demand, Shapps wants to end squatters' rights and criminalise the occupation of empty houses. "An astonishing disengagement from reality is necessary to actually believe there is something sinister about protecting people's homes from invasion through squatting," as he wrote in a newspaper article. "It's what the public has long demanded and it is what this Government is determined to deliver."

Should they stay or should they go? They should most certainly go, Shapps firmly believes, so that the houses can be sold. There is no record of what Jones thinks of this masterplan to rob the future of socialist bands, or come to that, what he makes of his little cousin's rebellious career choice. Shapps himself seems confused about the relationship. Although he likes to hint that the two are close, and that he is forever mock-apologising to Mick for ruining his cred, in an online Q&A session the Tiggerish and reliably smiley-faced Shapps replied: "Not sure how Mick feels about having a Tory as a cousin and Minister ;-)". Not thrilled to bits is the safe guess there.

While Shapps' exotically-bearded, keyboard-playing, unicycling brother Andre (he has unicycled for charity in Shapps' Welwyn Hatfield constituency) joined Jones in his post-Clash band Big Audio Dynamite long after BAD produced the punningly-titled album No 10 Upping St, the black sheep of the family became an MP and began his long march to power by signing David Cameron's leadership nomination papers.

If he ever does make it to No 10 Downing Street, the costliest piece of social housing in the country, the very least Shapps could do to redeem himself is to have a blue plaque mounted on the frontage of a certain one-time squat in Shepherd's Bush.