Labour and the Bedroom Tax

This is an opinion piece by one of our members

f4509318a1a07fdaab9ab69bc07e2b11Recently there has been a lot of hot air coming out of the Labour party in relation to the Bedroom Tax. As a campaign that has been working on this since mid-last year we thought it would be useful to look at what they are actually saying and what they should be doing.

The Labour Party’s position

Ed Milliband has been asking a lot of questions about the bedroom tax in the Commons (and letting Cameron get away with outright lies). With all this talk and the launch of their ‘bedroom tax campaign’ you would think that they actually oppose it. Not so.

They have not been very explicit about it but the Labour party only suggest tweaking the bedroom tax, not outright objecting to it. In fact is it is in favour of it with the exception of it not been applied to households with nowhere else to move to (see this video Shadow Cabinet member Helen Goodman saying as much). That means they support cramming two kids into one room, taxing people who have an extra room for a visiting child or a room for occasional carers or adapted rooms for the disabled and kicking people out their homes that they have lived in all their life (more info see: Bright Green Scotland).

It begs the question: Are Labour deliberately misleading the public by making them think they oppose the Bedroom Tax, or simply confused about their policy? If they are to really oppose the bedroom tax they must do three things:

–          Promise to repeal the tax if elected

–          Promise to write off all bedroom tax debt / arrears if elected

–          Encourage and support councillors who refuse to implement the tax at a local level, in particular they must refuse to evict anyone falling into arrears due to the bedroom tax.

So much for the Labour Party policy. However, much activity is happening around the grassroots of the Labour party.

Labour Left is a group within the Labour Party founded by Eoin Clarke of the Green Benches blog. They have been have been advertising a load of demos across the UK on March 16th. Eoin Clarke and Labour Left was originally calling for a delay to the bedroom tax for a year, however these protests now seem to be calling for an outright scrapping, which is something that Labour’s top brass could learn from. However, if they really wanted to make a difference they should be putting direct pressure on Labour councils to refuse to evict those affected by the bedroom tax as well as calling out Labour Party leaders on the mismatch between their rhetoric and policy. At the moment it seems they are all too happy to ignore the problem in their own house.

Labour in Leeds

The local event in Leeds is not a protest like in most of the country but a talk about ‘community organising’ hosted by two Labour Councillors followed by some flyering in Ireland Wood and Potternewton Estates. Make no mistake, this is certainly a Labour event. In a Constituency Labour Party email it describes the event as organised by “Leeds Labour Club, Leeds Fabians and Labour Left”. In the same email it says that the event will visit the Weetwood ward because it is a Labour target seat, which raises the question of what their priority is: stopping the bedroom tax or solidifying Labour’s position on the council.

Possible cynicism aside, it is a change to see Labour councillors campaigning on the bedroom tax. Previously they had seemed to relegate themselves to the position of “managing the impossible” (Brain Selby) and claiming their “hands are tied” (Peter Gruen). In Middleton, Labour councillors bullied our supporter into cancelling our first attempt at a local meeting, refused to turn up to the meeting they were invited to and then effectively disrupted our third.

So perhaps we should welcome Alex Sobel and Neil Walshaw (the Labour councillors organising the event) to the campaign? We will, but we want them to show they mean it by:

–          Putting pressure on the Labour Party to fulfill the above points.

–          Pressuring the council to join and work with us to oppose the bedroom tax.

–          Pressuring the council to refuse to evict anyone as a result of the bedroom tax.

We don’t want to dam these councillors before they have had their say and we will certainly work with them if they are willing to do these things which is why we look forward to their meeting.

Ultimately we don’t have much faith in politicians and that is why we are building confidence among those affected so that we ourselves can resist the bedroom tax by banding together and supporting one another. This will make it unworkable and force its abolition. This is why we have been busy having meetings across Leeds and are planning a big demo in April. Have a look around the site, email us or come to one of our local meetings and get involved!

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