Shouting down Labour MPs will not stop the Bedroom Tax

Yesterday I joined hundreds of others at the Bedroom Tax protest in Newcastle, at what I was hoping would be a broad based coalition of people who oppose this vicious tax and that could send a message to Westminster (to all political parties) whilst also engage with members of the public who may not be aware of what is being done in their name.

I was delighted that two good Labour MPs, Chi Onwurah (Newcastle Central) and Ian Mearns (Gateshead) would be speaking from the platform, along with speakers from a cross-section of socialist groups, tenants groups and people directly affected by the Bedroom Tax.

Sadly, the protest was spoiled for me by two or three vocal anti-Labour campaigners who tried to drown out Chi Onwurah and Ian Mearns and demand that Labour be excluded from the rally.

Those who know me and know my politics, will know that I am a passionate defender of the Labour Party and what we should stand for but at the same time I have been a harsh critic of the direction we have taken in recent years. Indeed I have some sympathy for the frustrations of comrades on the left who despair at the failure of the Labour leadership to come out emphatically and commit to repeal the Bedroom Tax if we form the government after 2015.

However, attacking good socialists like Chi Onwurah and Ian Mearns is not going to help bring down this government. Ian in particular is a champion of the Left within the party. If we had more Labour MPs like Chi and Ian, and other like Grahame Morris, Ian Lavery, Jon Trickett etc, then I am sure a commitment to repeal the Bedroom Tax would have already been made.

Further, there was a much bigger concern yesterday. As anyone who has knocked on doors, spoken to friends and neighbours about the Tax, or discussed it at the local pub or club will know – many people are either not aware or are ignorant of the sheer viciousness and unfairness of the Tax. Events like yesterday in Newcastle are a great way to raise awareness and educate Having speakers shouted at just puts off a lot of people who might otherwise be ‘non-political’.

I acknowledge that there is a need for the Labour leadership to come out tougher on the Bedroom Tax and on social security generally and I accept the argument for councils to pledge not to evict tenants caught in the Tory trap. Shouting demands to good MPs who oppose the Tax will not achieve anything, except to alienate some and divide the left.

Events like yesterday should be open to all who oppose the Bedroom Tax and want to see it repealed. Of course there will be people like me who want to see councils go further in protecting tenants in the face of Tory attacks. There will also be those who want a campaign of non-payment. Whatever our responses to the Tax, we should celebrate that Labour MPs want to nail their colours to the mast and publicly state their opposition to it.

Of course it would help if the Labour Party leadership recognised the inconsistencies of campaigning against the Tax now, but being reluctant to pledge to repeal it. But, the place to make that argument is within the Labour Party – join, get involved and make sure your MP is demanding Labour repeal the Tax.


5 thoughts on “Shouting down Labour MPs will not stop the Bedroom Tax

  1. Daniel Patrick New

    You make some interesting points about well meaning people in the Labour party fighting against the bedroom tax. However, I disagree that we should be willing to work with ALL organisations on this…for example the EDL have used this as an opportunity to create a popular front on the issue and I think this is a threat we should all be aware of. On the issue of Labour MP’s being given the oppurtunity to speak, I have no problem with this but I must confess I do take Issue with giving a platform to those who have stated they are in favour of evicting some of the most vulnerable within our communities. The speeches would have been much more well received and would not have given a potentially detrimental action to the ammunition to take place had speakers who have made there position quite clear on this been given the opportunity to speak. I’m of the opinion that anyone who wishes to be a part of the campaign must stand behind a PEACEFUL campaign of non compliance and must be against evictions of those who cannot afford to pay for their own homes due to these savage cuts. Cuts which i acknowledge have been passed through parliament by a corrupt and out of touch Coalition but it must be remembered that the foot soldiers, the ones implementing this at a local level are the Labour councillors who have put party politics and personal gain and security above that of the needs of the people. For those who argue that the council have there hands tied I recommend they ‘google Poplar’. SMASH THE BEDROOM TAX!!!!!!

  2. Darren Murphy

    I understand your concerns about the bad impression local residents may have taken from the heckling of Chi Onwurah and Ian Mearns, but I simply reject them because you’re thinking with your heart, rather than your head.

    The Labour Party have always claimed that they represent the working-class, the poor, and the most vulnerable in society; they offered a clear alternative to the Conservatives when it came to welfare spending, even less than a decade ago. However, the Labour Party is in turmoil: they are chasing public opinion, which is currently drifting to the right — in opposition to welfare spending. You must accept that the Labour Party has no principles and no heartfelt care for the people of this country; they are political opportunists who will say and do anything to get elected. It is fine time for respected MPs like Chi and Ian to stand up to their party chiefs, otherwise they’ll be tarnished with the same brush.

    It is vitally important that local people know that Labour DOES NOT provide an alternative to the Conservative Party. If Chi and Ian were able to speak unabated, they would have given the incorrect impression that Labour were against the bedroom tax; whilst, they are the party that brought in the bedroom tax for those in private rented accommodation, they are party that is ripping local authorities apart to make a political point, they are the party who will evict tenants who are unable to pay the bedroom tax. The SNP won’t evict tenants in Scotland, and the people of the UK would appreciate the Labour Party to tell the people the truth: will they evict tenants, and will they repeal the bedroom tax if elected?

    Finally, democracy is about political awareness and the views of the people being heard; the priority is that the public are heard, not politicians. Many campaigners do not wish to deceive local residents that the Labour Party is against the bedroom tax; whilst, three weeks later, they’ll be starting eviction proceedings against some of the poorest and most vulnerable members of our communities. Do they not trust the people with the truth? Of course not: if the people knew the truth about the current Labour Party, apathy would be the least of your problems.

    1. Lynne Brosnan

      Sadly Darren I have to agree with what you say. The Labour Party need to take a step back and realize why they are there. I am sick to death of paying my membership for this lot. They are all career politicians who are in it for themselves. Time they stood up for the working class that are struggling and have to make ends meet by claiming benefits. These lot are not telling the story they are pampering to the Tory voters. Most of them haven’t got a clue about real life.
      If poorer people voted they would get treated with more respect because the would chase the vote. Everyday I hear more and more people commenting on how Labour is letting them down the sad fact is they are.

      1. condercum Post author

        Thanks Lynne, I don’t fall out with what you say. Perhaps I am too optimistic, but if people like us stay in the party and use our status as members to inform, educate and challenge at branch and CLP meetings we can win back our party. Ultimately the main source of power in the Party is the Parliamentary party, so it is vital we members make sure we get Left candidates selected in our constituencies. Far too many of our MPs come from careers, education or backgrounds that don’t provide a sound understanding or appreciation of the working class – BUT (accepting the NEC often draw up short lists) it remains local party members who have selected all these career politicians. In reality the only realistic opposition remains the Labour Party. We must fight from within to reclaim our Party from the remnants left over from the Blair Project.

  3. condercum Post author

    Fair point Daniel. Your comments about local authority funding are correct, and I spent much time within my own Labour Party urging our councillor to vote against cuts. Sadly to no avail – however I maintain the best place to be to at least try and change things is within the Labour Party. Us members could be a powerful force, if only we worked together and recognised that we have just as much right to offer ideas and alternatives as elected councillors and our MPs do.


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