Monday, March 25, 2013

Liverpool Labour Councillor Squirms Over Bedroom Tax Evictions

At the Labour Party-organised Bedroom Tax demonstration in Liverpool ten days ago, the vice chair of Venture Housing made an astonishing claim from the platform - that no-one would be evicted from the association's houses as a result of not being able to keep up the rent post-Bedroom Tax. In a quick interview afterwards however, Louise Baldock told me she'd only said because "I wanted you not to keep shouting".

As others have written elsewhere, the Labour organisers maintained the pretence that the event was "a people’s demo not a political demo". However, the political focus was made clear by the parade of Labour politicians who took to the stage, while Combat The Bedroom Tax activists who had been putting in the hard miles since end of last year were not only denied a speech, but loudly condemned by named organiser Claire Chapple.

I took up a position stage right, and used my megaphone to let Labour know they would not have things their own way, constantly asking the local councillors amongst them if they had voted for the devastating local cuts package the previous week (none answered; they all had), and what their strategy for combating the bedroom tax was. After all, each one was droning on and on about how bad the Bedroom Tax will be for tenants, without offering any perspective whatsoever for effectively opposing it.

Apart from party political capital, some Labour people present had an unspoken agenda. Deputy Mayor Paul Brant makes many thousands per year as chair of Riverside Housing Association, which has a very large stock in Liverpool. However, he did not mention this fact in his speech. Baldock's Venture is much smaller, but still owns and manages 1300 homes in Liverpool and the Wirral. As I mentioned in my article in the days leading up to the demo:
"Like all 'social landlords', Venture is caught between what is transparently an attack on the very idea of 'social housing', and the need to collect rent in order to make money. Vice chairs of housing associations can expect to take home around ten thousand pounds per year for attending a few meetings."
Doubtless Baldock and Brant - and many others like them in the Labour Party nationwide - do actually resent the Bedroom Tax. After all, it could seriously affect their own financial interests. But they are tied to ruling class legality, and cannot make any more of an appeal to those affected than to vote Labour. Even then, national Labour is very far from making a commitment to repealing the Bedroom Tax in 2015 - long after the evictions have happened if working class people do not make a community-based stand.

Fortunately, that's exactly what an ever-increasing number of us intend to do.

You can view my intervention in Baldock's speech from 12 minutes in here, and my interview with her is below. 

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