Monday, August 19, 2013

Knowsley Housing Trust and Liverpool Echo in Bedroom Tax Scare Story

The 'ring of steel' which scared Mersey housing associations
When local anti-bedroom tax activists hastily formed a 'ring of steel' around an evicted woman's Knowsley home and faced down bailiffs at the end of last month, the story gained nationwide attention, and many solidarity messages from around the country. It seems this rattled Knowsley Housing Trust (KHT), who have co-operated with the Liverpool Echo to produce a scare story aimed at generating sympathy for the housing association, and hostility for activists.

The article was originally headlined "Uniform Could Attract Attacks" - a ridiculous suggestion as a KHT uniform is just some items of clothing. The only hostility could potentially come from working class people who link the housing association with the social crime of evicting tenants due to bedroom tax and other arrears.

However, no group affiliated with the Merseyside Federation of Anti-Bedroom Tax Groups has committed any act of violence or verbal intimidation against employees of housing associations, and neither have they advised others to do so. Every action taken by local groups on their own or acting within the Federation has been entirely non-violent. There's certainly been lots of noise from people collectively unafraid of expressing their own interests, but no threats whatsoever have been made.

Even as KHT invent and then seek to cure this 'threat' with their advice to staff not to wear uniforms in public, they are forced to admit that none have been targeted so far. As their statement in the Echo concedes, "It is not a reflection of protesters in the region, in fact our experience is that protests have been peaceful and campaigners have been willing to engage with us – which we have actively encouraged."

Still, the Echo's article seeks to play up the 'threat', falsely linking it to "fear of attacks by anti-bedroom tax campaigners" [emphasis added]. The replacement headline "Housing staff told to beware of attacks by anti-bedroom tax campaigners" compounds the same error. Whether the Echo are merely sensationalising the story to grab a few more readers or are playing into a more sinister agenda is unclear at this stage.

This is not a game. People are losing homes and places in communities where they have sometimes lived for generations. In some cases, people are being driven to suicide by measures which KHT and other 'social landlords' are fully complicit in. When someone paid by a housing association puts eviction paperwork through, they are tragically taking part in that social crime against their own class.

But by pressing for evictions, it is the housing association bosses who are spearheading all the attacking, and they already have blood on their hands. To then point a crimson-stained finger at working class people who oppose them is the height of hypocrisy.
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