How can abolishing the Bedroom Tax be called ‘too left-wing’?

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Trades unionist BOB HEWLETT suggests that blame for his party’s defeat in the General Election is being placed too conveniently on one or two individuals

Well, well, well. Summer has not even arrived but already hairy old chestnuts are aplenty.

"Have you checked your emails, Ed?": Steve Reed, MP for Lambeth South, on a recent tour of Crystal Palace with the Labour party leader Ed Miliband, minister Chuka Umanna (right), and the leader of the Labour group on Croydon Council, Tony Newman (left)

Happy daze: Ed Miliband, when Labour Party leader, campaigning in Croydon with Steve Reed OBE (holding the pledge card), Chuka Umanna (right), and Croydon Council leader Tony Newman (left). According to some, Labour’s election defeat was all Miliband’s fault

As the Labour hierarchy plunge their collective knives into stabbing Ed Miliband in the back (without any irony) and charge the now former party leader for being the reason for Labour’s failure to win Thursday’s General Election, they purposefully omit to charge the real culprit, Ed Balls.

Let us turn to John Braggins and his post on May 9. In his view, three people were to blame for the defeat. First up is Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, “for using his trade union, Unite, to override the wishes of Labour MPs, Labour members and Labour supporters to impose the wrong Miliband on us.” McCluskey, this latter-day Svengali, by using his dulcet tones and hypnotic eyes, mesmerised thousands of Unite members into subverting the Labour leadership process. Wave upon wave of Unite members arose on that fateful day and, zombie-like, entered their vote for Ed Miliband.

Errr, not quite. A cursory look at the voting figures of the Labour leadership election seems to disprove John Braggins’ theory.

David Miliband increased his vote from the 3rd round to the 4th round as follows: Labour MPs and MEPs: 3rd Round 125 … 4th Round 140, an increase of 15. Labour members: 3rd Round 60,375 … 4th Round 66,814, an increase of 6,439. Affiliates (trade unionists etc): 3rd Round 66,889 … 4th Round…80,266, an increase of 13,377.

Ed Miliband increased his vote from the 3rd round to the 4th round as follows:- Labour MPs and MEPs: 3rd Round 96 … 4th Round 122, an increase of 26. Labour members: 3rd Round 46,697 … 4th Round 55,992, an increase of 9,295. Affiliates (trade unionists etc): 3rd Round 102,882 … 4th Round 119,405, an increase of 16,513.

Hypnotic: Len McCluskey

Hypnotic: Len McCluskey

If we concentrate on the affiliate figures, Unite members did not turn out in their droves at the behest of Len.

On the contrary, the figures show that, given the membership of Unite, let alone the membership of other affiliated Trade Unions, many trade unionists did not vote at all. In fact, Ed Miliband increased his vote in all three groups far greater than David Miliband. Therefore, unfortunately for John Braggins, Ed Miliband got elected because of increasing his vote in all three groups; the increase in the affiliate section included Unite members, together with other trade unionists and affiliates. It was not because of Unite members.

Next up in John Braggins’ list of those to blame is Ed Miliband himself, “for thinking it was the right thing to stand against his brother and, as the media put it, stab him in the back”. John is most upset that Ed Miliband had the effrontery to allow his name to be nominated and seconded and then be entered in a democratic election for the Labour Party leadership.

As far as Labour Party rules go, there is no bar on candidates who are related to other candidates. The fact that John Braggins appears to have sided with the right-wing media and the right-wing elements in our society, including the Tories, is illuminating.

Next up is Arnie Graf, “for giving legitimacy to the idea that if you have an unpopular leader all you need to do is organise in the community to spread your message and people will vote for you”. Poor Arnie, he is blamed, but not Douglas Alexander, Labour’s head of election strategy. Arnie is blamed, but not  “austerity-lite” Ed Balls. Of course, unpopular leaders do not include Neil “ever-popular” Kinnock, who lost the 1992 General Election when John Braggins was working for the Labour Party.

John Braggins’ post does have support from David Callam. I agree with David that John has “hit the nail on the head”, but the nail in question is John’s thumbnail.

David Callam, in his supportive comment, vents his spleen against democratically elected trade union leaders, specifically in this case Len McCluskey. I have to inform David that trade union leaders are in their place because they have been elected there. Trade union-bashing is really bashing the working class for having the temerity for organising into a coherent industrial and political voice.

Of course trade unions’ first responsibility is to their members’ working conditions. That is why and how workers organised into unions and were outlawed for this activity, such as the Tolpuddle Martyrs. When trade unions were recognised in law, they assumed that the then Liberal Party would be their ally in Parliament. The reality soon dawned on them that they needed their own political voice in Parliament and so set up the Labour Party.

But it is not just John Braggins and David Callam. In the past week, one member of the Labour Party hierarchy after another has tramped along to the television and radio studios to denounce the same policies that they campaigned on. Huh? They complain that the campaign was not business-friendly and was too left-wing.

Not business friendly? No policy on increasing the Corporation Tax to US levels. No policy on a ceiling on dividends. No policy on repealing trade union legislation. Not taking back control of the Bank of England. The list goes on and on. I contend that the campaign was too corporate business friendly.

As for being too left-wing, the mind boggles. How is it “too left-wing” to abolish the Bedroom Tax, to increase the number of nurses and doctors, and to extend free child care?

Are these Progress group members, these Blair Fan Club members, these Mandelson zealots, now advocating the keeping of the Bedroom Tax?

I remind them of this quote from George Lansbury, the Labour Party Leader from 1932 to 1935: “The workers must be given tangible proof that Labour administration means something different from Capitalist administration, and in a nutshell this means diverting wealth from the wealthy ratepayers to the poor. Those who pretend that a sound Labour policy can be pursued nationally or locally without making the rich poorer should find another party.”

The Labour Party is a democratic socialist political party. We will gain power on firm democratic socialist policies that will not only inspire people but also to which the people will aspire.

  • Bob Hewlett is writing in a personal capacity. He is a Unite member, the branch secretary of Unite Central London Taxi Section and he is the chair of Croydon Central Labour Party, and Croydon Trades Council delegate
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This entry was posted in 2015 General Election, Bob Hewlett, Chris Philp MP, Croydon Central, Croydon North, Croydon South, Gavin Barwell, Sarah Jones MP, Steve Reed MP and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to How can abolishing the Bedroom Tax be called ‘too left-wing’?

  1. mraemiller says:

    “How is it “too left-wing” to abolish the Bedroom Tax”

    Marx said “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. If people don’t need a spare bedroom why should they have one? Somewhere in the Bedroom Tax is a Marxist idea. However, since most people’s houses are not like the Tardis and it is not possible to simply “delete rooms” the policy falls down … but the genius of the policy is it sounds Marxist. According to a Mori Poll in April 2014 more people support it than oppose it
    The trouble with most people in the party – indeed most political parties – when it comes to policies like these is they’re so busy talking to themselves about how awful it is they’ve forgotten their job is to explain why it is awful to anyone else.

    Indpendence of the Bank of England was actually an Ed Balls policy so pretty left wing and an attempt to put an end to events like the mid 80s Lawson boom when the Tories used to cause an inflationary boom just in time for the next election which would usually result in a horrible crash some years later then create another boom in time for the next election …and then create Black Wednesday. Surely there can be nothing as left wing as having a bank run by a committee of civil service technocrats? Okay there are 4 external members appointed by the Chancellor for 3 year terms but that still leaves 5 full time employees.

  2. marzia27 says:

    There are elderly people who seek one bedroom flats and there are none available in Croydon. They do not pay for the bedroom tax, anyway.
    There are disabled people who need a spare room for carers or equipment. They have to pay until they reach retirement age.
    There are families with children who occupy one bedroom properties.
    There should be a housing overhaul and a proper redistribution of properties: “To each according to their needs”.
    There should also be a renewal within the Labour Party. The 7 May 2015 debacle might just have been what the party needed to find its heart again. A fresh approach, indeed.

  3. Let’s just build more homes to a reasonable minimum standard and copy that bastion of capitalism, Hong Kong, and have the biggest public housing programme.
    Let’s stop rewarding private landlords with vast rents that the rest of us are subsidising for many of the working poor.
    Let’s stop demonising trivia and deal with the root cause of the problem which is a housing shortage.

  4. Fraternal greetings brother Bob.
    May I draw your attention to the infinately more practical postings that follow your commentary.
    The bedroom tax is insidious precisely because there are no smaller units to which people can move after their families have flown the nest.
    Somebody needs to tell the Tories loudly and clearly that their wizard prank to demonise social housing tenants even further in the eyes of middle England has backfired badly, causing real hardship to disabled people with adapted accommodation and others in real need.
    I suggest that somebody, maybe a trade union, taking a test case for one of its now disabled members as far as the European Court if necessary to outlaw this unjust practice might give the government pause for thought.
    Mr Cameron may have an overall majority in the House of Commons now, thanks to the gross incompetence of Ed Miliband and his so-called advisors, but the prime minister, with all his talk of one-nation Conservatism, is still sensitive to public opinion.
    A good barrister could paint a damning picture of a stoney hearted administration.
    And a high profile case sponsored by a trade union might help to dispel the dinosaur image that makes the likes of Mr McCluskey so feared and hated outside the confines of his membership.
    The trade union movement is overwhelmingly a force for good in this land, but harking back to the Tolpuddle Martyrs is not the way to win hearts and minds.

  5. croydonres says:

    Let’s consider a cottage council house of typical inter-war “homes for heroes” design– of which Croydon has plenty in Waddon, Norbury, Coulsdon and a host of other neighbourhoods. Two reasonable bedrooms and a tiny one, just like loads of semi- detacheds also ubiquitous round here. Mum and Dad– or maybe mum or dad on their own after one spouse has died. It’s highly likely that at some time a grown up son or daughter might need to return to the nest, or a visitor come to stay. But may be some of these mums or dads might be OK with moving to a smaller council property, if it made financial sense to do so, thus freeing up the existing property to newcomers.

    To me, it would make sense to offer tenants in such houses a choice of alternatives, but within or near their home neighbourhoods, if such alternatives exist. Maybe some warden support would be welcome. But, if one looked on a street by street basis, how many houses or larger council flats would actually be freed up in this way?

    Everyone is different, and some might really want to stay in the “family home” until they die. It does seem iniquitous to allow those who can pay to stay, and those who can’t, to get on their bikes. !

    Looking back at the numbers, my guess is that the numbers of home freed up as a result of the bedroom tax would be fairly small. These homes may be denied to the younger generation, for as long as the older generation stays put, but look for another moment at the selling of council houses and , now, the mooted selling ( at reduced prices) of Housing Association properties (aka Homes built with money provided by you and me).

    Now, take these out of the pool available to the younger generation needing a roof to live under. Question– is this going to have a bigger impact on the remaining stock of homes, or is the bedroom tax?. I don’t think a crystal ball is needed to answer this one.

    With regard to building, in London it seems that too many new flats are being sold “off plan” to Russian “Oilygarchs” and the like. In post-election Britain, who is going to restrict such sales, and who is going to actually build new homes in the numbers needed?.

    Would a national development framework, and national development bank be the solution, offering a new breed of developer low cost finance, and guaranteed but lowish margins, and offering landowners a reasonable return for allowing their land (eg shops) to be demolished and redeveloped.? Surely something like this could work?

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