@Ed_Miliband says Labour will abolish bedroom tax the day after I question @HarrietHarman on it on @bbcquestiontime


Ed Miliband has finally come off the fence and announced Labour will abolish the bedroom tax if it wins the next election, the day after I spoke on Question Time about it!

I have just posted the following comment to this Guardian article:

I can’t help thinking that the timing of Ed’s announcement (inevitable as it was) was influenced by Harriet Harman’s strong arguments against this vicious measure and my question from the floor, on Thursday’s Question Time from Rochdale.

I said: “I’d like to ask Harriet Harman whether she would call on Labour councillors not to evict people from their homes, especially if they are on Jobseekers Allowance because you get a situation where people on JSA get a letter saying they are allocated the minimum amount to live on yet they are expected to pay bedroom tax and council tax. I know in this area, Rochdale council is charging people 25% on a Band A property of their council tax…” At this point, David Dimbleby interrupted me to ask if Rochdale is a Labour-controlled council, and I replied “It’s a Labour-controlled council, yes.” at which point he called Harriet Harman in to respond.

The official Labour position of expecting people to wait to see what the manifesto at the next general election says, not to mention having Labour councillors evicting non-payers (which would cost far more than it saves), that Harman unfortunately put across, was proving increasingly untenable.

[EDIT 31/10/13: This is out-of-date, see comment for how you can view the debate on YouTube.] You can watch repeats of that episode of Question Time on BBC2 at 2:10am this morning (Saturday 21 September in Sign Zone) or at 6pm on BBC Parliament tomorrow (Sunday 22 September). You can also watch it on BBC iPlayer at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03bdvsv/Question_Time_19_09_2013/. Debate on the bedroom tax starts 32 minutes in, I spoke 37 minutes 50 seconds in.

Hattie Harperson (as Private Eye calls her) hung around after the programme and I explained that my question wasn’t personal, but that it would put pressure on Labour at their conference next week. At the time, it was still unclear whether Ed Miliband would announce that Labour will abolish it (although a Sunday People article on 1 September suggested he would make such an announcement at that conference which confirmed a tweet I saw previous to that from “a source close to the two Eds” that Labour would announce such a thing in September).

[I wondered a bit why I was so diplomatic with Ms Harman as a member of a much more left-wing organisation (Left Unity), but politically it’d be much better if Labour spends more effort opposing the ConDems rather than copying them, and the main enemy at such a mainstream programme is the government, whose arguments got well and truly demolished on that episode of Question Time. This friendly brief chat I had with her, even handing her one of my cards (promoting this blog as well as some other sites of mine) which she’d seen me distribute to some members of the audience. However, this was more than justified by the response of Ed Miliband! Incidentally, Laurie Penny, a New Statesman columnist and on Question Time for the first time, was better generally than the other panellists though she admitted on Twitter before the programme that she was really nervous!]

I must mention someone (who doesn’t want to be named) who I met in Manchester where thousands of people were being taken through the magistrates’ court (with a very small percentage turning up) for non-payment of council tax. He showed me his JSA letter which states that it is “the minimum required to live on”. The Greater Manchester Anti-Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation is encouraging those on benefits to appeal the decision made by their council to charge the council tax since councils have ‘discretion’ on whether or not to do so. We suggest writing to the council tax department and ask that they use these powers of discretion and waive the council tax bill on the grounds that you are currently living on means tested benefits, set at a level considered in law to be the minimum required to live on, and to now pay the council tax would mean that you would have to live on less, making you a ‘vulnerable adult’.

Finally, let me point you to an earlier blog entry I wrote (Non-payment advice) containing advice on non-payment of the bedroom tax and council tax (called by some including me “the new poll tax”) from a legal briefing held by the Greater Manchester campaign. Note that I am not legally qualified but I have tried to accurately report on advice from those who are in that blog entry and this.

7 thoughts on “@Ed_Miliband says Labour will abolish bedroom tax the day after I question @HarrietHarman on it on @bbcquestiontime

  1. About time Labour stood up to say somethig about this divisive tax.Aimed at the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.I vote Labour because I believe in a society that protects it’s most vulnerable and believe that’s what they too believe in.This tax impacts directly those less able to defend themselves.

  2. The debate has been uploaded to YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1VpA6fIg30

    I suppose Labour have actually “stood up to say something about this divisive tax” before, but they have taken so long to get round to committing themselves to abolishing it that it has seemed to many that it would never happen. I do believe that Harriet Harman was being genuine in putting forwards strong arguments against it on Question Time, but she had to toe the then party line of asking people to wait until the next general election and see what is in their manifesto (as well as expecting Labour councillors to implement evictions).

    I agree with you up to a point, Jo – I certainly want “a society that protects it’s most vulnerable” and Labour politicians do so more than Tories or Lib Dems. However, their leadership earlier this year committed themselves to continuing with ConDem austerity (this undemocratic commitment should be challenged at their upcoming conference). No wonder Labour’s opinion poll ratings have been so close to those of the deeply unpopular Tories, with many thinking all politicians are the same.

    Since my organisation/party, Left Unity, is highly unlikely to win the next general election (especially under the highly undemocratic first-past-the-post electoral system), I’m reconciling myself to hoping Labour wins (but would like some Left Unity MPs elected in what are considered “safe” Labour seats) – unless of course there is a massive financial crisis provoking a socialist revolution in the meantime, which some financial analysts are predicting!

  3. According to today’s Observer, 3-bedroomed homes face demolition by housing associations because insufficient people can afford to live in them due to the bedroom tax (which seems extraordinarily short-sighted bearing in mind that Miliband has pledged to abolish it, but it does expose this ConDem policy): http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/nov/10/bedrooom-tax-affordable-homes-face-demolition

    This should of course be used as part of the pressure to exert on MPs when Labour puts forward a motion in the House of Commons to abolish this vicious tax on Tuesday (particularly Liberal Democrat MPs whose conference decisions are supposed to be binding, bearing in mind that their September conference opposed the continuation of the tax). The prospect of just one LibDem cabinet minister voting for Labour’s motion, as suggested in the Observer article, illustrates their contempt for both their own party’s internal democracy and the hardship suffered by many of their constituents.

    [I’ve posted the comment below to the website.]

    I note the point above:

    “A number of senior Liberal Democrats, including one cabinet minister, are also understood to have reservations about the policy.”

    Their conference in September decided to oppose the bedroom tax. Labour has too, so there should be an in-built majority in the Commons to repeal this appalling legislation!

    However, MPs won’t reflect the wishes of their parties, or indeed their constituents, without pressure.

    Go to http://marenipolitics.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/mass-email-of-mps-for-opposition-day.html (you can find out who your MP is and email him/her via http://www.writetothem.com).

    If you are on Facebook, you can go to (and invite people to) the event https://www.facebook.com/events/171155573082900

  4. In answer to someone on that Guardian/Observer web page who asked “Will this include the ban on private tenants having more rooms than they need or is it selective in favour of social tenants?”, I replied:

    I know that IDS (a nasty man in a nasty party if ever there was one) has justified the bedroom tax on the basis that it brings council and housing association tenants into line with private tenants. The answer should be to let them too claim full housing benefit if they are out of work!

    I do note, though, that social tenants tend to be poorer (indeed, that’s a criterion to get on the waiting lists) and less likely to be able to afford the part of the housing benefit they are expected to pay due to having a “spare room”. Also, many landlords specify “No DSS” when they rent their properties out.

    Now, LibDem chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, is in the embarrassing situation whereby his father, who is Chair of a housing association, has described it as “particularly unfair”, as reported in today’s Guardian – http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/nov/10/danny-alexander-father-di-bedroom-tax-unfair – as one of the most pro-Tory of the Liberal Democrats in the coalition government, will he oppose it and defy the Tories or go against the wishes of his party, many of his constituents and his father?

    An article in today’s Daily Mirror, at http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/bedroom-tax-labour-mp-rachel-2719151, says:

    “The Mirror will tomorrow [Tuesday 12 November] hold a protest at 1pm outside the Commons as MPs debate the policy, which cuts housing benefit for those with a spare room by around £13.60 a week. The public are invited to join the protest.”

    I have set up a Facebook event, to improve the turnout at that protest, at https://www.facebook.com/events/217158738462099.

  5. Pingback: Lobby of Parliament as it debates abolishing bedroom tax (Tues 12 Nov 2013, 1pm) as called for by Daily Mirror | ThatcheroftheLeft

  6. Burnham Eyes Soe Bevan,

    Please bear in mind that I wrote the original blog entry, to which these are replies, on 21 September (2013). I am publicising it again now, as Labour prepares to put forward a Bill on abolition of the bedroom tax in Parliament. I did hear a rumour of Miliband telling a local paper that Labour would abolish it quite a long time ago, but it wasn’t until “a Sunday People article on 1 September suggested he would make such an announcement at that conference which confirmed a tweet I saw previous to that from ‘a source close to the two Eds’ that Labour would announce such a thing in September” (as I said in the original post) that Miliband’s position became clear.

    Even so, Harriet Harman argued strongly against the tax on the episode of Question Time when I was in the audience, but put forward the official line that people would have to wait to see what was in the manifesto.

    You could have a point about the Tories getting more news coverage than Labour, but Labour hardly helped matters by not having much to say until they finally got some policies at the last conference! If you think it’s unfair how much publicity right-wing parties (including UKIP) get, spare a thought for those of us in parties to the left of Labour!

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