Despite my first degree being a BA (Hons) in Politics I rarely comment directly on political party matters. I have a great interest in politics yet not on party politics for which I have little time and there is a critical distinction in that. While I believe everything is political or has a political context I am often misconstrued as an old reconstituted leftie eager to attack the Tories.
Part of that is valid yet those who wish to see how I tore into the disgraceful policies of the Blair and Brown governments with regard to SP and the feckless and idiotic policies they had there which saw vulnerable people get shafted saw many no holds barred comments from me. I will attack any policy from any party that shafts those who are vulnerable as that is part of me and a part I can and never will compromise.
The spineless abstaining of the Labour Party over the Welfare Reform Bill which has given great traction to the Corbyn campaign – he was one of the 48 who voted against it and ignored the scurrilous spineless abstention tactic – is symptomatic of the main problem with the Conservatives welfare reform policies – the absence of scrutiny by the political opposition; and because of that the absence of democracy. Her Majesty’s official opposition is the Labour Party and they have not opposed!
Cutting to the chase and not wrapping it up, the Labour Party has been shit scared to oppose welfare reform policies in case they could be labelled as ‘pro-welfare.’
[That deserves a blue typeface; unworthy of red and cowardly yellow doesn’t come across]
As a result the Tories have increasing tightened the ‘welfare’ screw.
The Labour Party have thus been putting PARTY concerns above the best interests of the country and the best interests of democracy in not opposing. That exemplifies the flaws in the party system which politicians see as primary above democracy. It also stinks to high heaven!
The latest Welfare Reform Bill is scary as hell and will severely shaft the most vulnerable as it includes the benefit cap reduction that will see 255,000 families made homeless and at least we now know with the bookies having Corbyn as 2/7 or even 1/4 on to be the next permanent Labour leader that these austerity policies will, at long last, have some genuine opposition.
That means they are 80% or so certain in simple terms and the nearest challanger is Burnham with a 20% chance. The bookies are rarely wrong and never that wrong!
With Corbyn we will have something resembling scrutiny and democracy and that can only be a good thing and especially for those I correctly term as vulnerable and the Conservatives seek at every turn to label scroungers.
Politics is a game and a highly superficial one with the first move advantage (aka no smoke without fire) being a key weapon. Why should the taxpayer allow a scrounger to have a spare room the hardworking family cannot afford to have is a classic example of how the bedroom tax was sold to the electorate who lapped it up, at least initially.
Yet the constant imagery of severely disabled people on TV and across social media changed the public view and they now oppose this policy by a majority. The Labour Party made a belated and frankly half-arsed attempt to oppose the bedroom tax as I have detailed in dozens of blogs over the last year or so. They saw an opportunity that an anti bedroom tax stance held potential votes in simple terms – Imagine if they had any competence or balls in scrutinising other welfare reforms….!
Corbyn has cleverly sidestepped all the barbs put his way by the right wing media, sorry I mean the left-winger Corbyn as the truly impartial BBC and the rest of the media always label him! You get my point. He has even sidestepped the Clause 4 question which journalists have been queuing up to put to him and Corbyn must know that the British public are overwhelmingly behind the renationalisation of the railways and will vote for that too – so much for public ownership being the policy of the dinosaur.
The BR example is significant as here we have an inefficient nationalised industry that needed to be freed up and run effectively by the much more efficient market….only for the market to have failed catastrophically and the public who still believe the inefficient public sector tag of the neo-liberal Conservatives now know from daily experience that the privately run BR is much worse than the old and supposed inefficient publicly run BR.
The renationalisation of the railways is hugely popular with the public and, significantly, it changes the orthodoxy of public inefficiency and private sector uber efficiency that the Conservatives and Labour have promoted as fact when it is largely myth and in my professional context has exacerbated hugely the housing supply crisis to which I return.
Austerity is the next stage of the neo-liberal let’s privatise everything experiment begun by Thatcher and yet without any real scrutiny from the official opposition the public’s view of the bedroom tax has done a complete U-turn. With scrutiny that Corbyn is fully expected to provide (or in simple terms he is not shit scared of opposing ‘austerity’) then the rest of the welfare reforms will unravel and quickly so.
Even if my strongly evidence based projections of 255,000 families containing 850,000+ children made homeless with the reducing benefit caps are wholly wrong and the DWP’s non-evidence based 126,000 families with 330,000 are correct then that is still a city the size of Liverpool made homeless and Corbyn, or should that be how-dare-anyone-oppose-austerity Corbyn, will ensure that this is totally not acceptable and an outrage for any decent society to allow and especially when even the IFS think tank and dahlings of the Conservatives have admitted the benefit cap actually costs MORE!
Challenging the many huge myths and superficialities of the Conservatives ‘welfare’ reforms (sic) presents a whole new political paradigm and PMQs is going to be very interesting indeed. Corbyn is a renowned parliamentary debater and his own brand of politics being totally against this meaningless bullshit term we all call “austerity” will be worth watching. We will have debate and scrutiny and much greater democracy because of it.
That is why I positively welcome Corbyn as Labour leader. He will oppose and he will scrutinise and he will bring back democracy and God forbid even political principle and not accept the neo-liberal orthodoxy that “New Labour” adopted and still seek to hold onto with the Blairite other candidates, that has failed in terms of the railways, and in housing terms as well as in many other areas.
I am not a member of the Labour or indeed any party as I have grave misgivings over the primacy of the party system in relation to democracy. On 11 May 2015, the day after the last general election I thought that Labour has no chance whatsoever of winning an overall majority at the 2020 election even if they had Marvo the Magician as it’s leader unless the EU referendum blows the Conservative Party apart, which it may well do. Then again it could also blow Labour apart though to a lesser degree.
What is certain is the uncertainty of the rest of this parliament and the certainty that it is far from all being about austerity or whether Corbyn was ever pictured reading Das Kapital or even ate more than a tin of cold beans which must have severely disappointed the Daily Mail dirt diggers! You never know Corbyn may even highlight that the Daily Mail is not registered in the UK to avoid tax yet presents itself as the epitome of Britishness (which businesses avoiding tax it probably is the epitome!)
Politics is about to become a lot more fun and a lot more democratic should Corbyn become leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition and whatever your political leanings we should all welcome that increase in transparency and democracy.
NB – The odds above are to become the outright leader not just win the first ballot and rarely, if ever, are the bookies so wrong.
In a professional context I have only looked at Corbyn’s policies, such as they are, in terms of social housing for which he is strongly in favour of and in favour of increasing. That will come as a welcome change and frankly sticks out like a sore thumb amongst all politicians of all parties and even the many right wing professionals in social housing should welcome strongly.
The tenants of social housing, often the most vulnerable people as that is the only place that does house them, should also welcome Corbyn if only for the fact he will scrutinise the ridiculous current housing policy. It is well worth remembering as this point that the SHOUT report which said any government would be a foll not to fund more social housing was drafted and presented by a neo-liberal laissez faire economist. Again much for social landlord and social tenant to welcome.
As I said in my opening I am very interested in politics (not parties) and the political landscape and debate and every other aspect of it will change dramatically and mostly for the better if Corbyn becomes Labour leader. We will have radical opposition which is needed when you have radical (if not rabid) policy emanating from government.
The cigarette paper width between current Labour and Conservative policies is damaging to democracy and has to change and change radically. A consequence of this is the Labour manifesto supported the reducing benefit caps and its interim leader emphasised that Labour supported them and Frank Field as Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee says he is ‘really happy’ with the benefit cap reduction.
The lack of scrutiny to this nefarious policy which sees a mum with a day old baby having to work or face imminent eviction and homelessness is what this policy means. If she cannot work and cannot get child care than the average £75 per week reduction in her housing benefit will see her evicted post haste for arrears – that is precisely how this policy impacts.
If anything ever exposes the complete lack of any scrutiny it is this. The current Labour Party is a spineless regime concerned only with itself and fearful of opposing anything that could be deemed to be “welfare.” That is an affront to any society even non democracies yet aptly describes the same as before realpolitik of Burnham, Cooper and Kendall. The ‘hope’ many say Corbyn has brought to the arena is really an enough is enough position of so many.
The ‘hope’ that Corbyn has engendered in many dormant voters as evidence in the numbers registering and which currently dominates social media must transfer and translate into real hope that finally the policy excesses of this Conservative administration are scrutinised and we start to have a healthy opposition.
Housing and Corbyn position? Here is something from his website which is undated yet clearly has been written shortly after the 2007 Labour Leadership and Deputy Leadership campaigns. Corbyn’s views n social housing will accord with a great many working in UK Housing
During the Deputy Leadership Campaign, the issue of housing came to the fore, thanks to questions from party members, and the readiness of Jon Cruddas to take the issue up. John McDonnell also quite correctly, made a big pitch about housing in his leadership campaign.
[The above opening must date this undated piece sometime shortly after the 2007 Leadership and Deputy Labour Leadership campaigns – JH]
It seems that at last the higher echelons of the Parliamentary Labour Party have recognised that the crisis of the lack of council housing and other forms of social housing is very damaging to Labour supporters and to our prospects for the future.
The government has now produced a Green Paper for consultation, which is rather vague on actual proposals, but does acknowledge that unless there is a big increase in the building of houses for controlled rent, the lives of many people, particularly inner city Britain, will be permanently scarred and blighted.
The consultation period ends in mid October, and it is essential that representations are made to the Department of Communities to set out the key issues surrounding housing. Firstly, the Government must accept the terms of the 4th Option. At the moment, local authority tenants have the choice of Stock Transfer to a Housing Association, the establishment of an Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMOs), or full privatisation of their estates. If they opt to remain as Council tenants they are then punished via an inability to invest and improve the estates through government inspired loans or grants. Despite this, thousands of tenants all over the country voted to remain as Council tenants because they believe this will give them greater accountability over their landlord. It is high time this issue is resolved and Council tenants are given a genuine choice.
Secondly, the only way that the housing crisis for the majority of people can be resolved, is by the building of large number of Council houses. The last Labour government, (1979) even towards the end, was building 100,000 new Council homes a year. This eventually fell to 0 under the Tories, and under the early years of New Labour. The philosophy of the government since 1997 has essentially been to tack social housing as an add-on to private sector development, and say that social housing is only affordable if accompanied by high priced private developments. This philosophy has to be challenged. We should be building Council housing because we need it as a national priority.
Thirdly, many people are tenants of housing associations, or leaseholders through part-rent, part-purchase arrangements, and feel unrepresented by those associations who are increasingly behaving like private sector property developers rather than responsible social organisations. It is time that real democracy was brought to housing associations and real accountability for their expenditure, and they were legally prevented from selling off vacant properties in order to fund new developments.
Fourthly, many people, especially in major cities, are now leading precarious lives in the private rented sector. This is largely unregulated and very expensive, for people who can ill afford it. The1974 Labour government, despite being in a parliamentary minority, introduced comprehensive protection for private sector tenants and rent controls. Whilst this might go against the grain of New Labour thinking, it is necessary to prevent the exploitation of people’s desperate housing needs, by burgeoning private landlords who are given tax incentives to build places for rent.
For a government that is dedicated to getting value for money in the public sector, it is incredibly wasteful to refuse Local Authorities the opportunity to build new Council houses whilst at the same time, through the Housing Benefit system, shoring up the worst aspects of the private landlord system. I am constantly shocked by the disgraceful conditions that many otherwise homeless families are forced to live in when they are placed in privately rented accommodation by housing authorities. I frequently come across families for whom housing benefit pays rents of £300 per week for appallingly maintained flats. This is a crying shame, a waste of public money, and a benefit trap for those unfortunate families placed in this position.
We have the opportunity to turn things around and produce housing for need, and to stop our obsession with feeding the voracious private sector market.