Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/810/18564
Housing crisis: TUSC candidates demand socialist policies
Showing the huge anger that exists about the housing crisis, especially in the capital, 150 people attended a recent meeting on the issue in Leytonstone, north east London.
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidates, who have been campaigning for rent controls and other measures in the local area, attended to raise the need for a serious and determined approach to the campaign for decent housing.
Two advertised speakers, local MP John Cryer and Unison head of local government Heather Wakefield, didn't attend. This left Rosie Walker of campaign group Hackney Renters and Eileen Short from Defend Council Housing to introduce the meeting.
Rosie outlined the precarious situation facing tenants in private renting, who face regular rent hikes and the prospect of being evicted for pointing out maintenance problems. She called for rent controls and secure tenancies. Eileen pointed out that only investment in council housing could offer secure, affordable housing for the mass of working class people.
Two Labour councillors contributed from the floor during the discussion. Gerry Lyons, Labour Whip, let slip the influence of private landlords on the council when he said that landlords are organised to apply pressure so we must be too. He seemed to suggest that only when we're organised enough, Labour councillors will step up.
TUSC candidate and Socialist Party member Nancy Taaffe said:
"It's not good enough to say 'when you've built a campaign, we'll be there', you were elected to lead so either lead or step aside for those of us who will".
Nancy also highlighted the disgraceful situation of one local councillor, Liaquat Ali, who rents out over 100 properties and has a reputation for being a bad landlord.
Nancy called for people to back the TUSC challenge of 33 candidates in Waltham Forest in the local elections and to sign our petition calling on the council to implement rent control.
Labour councillor Marie Pye, portfolio holder for housing, claimed to be very sympathetic but also "pragmatic" and passed the blame for a lack of action from the Labour-dominated council to Tory minister Eric Pickles and cuts from central government.
TUSC candidate and Socialist Party member Sarah Wrack pointed out that when faced with the pressure of a mass campaign, politicians are often suddenly able to overcome these obstacles, such as with the Scottish government not implementing the bedroom tax.
She also responded to a member of the Labour Representation Committee who argued that we shouldn't write the Labour Party off because there are still people on the left of the party fighting to save it.
Sarah pointed to the two anti-cuts councillors in Southampton expelled from Labour for voting against cuts and said, "the time for fighting for Labour is over, you're being shut up and forced out. In these local elections vote for people who will fight side by side with us".
Unfortunately this approach was not replicated by the Socialist Workers Party, which is also standing TUSC candidates. SWP members welcomed the participation of Labour's Marie Pye and, despite wide agreement in the room on the need to stand anti-cuts candidates, argued that this is not the most important task, compared to what happens "on the streets". This fails to recognise that a strong TUSC vote could pressurise even pro-market politicians to act.
Several different campaigns were represented at the meeting. One resident of a council tower block threatened with being sold off and redeveloped with almost no consultation, highlighted the way this had been forced through by Labour. Sandra Sharpe, a disabled woman threatened with eviction over bedroom tax arrears, appealed for help that she hadn't been given from Marie Pye or John Cryer - helped by TUSC supporters, she had written to both.
Socialist Party members were clearly vocalising a mood of huge anger both in the room and beyond against the inaction of the Labour Party. Our petition was enthusiastically passed round and several people approached us afterwards to discuss what we had said.
Waltham Forest Socialist Party member
In The Socialist 7 May 2014:
Socialist Party election campaigning
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns