Category Archives: Scandal

Stay… What Action Can We Take On Housing Benefit

With the Conservative & Lib Dems in full flow, it’s difficult to know which battles to pick, where to fight, what are the red lines. They’ve cancelled contracts to build schools, they’re engaging in blatant gerrymandering, they’re attacking local government budgets, they’re handing schools over to religious groups who are in favour of segregation (and Toby Young), they’re decimating workers’ right (2 years before you have any anyone?). Even the only saving grace is proven to be complete thin air, they’re doing nothing to improve civil liberties aside from cancelling ID cards which weren’t going to happen anyway (farming child detention to foreign ‘reintegration camps’, tracing e-mails etc.) and now they’re going to force the unemployed to do manual labour, community work, probably the job they’ve been fired from in their slash and burn libertarian for beginners economic rampage.  This government is so extreme even Thatcher’s eyes would water (if she had tear ducts), with the help of the Lib Dems the very worst of the Tory party is finally getting its way, it’s like One Nation is a term applied only to the lyrics of Funkadelic in Dave, Gideon & Nick world.  This government is going to war on everything that normal people worked and fought for over the last hundred odd years, and like in any war you make your first strike massive, devastating, overpowering, you strike multiple targets, you overwhelm your opponents and you make sure you leave your mark forever.

This is shock & awe politics.

Shock & awe politics on steroids by a generation of millionaires who have never had to work a day and take their inspiration from the stereotype asset strippers that previously existed only in the screenplays of satirists.

My lovely readers (or more likely, lovely reader who has stumbled here by accident), I’m afraid it is up to us.  But what can we do?  With so much going on how can we possible make a difference?

You know red lines, things like tuition fees used to be to the Lib Dems? I believe that each of us must pick our red line, pick our cause and make that our own fight. However, we must stick to it.

I have a red line. I have something that I cannot simply sit by and watch and I want to do something about it, I need to do something about it.

Before I discuss this red line, I need to contextualise why it’s so important to me.  I love London, a city I have lived and worked in all my adult life. I love its vibrancy, I love how people mix, how people of all religions, creeds, colours, beliefs live side by side, I love how my beloved Arsenal can be so geographically close to Sp*rs yet retain their reputation as the purveyors of beautiful football, I love how much music there is here, how so many movements have come from London’s streets and London’s colleges, I love how I can walk to and from work each day and walk through so many different cities in one, and I love how rich and poor live side by side.

For me, this last point, that the average London street like mine places millionaires next to some of London’s poorest families is something that helps London be all of those great things above, the mixing of financial backgrounds is a key factor in London’s vibrancy.

With the disgraceful cuts in Housing Benefit, the Tory/Lib Dem alliance wants to attack this way of life, this fundamental of London’s spirit, this fact that has been true of this city for hundreds of years.  They don’t believe the poor should participate in a city which truly is one of the capitals of the world. The refrain you will hear is  “Why should poor people live in London if other working people can’t afford to”?

Do you know why? Exactly because people can’t afford to. Property poverty in London is a huge problem. My humble one bedroom in zone 2 costs over half of the average wage before tax, and that’s without council tax, bills etc. How the hell can a family afford to live here? To have a 2, 3 or 4 bedroom house needed for their roost. No, those who state that the poor shouldn’t live in London if they can’t afford it think not of how an affordable social housing solution could not only solve this problem but also give jobs to those working in the building trade.  It’s the kind of hateful self-interest that you see when people state we shouldn’t give aid to foreign states ‘COS WEVE GOT R OWN PROBLUMS’.

They’re happy for London to be out of reach for all normal families because it is for them. But I am not. I can afford it here, I am one of the lucky ones, but I don’t want to live in a London devoid of children from working class familes. I don’t want to live in a London full only of professional couples and flats used by the super-rich for a few days each year.

It’s not as though everyday families can afford to move to the countryside. These families will end up in a tiny strip of the southeast’s suburbia and the north (as outlined here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/nov/08/housing-benefit-north-south-divide ) leaving London a sterile city, a playground populated by the rich whilst ‘the help’ is bussed in from miles away to do the dirty jobs (they won’t get the train as transport poverty is on the up, what with 30% fare increases). It’s also simply not the case that this cap will depress rental prices and normalise the lettings market as the Tory & Lib Dem buddies will tell you because landlords are already refusing to take tenants on Housing Benefit as I noted when I was moving earlier this year and as Glenda Jackson points out here:   http://www.24dash.com/news/housing/2010-11-03-Housing-benefit-cap-wont-lead-to-surge-in-homelessness-insists-welfare-minister

No, this change in housing benefit is an attack on London’s soul.

The Tory’s and Lib Dems will tell you this is an attack on the workshy, but only something like 1 in 8 HB claimants is unemployed (and I simply don’t accept the rhetoric that the unemployed are workshy). It is an attack on those who don’t have enough money, it is social cleansing and Clegg gets angry about those words being used because they ring true.

And I can’t sit here and take it. Much as it doesn’t effect me directly it affects my city, my community, and I must do something.

So this blog is a call to action for anyone who like me, cannot let this one happen.  I don’t know what to do, but I have got an idea.  We need to make this policy unworkable. We need to make sure that everyone realises that this is an attack on every day families.  We need to make sure that landlords put the Conservatives under pressure. We need to take action.

My idea is that we need to organise to help families to stay in their homes, to pay what they can afford but simply refuse to leave their homes. We need to stand with them when the bailiffs arrive, we need to make sure that each time they try to evict a family that there are cameras to record this social cleansing as it happens.  We need to organise so this flood of refugees from London doesn’t go unnoticed. That this social cleansing is not made easy, that it’s made every bit as hard as actioning this type of hideous policy should be.

We need to make sure that people understand that this is children being ripped from their schools, from their friends, just because their parents have the audacity to be in a low paid job. We need to make sure that people realise that extended families will be separated, that  grandparents who raise so many of our children these days, will be living halfway across the country once the 2 generations below them have been forced away.

We need to help people stay in their homes, and if they can’t stay we need to make moving them on as painful as can be imagined for the government, for landlords and for bailiffs.

So much as I don’t have a clue about how we’re going to organise (PLEASE HELP ME), I do know this, I want to call this action “Stay”. For me it’s about helping people stay, stay in their homes, stay close to their communities and support groups, stay close to their schools, stay in stability, such a core thing in helping people get back on their feet. But it’s also about this, I want London to Stay London.

Who’s with me?

EDIT: To get in touch you can tweet me http://twitter.com/kilburnmat or mail me at matvigour@gmail.com

I’ve been using #STAY as the hashtag to keep a tab on it so feel free to use that too

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Filed under Cameron, ConDems, Conservatives, FibDems, Lib Dems, Scandal, Simon Hughes

I Fought The Laws…

Obviously, it’s imperative for the good of all mankind that I give my opinion on David Laws so I’m going to.

He has to go.

David Laws is in a long-term relationship and renting a room from his partner, this is against the rules, it’s dishonest, and I consider this to be fraudulent even if the law doesn’t agree with me.

£40,000 isn’t a huge amount of money in the grander scheme of things, but helping your partner pay their mortgage at the tax payer’s expense whilst literally millions of Londoners can’t afford to get on the property ladder is not acceptable.

Keeping one’s relationship a secret is no reason for financial dishonesty, and as many have pointed out, if he were claiming benefits he’d now find himself on the wrong side of the law with a fine and a prison sentence: http://benefitfraud.blogspot.com/2010/02/slow-investigation-of-single-person.html .  In his statement, he says that he was motivated by his desire for privacy, not greed, but surely if this was the case he would have simply not claimed? He could certainly afford not to claim.

His position as one of the key protagonists in government cuts is completely untenable, he now has no credibility to ask the British public to tighten their belts, and this level of financial irregularity should mean that he’s never let near any kind of budget again, let alone the giant excel spreadsheet of the UK Government.

What’s worse though, is that this was an MP who campaigned vociferously on a ‘clean politics’ ticket, as part of a Liberal Democrat party that claimed it was ‘different’, was ‘clean’,  and would introduce a ‘new politics’.  Laws himself claimed to be whiter than white, criticized other MPs and then even went on to use the Yoevil Lib Dems’ website to boast about the fact that, unlike other MPs, he had not had to pay back any of his expenses: http://www.yeovil-libdems.org.uk/news/press/1305.htm – a boast he made knowing that it was dishonest, knowing that he was breaking the rules.

Laws has failed the test of honesty, of probity and of transparency, his theft of £40,000 to line his partner’s pockets means he has to go.  If Cameron and Clegg fail to take action this will be a double failure of ‘new politics’, and will quickly take the shine off this coalition.

This brings me on to the ConDems.  It’s been interesting to see how cosy the cheerleaders are for both parties. Tories hacks and bloggers have rushed to Laws’ aid, even having the audacity to brand those criticising Laws as homophobic (in the same week that Grayling was elevated to the Privvy Council and IDS appointed Stroud as an aide). 

It’s the behaviour of the Lib Dem activists that has disappointed me most.  The Liberals bandy words like ‘tribalism’ around on a regular basis, particularly at Labour supporters. Yet I’ve not seen a single Liberal Democrat admit that Laws has done anything wrong.  Their defences of Laws have included the following:

Laws wanted to protect his privacy
I can understand that Laws may not have wanted to reveal details of his relationship to the public, or to some family and friends, and though society has moved on in terms of sexual equality (props to Labour deserved), even I know people who have kept their sexuality from family members.  So I do sympathise. But if you want to keep your partnership private you should keep your partner off the accounts.  You do not help him generate asset wealth by having the tax payer contribute towards his mortgage.

Also, the issue of privacy is one that everyone entering politics must surely consider? One of the reasons that I pause before throwing myself into a high profile political life is because I value my privacy (and because I’m a dislikeable twat).

And then consider the privacy of a benefit claimant? There isn’t a tick box for ‘private’ under living status on any of the benefits forms as far as I know.  The only solution for the plebs that may want to maintain privacy is to simply not claim, which brings me onto…

Laws Had To Do This So He Didn’t Out Himself
I’m absolutely convinced that this is not the case.  Firstly, he could simply have not claimed, he can certainly afford to and this would be the only way out for someone on the breadline living on benefits.  However, there must have been another solution, but none of these solutions would have seen him lining his partner’s pockets with £40,000.

Laws Was Saving Tax Payers Money
This is total and utter bunkum.  Laws was renting a room in Kennington from his partner for £950pcm.  In a 5 minute search I identified entire flats with gardens that were available for less, some of them even look quite nice such as this one: http://www.findaproperty.com/displayprop.aspx?edid=00&salerent=1&pid=721086 . So if this is his ideas of ‘saving money’ then there’s absolutely no way he is competent to hold the purse strings of the nation.

This Wasn’t Laws’ Partner
Well this would insinuate that a homosexual relationship is not equal to a straight one and is frankly offensive.

Economic Stability Depends On It
This ‘get out of jail free’ card has to be nipped in the bud right now.  Economic stability depends on having credible trustworthy people heading up the treasury, Laws’ behaviour has proven that he is neither.  Besides, I thought Vince Cable was the saviour?

And the one that the Liberals are turning to most: Well What About Labour?
So David Laws defrauds the tax payer of tens of thousand of pounds and what do the Liberals do?  Have a moan about Labour MPs.  How does £40,000 stand up next to Jacquie Smith’s £8 that it was claimed was spent by her husband which the Liberals were delirious about?  But their rhetoric has even included attacking the MPs receiving Legal Aid as a response.

What Liberals fail to understand is that many supporters of both Labour and the Conservatives were horrified by the expenses scandal. I was unable to campaign for Labour on principle for MPs that hadn’t even broken the rules, but had claimed second homes allowance even though they were representing London constituencies, and have praised Libs such as Sarah Teather, who didn’t claim second homes, and who even used public transport.  Many of us called for MPs to be deselected and Ministers to stand down.  I have yet to see a single Liberal do this for what is a massive abuse of the system and a breaking of the law.

The lesson the Liberals are going to have to learn is that being in government means being accountable, which is something they’ve had no experience of whilst heckling both sides.  Enjoy that accountability whilst it lasts.

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Filed under Activists, Cameron, ConDems, Conservatives, David Laws, Expenses, FibDems, Labour, Lib Dems, Liberals, Resign, Scandal