No: What you’re voting for (part 3 – A System of Hypocrites)

Why not fix something that is horrendously broken?  You need look no further than 24 hours from Monday into Tuesday this week to see that our current political system is in gross need of repair.  There were two key incidents that demonstrate the point – firstly, the vote to scrap the Bedroom Tax and secondly our Prime Minister’s speech at an opulent banquet where he explained to high society of The City that austerity is actually great.

The vote to scrap the Bedroom Tax was brought forward by Labour – they’ve been surprisingly slow to act on this ridiculous tax which is seen as the Poll Tax of today.  The Bedroom Tax has been an easy example of where society at large suffers from poor Westminster governance, in the name of ‘austerity’ the UK government introduced a bill where if families are deemed to have one spare room, their housing benefit is cut by 14%, or around £60 a month. If they have two or more spare rooms, the cut is 25%.

By definition, Housing Benefit exists to help people who are on a low income or unemployed pay for their rent.  Introducing this tax is one of those UK government examples of where ‘we’re all in it together’, targeting the poor who are already struggling in a difficult employment market where wages are static but their household energy bills are soaring.  There have been reports that 50,000 people face eviction from their homes because of the Bedroom Tax; with even the United Nations’ special rapporteur on housing Raquel Rolnik commenting that the tax was causing “great stress and anxiety” to “very vulnerable” people.  She added that the Westminster Government bedroom tax should be axed and that it could constitute a violation of the human right to adequate housing.

The Yes campaign in Scotland have been vocal in their disapproval of the Bedroom Tax – highlighting that this is a case where a tax is being enforced upon Scottish people despite our MPs voting against it.  This is something that will never happen if Scotland votes Yes – we’ll get what we vote for.

After an unnecessary delay the Labour party leadership in London also recognised that this tax was regressive and so put forward a motion to repeal the Bedroom Tax.  The vote was on Tuesday but unfortunately it didn’t pass, missing out by a margin of 26.  The scandal comes when you look at the vote in more detail – 47 Labour MPs didn’t vote so the Bedroom Tax could easily have been scrapped if they wanted.  However, these hypocrites are more interested in Party Politics than helping people – you see scrapping the tax is something that Ed Miliband is hoping to campaign for come the next General Election: he made that very clear in this speech (1min 12secs in if you can’t bear the rest of it).

The shame of Labour wasn’t really covered by the press but the excellent Aye 2014 blog exposes things clearly and Wings Over Scotland highlights the particular Medal of Dishonour for Anas Sarwar in all this.

As if the fact that the Tory government have introduced a tax that hits the poor and vulnerable in society isn’t bad enough, the Labour party are more interested in their own campaign for the next General Election than the people they represent.  Remarkably and somehow unashamedly just a few hours before this vote, Cameron was entertaining the elite of society in the lavish Guildhall banquet hall.

There is an excellent Comment is Free piece on the Guardian from a waitress which opens with ‘At a state banquet for the new Lord Mayor on Monday, David Cameron gave a speech about his commitment to the cause of permanent austerity. He stood up to speak from a golden chair, and read his notes from a golden lectern…’ and she goes on to describe how bizarre it was to see our Prime Minister address the elite and yet be completely oblivious to the staff who were providing the service for the evening.  The banquet included a champagne reception and a 4 course meal – all paid for by the taxpayer, and no doubt there were a host of people being entertain who just recently received a massive hand-out from the taxpayer as we handed over Royal Mail on the cheap (as covered in part 2 of my ‘No: what you’re voting for’ series)

The ridiculous contradiction was clearly lost on Cameron and indeed most people in the UK are so disconnected from the establishment that runs the country that events like this pass by without much comment.  Thankfully though the Belfast Telegraph did highlight the hypocrisy and Steve Bell’s cartoon captured the spirit of the talk I think.

Voting No at the referendum next year is a vote of confidence for this ridiculous system that currently governs us.  The very notion of that is ridiculous to me.  It is little wonder that Russell Brand’s revolution proposal on Newsnight was so well received by so many in the UK.  Hopefully Brand and others will see that we have the opportunity to dismantle the broken UK establishment with a Yes vote in Scotland next year.

About stuartmdarling

I live in Motherwell & work in Edinburgh in the Oil & Gas sector, which has been taking me around the world for 14 years now. My passion for politics and music go with me every step of the journey...
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4 Responses to No: What you’re voting for (part 3 – A System of Hypocrites)

  1. magma24 says:

    Some very valid points, particularly in relation to the disastrous state of politics – both in the wider UK and also in Scotland. A couple of follow up points spring to mind though, particularly in relation to the so called ‘Bedroom Tax’, and one which I have to admit is purely semantic. Your description of it as being a cut in Housing Benefit for having one or more spare bedrooms is far more accurate than actually naming it a ‘tax’, a quite cleverly crafted moniker created to generate public outcry. Quite simply, it’s not a tax. Please don’t read into this that I am a supporter, believe me, I’m one of the strongest opponents to the reduction in Housing Benefit resulting from under occupation – not as snappy or snazzy a title as ‘Bedroom Tax’, I grant you but each to their own.

    I also agree that the Yes Campaign have been vocal in their disapproval of the ‘Bedroom Tax’, and that this has been enforced upon the Scottish people despite a lack of support from our representatives. This clearly doesn’t apply just to the Scottish people, what of the Welsh, each and every county and local authority in England? You can be guaranteed that they don’t all support the implementation of the ‘Bedroom Tax’. This is where we, as Scots, have the advantage – there is a draft Bill prepared by MSP Jackie Baillie which proposes to prevent evictions in cases of rent arrears caused by the ‘Bedroom Tax’ currently waiting to go before the Scottish Parliament. This is open for consultation http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/gettinginvolved/67996.aspx and is the ideal opportunity for those opposing the ‘Bedroom Tax’ to have their voice heard. I’ve already completed it both personally and professionally. It’s not ideal, in fact, it’s far from ideal, but as it is open for consultation, there is a way forward – is it better to create a ‘they can’t throw me out’ mentality by bringing in a blanket no evictions policy across the country regardless of the pertinent circumstances? I don’t think so. These cases need to be looked at individually and decided individually. That’s without even mentioning the elderly, the disabled and those unable to speak up for themselves, for whom there is a distinct lack of support. If you’re against the ‘Bedroom Tax’ in any shape or form, I’d strongly urge you to consider responding to the consultation.

    One final point. The semantic one. Things like the introduction of the ‘Bedroom Tax’ is “something that will never happen if Scotland votes Yes – we’ll get what we vote for”. I beg to differ. An independent Scotland would be a democratic state, where we would, as you say, vote for what we want. The only thing is, it takes a majority for a vote to be successful, not 100% of the voters being in agreement. Whatever way you look at it, there’s no way of satisfying what everyone wants…

    • Hi and thanks for the comment – I’ve responded specifically to the ‘Protection from Eviction (Bedroom Tax) (Scotland) Bill’ in a new blog post – https://darlingblogs.wordpress.com/2013/11/20/paying-the-price-for-westminsters-failure/.

      With respect to various areas of the UK having policies such as the Bedroom Tax forced upon them against their will, I agree that we should look to see what we can do to help address this scenario. The only tangible way that I can see the situation being positively addressed is if the UK state is deconstructed, bringing the respective governments closer to the people that they serve (rather than the centralised & monolithic UK system).
      The current system fails the English too – because so much of what happens across the UK is hinged on policies set for England (such is the way the devolved bodies are funded in the UK) it is necessary for Scottish MPs to vote on exclusively English issues. This is known as the West Lothian Question and can only truly be resolved with Scottish independence.

      I do think that when Scotland votes for independence that the rest of the UK will be forced to refocus their political priorities. A massively reduced budget for the remainder of the UK will in turn reduce the opportunities for megalomaniac individuals to waste vast amounts of taxpayer’s cash on vanity projects – the focus will have to shift to social priorities.

      In Scotland we will have the opportunity to show what can be achieved with socially progressive policy. Showing what can be achieved when the people are more inherently connected to politics is our opportunity to help our neighbours. The disconnect across the UK is palpable just now, which is why I referenced Russell Brand at the end of this blog post – you need look no further than our local elections to see this manifest: Glasgow city centre had a turnout of just 23.6% at the 2012 local elections, the equivalent elections in Denmark averaged a turnout of 71.9% yesterday. There are a host of suggestions to change things from the status quo just now but they all require independence first. I’ve still not seen any alternative within the UK structure that could lead to the change in direction that is required. For me, I like the idea of a strategy for the nation that will lead to economic and social growth – but from what I can see there’s only one side whose objective is shaped by that aim… (Ian Bell has the same perspective – http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/columnists/why-forecasting-remains-an-art-and-not-a-science.22736336)

  2. Pingback: Paying the Price for Westminster’s Failure | Darling Blogs

  3. Pingback: Referendum Comment: A Response to Ming Campbell | Darling Blogs

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