Saturday, 16 March 2013

Bath Bedroom Tax Demo

Bath Bedroom tax demo
The ConDem government's much-despised Bedroom Tax got a thrashing in around 60 cities today with protests in opposition to the tax taking place across the country.

In two weeks the Bedroom Tax will be implemented unless we stop it. This tax could hit half a million or more of the most hard-up in society. Essentially, anyone in social housing with a spare room will be hit by this tax - under which benefits could be slashed by up to 14%. This is yet another example of getting the poor to pay for the mess made by the rich.

The Bath demonstration was attended by around 150 people, with banners, placards and megaphones. Many were not affiliated to any particular party or group, and those groups with members in attendance included BARF, SolFed, Bath Against Cuts, the Socialist Worker's Party, Occupy Bath, the Green Party and the Quakers. Lin Patterson from the Quakers said about the demonstration: "This is an unfair discriminatory tax that's being challenged in the courts and will be revealed as a wrong turn by court decisions and people's activism". Celia from the SWP was appalled at the Bedroom Tax: "I think it's fantastic to see so many organisations united against this disgusting attack on the poor and vulnerable in society. This attack is an attempt to divide us, to encourage people to blame a neighbour with a spare room, rather than unite against this vicious Tory government".

Demonstrations were planned by a wide range of groups across Britain, however one Eoin Clarke of the Labour party decided to co-ordinate the day of action by creating Facebook event pages. Eoin has a large social media following, and writes the blog "The Green Benches" (on which he has apologised for making false claims), and is the founder of Labour Left, a relatively small faction of the Labour party with more left-wing ideals than the main party. While Eoin may have co-ordinated these demonstrations, there have been accusations of failing to contact existing campaigns, including tenants' groups who will be directly affected by the tax. While the mainstream Labour Party has attacked the Tories over the tax, there has been some division within the party, with an MP claiming that the Labour Party would enforce the tax in cases where people turned down smaller accommodation. The Labour Party also introduced the bedroom tax to the private rented sector back in 2008. What is more, I have personally witnessed the removal of several posts making this point on Bedroom Tax demonstration Facebook event pages and there have been reports of several more instances. Simon Jilley was one such person who had a post removed from the Bath page: "I was absolutely shocked to find myself being blocked from the Bath Bedroom Tax Facebook page after I had put a post on it at about 5pm on Friday afternoon regarding the corruption within the British Labour Party in its stance towards the Bedroom Tax. This is a deeply repressive action from a political party that, inherently, should not be leading demonstrations if they are going to act like this. We, the people, are much stronger than their party, and we will continue to prove this in our future force that we show". Rather than discussing these points in an open forum, they were simply deleted and the users were blocked. There were also reports on Twitter today of the Labour Party in Liverpool protecting the National Front during the demonstration there who were also photographing anti-fascists.

Having spoken to one of the Bath Labour Party organisers, I am satisfied that they are personally opposed to this tax, and are genuinely outside of the mainstream Labour Party - and this is not a personal attack on them, and I know that - in Bath at least - some attempt was made to engage with other groups. However, I believe in seeking alternatives to the outdated party political system, and Labour are certainly not a party that I, and many others opposed to the coalition's assault on the 99%, have any respect left for.

Bearing the above in mind, many felt that Labour were in no position to claim the demonstration as their own, and many took it upon themselves to continue the demonstration by having a march around town, passing through Southgate, Milsom Street, the Abbey Church Yard and ending up in Queen Square, a site of special for significance for many radicals, having been previously home to first Occupy Bath encampment. Approximately 80 people joined this impromptu march, fronted by a large number of anarchist banners, with much chanting against all three main political parties as well as the Bedroom Tax, the rich and government cuts. The police were not numerous enough to stop it, and instead gave in and flanked the march - and even stopped traffic to allow us to progress. Many of those left behind at the Guildhall were either Labour organisers (who had signed a contract with the police that this would be a static demo) or were too ill to march.
Bath Bedroom Tax march through Southgate.
Bath Bedroom Tax demo in Queen Square
The march enabled us to reach a wider number of people, and we were cheered on and joined by passers by. Following the march, Jon from SolFed commented: "The day of protest was great, but up and down the country people are organising to refuse to pay the Bedroom Tax and resist bailiffs. Direct action can beat the Bedroom Tax". An Occupy Bath and BARF supporter said: "I think the genuine anger people feel with the ConDem government is evident in the spontaneous but vibrant march through the city centre."

The government has the choice to listen or to ignore us. And if they ignore us, we'll be there out in force once more, and will support those affected by the tax by any means possible. With so many attacks on the poor, the vulnerable, the students, the unemployed and the normal hard-working people of Britain, the time to start fighting back - more than ever - is now. Today showed that more and more people are paying attention to what is happening to this country, and they don't like what they see.

Today, the people have spoken. This is what democracy looks like.


  1. I think it sad that Labour have said they would keep the tax.

    But I think your post should mention that it would be for people who are offered a smaller place and turn it down.

  2. My only comment on what I perceive to be a fair article is that Labour did not say they would keep the Bedroom Tax, they are committed to scrapping it. The statement you refer to was that of one MP who was lambasted for presuming to speak on behalf of the Party. I would refer to the comments of Jack Dromey if Labour's stance on the bedroom tax is required. Other than that, this was a peoples protest, I've certainly not seeked to exclude people from or dominate proceedings for Labour gain and I felt that this should be about the people affected no matter of their politics. I'm glad we could all join together with a common aim and that those affected were brave enough to speak out against injustice.

  3. Thanks for your comment Vicky. I have updated the post in light of further information has been passed my way, however the sentiment towards Labour remains the same. I know that you have personally attempted to engage with other groups, but going by the reports I have received this was certainly not always the case nationally, where there have been several reports of Labour's unwillingness to engage with tenants' groups and other groups. The matter of posts making valid points (even if they are slightly misinformed) being deleted, rather than discussed, is a very serious one. I saw Simon Jilley's post on the event page, which was later removed. I know he has spoken to you and you have confirmed that you did not delete it or block him personally. As this has happened on other event pages across the country, I suspect that at least some of this was the work of Eoin Clarke, who set up the pages and would have had the highest level of administrative power on all of them. This is worrying, while undoubtedly some in Labour Left at the grassroots level are open to working with others, the exclusion of such viewpoints and the failure to discuss them openly by some does the party no favours, and I think that the motives of the people responsible for this need to be called into question.

    But yes, I agree that in Bath at least it was good to see so many individuals and groups turning out in force.

  4. With respect to Simon, the action of deleting him may have been a reaction to many pages being disrupted before the demo's by those for whom a gripe with others (party's or individuals) was threatening to overshadow the whole point of these protests, particularly in some of the larger towns and cities. I know the press and police were keeping a close eye on the pages and it would be better that the news was positive about the protests rather than concentrating on inevitable left wing in-fighting. I was (hopefully) particularly careful in Bath to ensure that the page wasn't used as a publicity machine for Labour or any other group. It's worth adding that in my opinion Bath made use of the publicity garnered by Labour Left, but that the protest would have been impossible without all of us present who contributed leaflets, a megaphone, stewards jackets and their own accounts. We all pitched in. My own politics was secondary to the cause we are all seeking to publicise and fight.

    I do agree perhaps censoring Simon Jilley was heavy handed, over 70% of the organisers were women and sad to say there were some worrying posts and PM's to other organisers (all volunteers) on Friday. Simon may have just been caught up in the attempts to keep the protests on track and I'll try to rectify this. Now the day of protests is over we need to think ahead to ways we can keep the pressure up in solidarity.

    Many thanks for a sensible, well thought out post on the subject.

    1. I feel that I am due to give a response to this, to explain a few reasons for why I was upset at being banned from the Facebook page.

      Firstly, it should be understood that I did not just have a post deleted from the page, but I was physically banned from the page. This meant that I could not see the page in any way after the banning took place. This, for me, was a very repressive measure. For me, it was like the internet equivalent of being completely gagged.

      Secondly, I would like to point out that my post was not in any way a direct attack on the Labour Party. I was merely linking to the article that Standing Stone has linked to (, and wrote of how the People of Bath are much stronger than to allow a corrupt political party like the Labour Party to lead them on this demonstration. The People of Bath thus then showed this - through the action of some 80 demonstrators taking the initiative to leave the static demonstration and march through town onto Queen's Square.

      For pretty much every other demonstration I have gone on in the last 6 months I have also written similar messages that, hopefully, motivate the People of Bath to be strong in the forthcoming demonstration. I have criticised parts of the background behind other demonstrations in the past, as I believe it to be absolutely crucial to activism to have real transparency within the demonstrations that are happening.

      What really shocked me is of how short of a fuse the organisers of this demonstration had, for them to ban me for speaking out. I was not in any way speaking against this demonstration, but was speaking in support of the unified force that we could all share. There was no warning given to me about me being banned, nor any message to notify me of being banned. Instead, I was left in sheer confusion at where the page had disappeared to, and only found that I had been banned through conversing with a friend of mine who could still view the page. I was, frankly, appalled at the lack of communication from the organisers regarding my banning from the page.

      The actions of the organisers in banning me resounds a sense of totalitarian arrogance. Without communicating with the rest of the activist population - or even any leading activists in Bath - they banned me, and thus shut me away from engaging in open dialogue with fellow activists about this demonstration.

      Vicky - I appreciate your sympathy towards me regarding this issue. However, this does not act as a response to the two fairly long messages that I have sent you over the last two days that you have not responded to! It rather hints, for me, of being a minor PR stunt as to show to the public that the Labour Party are sympathetic towards what has happened. Rather, I have received absolutely no personal apology about what has happened, nor have I put unblocked from the page.

      Also, Vicky, you have said that in your opinion 'Bath made use of the publicity garnered by Labour Left'. This may in some way be so, but did the activists actually decide that they would want this? I know for a fact that a number of activist groups were already planning to do a demonstration about the Bedroom Tax, and they definitely did not need for Labour Left to head the demo. If you look into the history of the past few years of demonstrating in Bath, you will find that the vast majority of demonstrations, which have not been affiliated with any major party, have gained a lot of publicity.

    2. ...>

      Lastly, regarding my post being related to over 70% of the organisers being women - I do not see the link....? I did not PM any organiser until I PM'd you, Vicky, after I got banned from the facebook page. And even then, as I'm sure you would agree, I was calm, kind, and polite.
      Likewise, I do not see how I could have been 'caught up in the attempts to keep the protests on track'. I did not post, as I have repeatedly stated, anything that would in any way harm the demonstrations against the bedroom tax.
      Now, I do look forward to 'this' being 'rectified'.

      I am about to send a message to Eoin Clarke about my severe disapproval of what I consider to be his neo-Stalinistic repressive methods on non-conformists.

  5. No, I agree you weren't one of them who PM'ed the organisers Simon. But there were some who did threaten, intimidate and disturb the female organisers. This in itself should be addressed as a major issue that I've heard will stop many left women from sticking their head above the parapet in future. That to my mind is a terrible shame and a loss to us all. At the Bath protest, the majority of those who spoke were women, I'm a woman and my co-organisers (one from FOLAH not Labour) are also women. With regards to FB PM's to me not being responded to. I am a single mum with two kids and two dogs, I'm afraid I'm not online constantly. I facilitated a protest and put my name on the forms. I believe I attempted to be fair both before and on the day. The fact that Bath didn't see many of the ugly scenes that took place in some of the other cities and that we had a higher attendance than Bristol, I believe is in part down to the fact that myself with the media ear, those attending and those speaking were not seeking credit for themselves. This is about the people affected by the bedroom tax and I believe,the Anarchists, the Quakers, SWP and LL worked well together to enable this protest and to enable those affected to have a voice. It was at no point all about us and our divisions, it was about the people and by the people. Believe me I was a wholly reluctant host, I thought others would take over. Respect Simon, I will reply.

  6. In case I sounded short, my apologies, I'll add I work full time as a gardener, I'm a CLP secretary, vice chair of a Curo tenant scrutiny panel.. It's St Patricks day and my family are Irish, I organised a protest to the best of my abilities to include Peoples Assembles and Occupy etc, Anti Cuts groups etc. Those who were willing to help from the separate orgs were wholly encouraged and vital..I'm bloody knackered!! It's been great meeting you all. Onwards and upwards!

  7. Hi Vicky

    Just to reiterate, none of the original post above was a personal attack on you, and I've tried to make that as clear as possible. It is the Labour Party and certain people in it that myself and others take issue with, and I will always question their motives and believe it is important to highlight instances where I do not think they have acted appropriately. I also feel that it it is important to stress that as an individual I think you did do a great job at organising this demo, and it was good to meet you afterwards. I know that you did take time to engage with some other groups - unlike in some parts of the country - and this was shown in the diversity of people who turned up in Bath, which was very commendable of you. Let's hope that this weekend sent the message that this tax is not wanted!

  8. Typical Communists deleting people they don't agree with. See you in Siberia chumps.

    Dr R. Wass