|Bath Bedroom tax demo|
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 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.