The close vote on privatisation at the Scottish Labour Party conference last weekend underlined the depths of opposition to policies like handing council homes to private companies. The vote came just after a significant minority of the ruling Labour group of councillors in Glasgow voted against the plan to go ahead with a ballot on privatising the city's more than 80,000 council homes.
That ballot will now start on 14 March, in the same week that a similar ballot is due to start on privatising over 80,000 council homes in Birmingham. The outcome of these two battles will shape the whole war over the future of social housing. There is a huge feeling against privatisation among traditional Labour voters in Scotland and England.
This has fuelled the disquiet among councillors. In Birmingham the Labour council is split from top to bottom, with several leading councillors and local MPs speaking out against the privatisation plan. In both Birmingham and Glasgow the ballots can be won and privatisation stopped. But that means learning from areas where similar ballots have already been won.
- Actively involve tenants in the campaign. There is no substitute for people leafleting and postering around the estates and schemes, and arguing with fellow tenants.
- Put the argument that there is an alternative to privatisation, and that the government has the money to invest directly in council housing.
- Unite the broadest possible forces in an active no campaign. That means looking to win Labour councillors, MPs and members who are against privatisation to unite with tenants and trade unionists in the fight. Such a coalition can win the arguments against the privatisation plans with the majority of tenants.