Politicians in all three parties are struggling under fire to contain the opposition to the bedroom tax.
Nick Clegg lost the fight to defend it at the Lib Dem conference, with an overwhelming vote on Monday night of this week. Delegates were sent a strongly worded email telling them not even to call it by name—officially it is a cut to the “spare room subsidy” and, underlined, “it is not a tax”.
But even such figures as party grandee Shirley Williams and former leader Charles Kennedy had to say that was a line they could not toe.
Hundreds of people had protested against the bedroom tax and other issues outside the conference.
Meanwhile Tory chairman Grant Shapps is complaining about a report into the bedroom tax by United Nations special rapporteur on housing Raquel Rolnik.
She was visibly shocked by the stories of hurt and despair from tenants at a hearing in Manchester. Yasmin, a tenant from Rochdale said, “At last somebody is actually listening.”
Rolnik concluded that “there have been human rights violations in housing.” To rapturous applause she said she would recommend that the bedroom tax be abolished.
Pressure is mounting on councils after North Lanarkshire and other councils last month agreed a policy of no evictions for rent arrears due to the bedroom tax.
Around 100 angry tenants and activists packed into a meeting against evictions in Brixton, south London, last week.
Roger Lewis from Disabled People Against Cuts accused councils of doing nothing more to help their tenants than holding their hands and walking them out of their doors.
Councillor Peter Robbins refused to commit to a no eviction policy—but agreed to join tenants in a march against the bedroom tax.
Alan Strickland, the new head of housing at Haringey Council in north London, also faced a lobby at his ward surgery last Saturday.
And Harlow council, in Essex, had to halt its meeting last Thursday to get rid of furious demonstrators. The council had ruled out hundreds of signatures on a petition against evictions on a technicality.
The councils’ dilemma would be much easier if the Labour Party committed to repealing the bedroom tax if it wins the next general election. And some representatives with poor constituents are itching to do just that as they come under increasing pressure from campaigners.
Scottish Labour welfare spokesperson Jackie Baillie even went ahead and made the pledge herself on BBC Radio Scotland, but was later rebuked for going “a bit too far”.
Determined resistance of tenants and those who stand with them has turned the bedroom tax into a political hot potato.
That resistance can get rid of the hated policy for good.