Around 8,000 people marched through central London today, Sunday, to oppose the Tories’ Housing and Planning Bill.
Donna and Lawrence Nunn told Socialist Worker, “We lost our home because of the Bedroom Tax. We’ve got to stand up and make a point because the government keep telling us lies.”
The size of the protest reflected the growing anger in society against the Tories’ attacks. The demonstration followed an angry meeting of over 500 local residents and campaigners in Islington, north London, last week.
Large delegations from trade unions, local housing campaigns and student groups joined the protest. Some 40 trade union and campaign banners were on the demonstration.
Glynn Robbins from the Unite union’s housing workers branch and the Defend Council Housing campaign spoke to Socialist Worker. He said, “We need to build this beyond London because this is a national issue.
“We need to set up local branches of the Kill the Bill campaign, as we did in the 1980s over the Poll Tax.”
Campaigners also called on trade unions to mobilise their members for coming demonstrations. Tony, a housing activist and supporter of the National Bargee Travellers Association, said, “There’s organisation within trade unions against housing cuts, but not between unions.
“There needs to be more unity.”
A speaker from the Radical Housing Network said that “27 percent of Tory MPs are private landlords—this bill is a bill for the one percent.”
Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell also spoke out against Tories and their rich mates profiting from the council house selloffs. “In my constituency a Tory councillor is renting out homes that successive governments have sold off,” he said.
But many people on the march were angry at Labour and said they could do more to oppose the Tories.
Ayeesha Taylor from the Focus E15 housing campaign in Newham, east London, said, “The Labour council in Newham has been carrying out social cleansing for the last 15 years. It’s left the Carpenters estate boarded up and empty in the middle of the housing crisis.
She added, “If the Labour party are serious they need to start getting their councils in line. That means standing up to the developers.
“I don’t think the Labour Party is the answer.”
A message of support from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was read out at the closing rally. It pledged, “Labour will repeal this act and invest in the homes we need.”
McDonnell and shadow minister Dianne Abbott both echoed this. Jim Kelly from the Unite union called for people to vote for Labour’s Sadiq Khan in the London mayoral elections.
But some Labour members on the march didn’t think waiting for the election was enough. Ronda Staniel, an LSE student and council tenant, said, “They could be doing a lot more in parliament rather than just talking about it.”
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said, “2020 is too far away, we need to get rid of the Tories now!”
She also argued that migrants are not to blame for the housing crisis. “Refugees are welcome here,” she said.
Harriet from the Butterfield’s Estate in Waltham Forest, north east London, where residents are fighting evictions, said, “This is a social movement. We don’t care if people are migrants or not— everyone needs homes.”
Today’s demo was a sign of the growing momentum behind the campaign against the Housing Bill. Eileen Short from the Kill the Housing Bill campaign pointed out that the bill has over 400 amendments. This record number shows that the campaign is putting pressure on parliament.
But as Eileen argued, it’s not enough to rely on parliamentary manoeuvres. She said, “We need to build a movement strong enough to defeat the bill—even if it passes into law.”
Leeds rallies for homes
Around 80 people from across Yorkshire attended a Hands Off Our Homes meeting in Leeds last Saturday.
Activists agreed about the need for a national campaign against the Housing Bill.
The Labour-run council in Newham, east London, voted last Thursday to sell off the Boleyn grounds in the face of strong local opposition.
The ground will be handed over to developers Galliard after West Ham United FC leave this summer. Their plans to build 633 luxury flats will do nothing to solve the local housing crisis.