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Action versus rhetoric

Posted on March 18, 2013 by

Diligent readers will know that this site is engaged in a lonely and difficult quest to find out what Labour’s actual policy on the Bedroom Tax is. And in attempting to establish the facts of the matter, it’s important to differentiate a policy from an opinion.

The latter are in plentiful supply – Labour, we’re told repeatedly, is “against” the tax. Check out, for example, this intriguing exchange on Twitter. (Click for full version.)


Jamie Glackin is a member of Labour’s Scottish Executive Committee, so you think he’d have a fairly firm grasp of the party’s policies, but he’s oddly evasive regarding the Bedroom Tax. Asked by SNP councillor Mhairi Hunter if Labour would scrap the tax, Glackin dodges by saying “Don’t think it will get that far. It’s a dead duck.”

But he’s far from alone in not wanting to answer that question.

Further down the same discussion, Labour MP Tom Harris, as is his wont, offers a glib sneer by way of response to Hunter’s question – “You can buy our manifesto when it’s published” – which boots the issue two years down the line to the spring of 2015, and which we’re sure will greatly reassure the hundreds of thousands of people being hurt by the tax in the meantime.

Readers will recall that Scottish Labour’s press office also wants to keep its policy on the tax a closely-guarded secret. So we decided to move a little up the pay scale and find a Labour MP described as “leading” the campaign to have the tax stopped – one Gordon Brown, right-honourable member for Kirkcaldy.

(We’ll charitably overlook the fact that Mr Brown’s “leadership” didn’t extend to bothering to attend the Parliamentary debate and vote on the tax, something he shares with other Scottish Labour luminaries like Ian Davidson and “Better Together” campaign chairman Alistair Darling, among others.)

Sure enough, the ex-leader offers something a little more concrete – according to The Green Benches, “the former Prime Minister has branded the tax “offensive, onerous, unfair, arbitrary and stated that it should be postponed””

Our emphasis, there. Not only does Brown fail to pledge that Labour will repeal the tax in power, but nor is he even actually calling for the Tories to abandon it – merely to delay it for an unspecified period.

From such a senior source, this seems as close as we’ll get to an actual statement of policy, tallying as it does with previous comments from a member of Labour’s shadow cabinet admitting that a future Labour government would keep the tax, but impose its punishments only if people had refused a move to smaller accommodation.

So that seems unambiguous – Labour policy (pending its official confirmation to us humble peons of the general public sometime in 2015) is that the Bedroom Tax will stay, but will compassionately be applied to fewer people. How, though, are the vulnerable to be protected in the meantime? After all, an awful lot of people could find themselves homeless in two-and-a-quarter years, even if we make the extremely large assumption that Labour will win the 2015 general election.

We can find the answer to that question in the Daily Record.

The paper reports today that Scottish Government housing minister Margaret Burgess has urged councils to adopt the practical measures voted in last week by the SNP-controlled Dundee City Council, despite Labour opposition. The council has chosen to take tenants out of the UK government’s firing line by reclassifying their “spare” bedrooms wherever possible, a loophole which will save significant numbers of people from the tax entirely.

(The closest thing to a Labour alternative, readers may recall, was the head-in-the-sand approach of demanding the SNP outlaw evictions for bedroom-tax arrears, which would still have left tenants racking up ever-increasing debts, as well as depriving councils and social-housing landlords of vital revenue which would have to have been recouped from other tenants.)

The Record reported Labour’s reaction:

Scottish Labour’s Jackie Baillie said the SNP had previously argued against giving the advice to councils and had done a “late U-turn” under pressure. She said there was no money to support landlords and Burgess’s action was “too little, too late”.”

Since the Bedroom Tax doesn’t come into effect until next month, the “too late” jibe is a curious one. And since Labour was (and is) proposing to do nothing at all for people except boot their problems into the long grass to be faced another day, “too little” also seems somewhat on the rich side.

(Baillie’s sudden concern for social landlords, too, is somewhat bizarre, since the SNP council’s proposals don’t cost landlords a penny – as tenants will still be receiving the exact same amount of housing benefit they are now – and Labour’s only suggestion was a policy which would, as noted above, hit them with massive arrears they simply can’t afford to absorb and would have to pass on to other equally-poor tenants.)

So the choice facing the people of Scotland appears to be this: to suffer for two years in the hope of a Labour government being elected at Westminster which will retain the Bedroom Tax anyway, or to notice that Scots have a genuine alternative not available to their friends south of the border – choose an independent Parliament where at least one party is explicitly and unequivocally committed not only to throwing the tax out, but to offering the poor and vulnerable something more useful than empty platitudes and evasion in the meantime.

We hope that’s all cleared up now. If we’ve in some way misrepresented Labour’s policy position with regard to the bedroom tax, we invite any spokesperson for the party who wishes to do so to correct us. We won’t hold our breath.


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55 to “Action versus rhetoric”

  1. Just about hits the nail on the head.

  2. seoc says:

    If there was a Gold Medal for slipperiness in the Scottish Political Olympics, I know who my money would be on.
    Conversely, current SNP performance and delivery would make them leading favourites for sure-footedness.

  3. Albert Herring says:

    I’m confused. Was it not Gordon Brown’s government that introduced the bedroom tax in the first place?

  4. Inbhir Anainn says:

    Summed up nicely by the Rev in this article and time for Labour in Scotland to come clean with the Scottish people on just what exactly is their official position with regards to the Bedroom Tax.

  5. Holebender says:

    It would be interesting to know Labour’s policy on anything really.
    Rev, you need to get this new server of yours sorted out; it’s pish. If I’m not getting error 503 or whatever it is I’m being told I’m posting too fast, even though I haven’t posted in several hours. Are you really spending my donations on this?

  6. Dcanmore says:

    I think this is a classic case of Labour, on the face of it, wanting to be seen against something but will not actually oppose it. It’s all in the language used, no-one from Labour is saying that they are going to oppose the Bedroom Tax … Broon: ‘it should be postponed’; Glakin: ‘It won’t get that far …’; and Tom Harris completely avoids it altogether!

    This is the language of obfuscation, to give an impression of a position of principle while trying to hide the desired one. A pure New Labour tactic in communications and something that they teach at Labour HQ. And no other Party in the UK does it as well. Peter Cruddas for instance let slip that the Tory tactic is to not oppose Scottish Independence but be seen to oppose it. The difference with Labour is that this is the way they communicate all the time, obfuscate a point means it’s deniable. So let the nasty party do all the horrible policies and continue them when Labour regains power, we saw that time and time again during the Blair and Brown years when not one shitty Tory policy was repealed.

  7. Luigi says:

    Q: What is the Labour Party Policy on the Bedroom tax?
    A: Shhh!, Don’t ask!
    Q: How about Universal Benefits?
    A: Shhh! Don’t ask!
    Q: and the replacement of Trident?
    A: Shhh! Don’t ask!
    Q: You are really the Tories, dressed in red, aren’t you?
    A: Shhh! Don’t ask!
    Smoke and Mirrors R US

  8. Morag says:

    I read a newspaper article the other day which I can’t find now, about a woman who had a disability lift fitted in her house.  The council paid £8,000 to have it installed, because she needed it.  The lift is installed in the space that used to be the small spare bedroom, and in order to install it the door and a wall of the bedroom were removed.  The accompanying photograph suggests that the space is in effect now part of the upstairs landing.
    This woman is going to be charged the “bedroom tax” on that space, even though it is no longer a bedroom.  She cannot afford it, and is looking to move out of the house which was specially adapted for her at significant expense.
    You’d think that’s not a bedroom any more, shouldn’t the house be reclassified?  Just like the Dundee council is proposing to do wherever possible?  Apparently not.  Reclassification from a three-bed to a two-bed house would mean that the rent would be reduced, so it is not the council’s policy to do that.   Ever.  No matter what.  (This was somewhere in England.)

  9. Bill C says:

    @Holebender – “It would be interesting to know Labour’s policy on anything really.”  Spot on! I really think the YES campaign should be exposing Lamont’s silence on Trident.

  10. David McCann says:

    RE Holdbender above.
    Im having the same trouble. It has taken me 6 tries to get the link from my mail.
    When I click on the heading or comment I get this .
    Error 503 Service Unavailable
    Service Unavailable
    Guru Meditation:
    When I click on ‘read more’ or the line ‘Trouble with this link? I get
    Error 404 – Not Found
    Any of the links within the body  (Jamie Glackin etc) are OK..
    Im also copying this comment to my desktop, as twice it has resulted in error.

  11. Alan Gerrish says:

    It’s easy really:in every case where Labour UK, whether in Scotland or otherwise, “obfuscate”on their position, then the YES side should state their policy for them.  Thus, “Lamont supports renewal of Trident”; “Gordon Brown supports the Bedroom Tax etc.”  That should get things moving nicely!  And should they complain we can only say we are following by their example(s) …

  12. mato21 says:

    I too have had trouble with error or posting too quickly
    I have typed out a comment three times and lost it three times so I’ve decided it probably wasn’t worth saying

  13. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Apologies for the site’s flakiness today. Am shouting abuse at the hosts to find out the root of the problem. In the meantime, as I’ve said before – on ANY site, not just this one, if you’ve typed out a long comment, for heck’s sake do a quick Ctrl-A, Ctrl-C before you hit Submit. A lesson I’ve learned the hard way many times.

  14. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “I read a newspaper article the other day which I can’t find now, about a woman who had a disability lift fitted in her house. The council paid £8,000 to have it installed, because she needed it. The lift is installed in the space that used to be the small spare bedroom, and in order to install it the door and a wall of the bedroom were removed. The accompanying photograph suggests that the space is in effect now part of the upstairs landing.

    This woman is going to be charged the “bedroom tax” on that space, even though it is no longer a bedroom.”

    I’ve linked that article in at least one post in recent days. It’s this one:

  15. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Rev, you need to get this new server of yours sorted out; it’s pish. If I’m not getting error 503 or whatever it is I’m being told I’m posting too fast, even though I haven’t posted in several hours. Are you really spending my donations on this?”

    It’s disappointing. I know the company is capable of hosting a high-traffic site, because it was personally recommended by a friend whose PC gaming site had over 1 million unique readers a month when they were on the same package we’re on. For that reason I’m still putting it down to teething problems, but I’m in touch with them and will be letting them know it’s not good enough as it stands.

  16. Jiggsbro says:

    “the former Prime Minister has branded the tax “offensive, onerous, unfair, arbitrary and stated that it should be postponed””

    So, now is not the right time to be offensive and unfair. The right time will be after Labour are elected.

  17. Rod Mac says:

    Holebender says:
    18 March, 2013 at 11:13 am

    It would be interesting to know Labour’s policy on anything really.
    That is easy it is the absolute exact opposite of whatever SNP propose or say.

  18. MajorBloodnok says:

    Pace Holebender
    The Scottish Government should propose a vote of confidence in the leader of the loyal opposition at Holyrood. Would be interesting to see the Bain Principle in action then.  I reckon half of them would vote against, including Ms Lamont herself.

  19. Holebender says:

    @MajorBloodnok That is definitely the most cunning plan I have seen proposed in many a year! More cunning than anything even Richard Baker and Jackie Baillie’s (hypothetical) love child could have devised.

  20. G H Graham says:

    Labour’s Policy is modelled on the Global Warming Theory
    When a scientific colleague of mind was asked to explain the coldest two winters in living memory recently, he said that it was caused by global warming.
    Ye see, when it warms up, it actually gets colder.
    Fed up with chilly summers, I then asked him to reveal when it actually might get warmer?
    For that to happen he puffed, it would probably have to get colder.
    Right. That’s cleared up then.

  21. MajorBloodnok says:

    OMG – that’s an enduring image.  Still, if they’re against bedroom shenanigans in principle but don’t do anything about it (such as postponing ‘taking precautions’ until two years after the event) such un-holy progeny are a distinct possibilty.  It’s a bit like St Augustine praying “Grant me chastity…, but not yet.”

    @GH Graham – that’s why it’s called ‘climate change’ now: avoids confusion. Global temperatures are rising, just not necessarily locally.

  22. Desimond says:

    “What do we want?”
    “No really sure!”
    “When do we want it?”
    “Cannae really tell you”

    Labour…theres nae Ed in Leadership :

  23. Memphisto says:

    First thing is to check that this file exists
    Missing files can cause delays to the site loading, id say about 5 or more seconds delay from experience.
    I just normally read the articles and comments but I’m a web developer so I thought id help out.

  24. Jiggsbro says:

    When a scientific colleague of mind was asked to explain the coldest two winters in living memory recently, he said that it was caused by global warming.
    You’d think a scientist would know the difference between climate and weather. Well, I would. Perhaps you’re imagining a different scientist.

  25. CameronB says:

    @ Holebender
    Just had your “Alistair Darling” comment removed from the Guardian (it was up for a few hours though and got a few votes).

    @ G H Graham, MajorBloodnok & Jiggsbro
    Shhh, you’ll wake douglas clark. Only kidding dc. 🙂

  26. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “First thing is to check that this file exists

    Hmm, it doesn’t. How do I get it back?

  27. Holebender says:

    @Cameron It wasn’t my comment, I was quoting from near the end of the article and adding a snigger to show my amusement at the original remark.

  28. Memphisto says:

    Hmm, it doesn’t. How do I get it back?

    If you are familiar with FTP then just upload a blank file named wordpress.css to that directory, this will stop the browser from waiting for the file and move on to the next one (only 2 files are uploaded from any single domain concurrently, so it stops other files from being loaded)

  29. Jimbo says:

    If they don’t come out and state categorically that they are 100% against it, and will fight tooth and nail to have it abolished, then one has to assume that, with so many evasive answers coming from London Labour, they are not against it – As has already been stated by Labour MP Helen Goodman.
    They seem to be all over the place where this policy is concerned. They’re probably awaiting the outcome of a focus group discussion before deciding which way to jump.

  30. Braco says:

    Sorry but OT.
    Rev Stu, I have posted a tinypic link in my post over on quarantine. I don’t know if it’s what you need, but could you have a look and try and embed? it for me. Thanks min.

  31. Memphisto says:

    The main issues with your site relate to the DOM, and the missing files
    this is also missing as well as the wordpress.css file
    I dont want to get too technical but the DOM problems probably relate to a wordpress plugin that may be incompatible or has bugs. I would disable plugins one by one to find where the problem lies.  This is why your site takes so long to load and may be the cause of the 503’s.

  32. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    The Labour Party supporting high heid yins in the trade unions are being rather quiet on this topic, are they not?

  33. Braco says:

    I really don’t understand people putting this Labour obfuscation down to some NewLabour phenomena, as I clearly remember Old Scottish Labour refusing to take part in the anti Poll Tax direct action groups back in the day. (Bedroom tax anyone?)
    Was this not the reason for the rise of the SSP and whisper it, Tommy Sheridan’s popularity. (I still have a soft spot for the man on account of his warrant sale law change alone.)
    Anyway, all I am saying is that they were always Westminster orientated and it is only now that we are truly connected to the world and it’s information, we can see them for the two faced so and sos that they have always been.

  34. Holebender says:

    You’ll get no argument from me, Braco. I tire of those who express nostalgia for a lost Labour Party which never was to begin with!

  35. Heather McLean says:

    I’m getting error 503 or page not found as well when I try to click on the link in my emails.. it really is frustrating!!
    I’ve had to access this from the Wings page on Facebook.

  36. CameronB says:

    @ Braco
    One should not forget the influence of the Fabian Society and its dominance of the Labour party. One should also be aware of the linkage between the Fabian Society and the Milner Kindergarten, a group dedicated to the perpetuation and expansion of the British empire.

  37. Braco says:

    seems to be the separating credo between the Better Nos and the We Really better YES, or we’re stuffed!

  38. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Everything’s a bit of a shambles server-side today. I can’t get in half the time myself. Hosts are working on it, hopefully will be fixed soon.

  39. Dcanmore says:

    @Braco; @Holebender …
    I think what I was getting at with New Labour obfuscation is that they’ve turned it into an industry, where everyone in New Labour without exception is required to be disciplined in it. When you see the Shadow Cabinet and back benchers today they’re just like Tony Blair, they talk like him, they dress like him (even Harriet Harperson) and they even have his bloody mannerisms! When I worked for a New Labour local authority 2008-2011 the head of the ruling Labour group is a Blair clone, then became an MP last year. Empty suits that rise without trace!

  40. CameronB says:

    @ Dcanmore
    Tony Blair was chairman of the Fabian Society, before becoming PM. Most of the senior Labour lot are also Fabian Socialists, with secret ambitions for a reinvigorated British empire.

  41. Braco says:

    that is definitely another disturbing aspect of my experience and intelectual interaction with the YES campaign.
    Formerly considered Cultural World institutions (with a small b for British) such as The British Council and The BBC World Service have been easily uncovered as simple arms of (corrupt) government.
    The consulate argument also makes me laugh in a bitter and sarcastic kind of way, as my three (and three in total) experiences with the British Consulate (and through them on two occasions The Embassy) resulted in them informing me of the ‘foreign’ countries laws and standards, rather than my own British (and European) Citisen’s rights in the face of them.  
    I learnt more useful information from well meaning locals and non governmental organisations such as Classic car clubs, Youth Hostel management and honest opponents in Pool Halls.
    Information from which to make an informed social and so legal decision.  If I had relied upon The British Consulate/Embassies advice, I would have plead Guilty and hoped for the best. Might of worked if we had a gun boat or an economy to threaten with but in the current circumstances maybe not the best strategy, even for the guilty! (innocentsmilywink)

  42. CameronB says:

    @ Braco
    Could you expand on what links you see between the Fabians and the Yes campaign? Or did I misunderstand you?

  43. Gayle says:

    If LABOUR members were so against it why didn’t they just vote no? The fact is they aren’t. Anyone who has the ability to vote against such a policy who represents the true values of “original” Labour would have voted! 

  44. Braco says:

    this is a phenomena common to all parties in power.
    I remember the complete ridiculousness of John Major as PM. Then, as time went by, it was embarrassingly noticable how previously ‘well spoken’ cabinet ministers started pronouncing book as buk and began using unheard of terms such as ‘year on year’.
    Apparently the Spanish lisp is due to a speech impediment suffered by the 18th C Castilian King and so spread through the Court to the rest of Spain in a downward fashion. This is why the Lingo is significantly different sans lisp in South America, as their ‘conquest’ pre dated the linguistic Royal foible.
    This of course could all be misinformed drunken pub chat, so use it at your peril. (winky)

  45. Braco says:

    Sorry CameronB, I meant it to be understood that it was only by seeing the world through the invigorating eyes of the ‘Let’s Break Up Britain’ team, that I began to view the supposedly nuetrally perceived British world institutions in the light that they deserved. Sorry.
    you are spot on and your question is unanswerable. Shame on them!

  46. Dee says:

    I am also against the Bedroom Tax, but scan anyone clarify if the SG has plans to reform the private rent sector Bedroom Tax???, I stay in rented accommadation and pay for the amount of rooms that are in the house, so is this tax going to be thrown out after independence.???? 
    Vote Yes 

  47. dundee bloke says:

    Rev, there ”maybe” something wrong with the site, but then again ”maybe” there isn’t. some people ”may” not want this site pointing out mistakes in westminster policy.  

  48. Chic McGregor says:

    A letter I found in a taxi which had been used as a recent UKIP conference venue in Scotland.
    “Dear HMRC
    It has come to my attention that there is a tax-payer provided house in central London where it is well known that three of the inhabitants habitually share the same bed. 
    I write not through any moralistic objection to such sleeping arrangements per se, that is a matter for their consideration alone, however I do feel it my civic duty to alert you to the situation regarding amounts due, thereby, to the Exchequer vis a vis Bedroom Tax.
    The tax dodgers in question are Labour, LibDem and Tory.

  49. Adam Davidson says:

    Rev, I wonder if some of the clicking through links backfiring are due to people registered on the old blog, getting their email then it is taking them to the old site. Anyway, calm down people, this sort of thing is simply a fact of life. it always gradually settles down. We all need our Wings fix but if we can wait 300 years for independence we can wait 5 mins for an article about how crap the right wing and the even righter wing party’s of Scotland are. 

  50. Joybell says:

    @ Adam Davidson
    I can no longer get into the new site and am only able to get this thread through my Facebook page.  The Wingsoverscotland page has the message “The truth server is experiencing problems but the service will resume shortly”  It has been like that for over 24 hours. 

  51. AnneDon says:

    Can I say how funny it is reading this page, because it’s a mixture of comments on the issue of the thread, and various technical criticisms and suggested solutions?

  52. Adam Davidson says:

    This Jamie character was part of the review process Labour took on after they were hammered in May 11. Nothing to see here, move along now.

  53. Geoff Huijer says:

    Don’t hold your breath for an answer from Gordon Brown.
    Unfortunately he is my local MP.
    I wrote to him (recorded delivery) about the fact my mother’s diamond engagement ring went missing in a ‘secure’ hospital ward (that was due to close, I found out later).
    Cameron Hospital hierarchy accepted that my mother (who had been diagnosed with Alzheimers) should not have been made to sign a disclaimer without family knowledge. Then, on finding out the perceived value of an 11 stone diamond ring set in platinum they furiously back-tracked & would not accept any wrong doing or responsibility.
    Mr Brown never replied to my letter. His office staff told me that ‘health was a devolved power and not part of Gordon’s remit’. Curiously, Mr Brown can be seen handing a cheque over to Alzheimers Scotland on behalf of the local Sainsbury’s; he also featured healthcare as the main thrust of his speech at the Adam Smith College Graduation Day (attended by me, but mainly featuring students from the College’s Nursing arm).
    If there is something in it for Mr Brown he will be there, however, as I say
    do not be expecting any answers from him too soon…

  54. old mikey says:

    2 topics for the price of one.
    Q. Should Scotland be an independent country?
    A. Is the pope a catholic ?

  55. Indy says:

    Most of the debate is rubbish really. To be fair the SNP has tried not to make it a political football but I guess they had to respond in some way to all the Labour palaver though the no evictions thing is a gimmick.  No councils or housing associations are planning to evict people. Why would they – those people would just have to be rehoused anyway by the same councils and housing associations.
    The issue is not and never has been about powers – it is about money and about who is providing it.  The fact is the Scottish Government can’t slice money off the health, education or justice budgets to put into protect people from the bedroom tax. They could take some out of the housing budget of course but so could councils and housing associations because the money goes to them. It’s all crap and posturing.
    There is only one way to get rid of the bedroom tax and that is to get rid of it. Which will come one of three ways – the most likely way is that it will simply collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. Politically the other ways are through a Labour UK Govt or through independence.  Labour’s position is easily explained by the fact that they need to win Tory seats to win the general election. So they are playing it both ways. In the north they are against it, in the south they aren’t.  Pathetic. What is fascinating is the faux outrage from Bailie and co. Total acting. Extraordinary stuff really. They may need therapy by the end of all this.

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