Saturday, 16 November 2013

Glasgow versus Sarwar: Bedroom Tax Protests Rock Labour

Despite the refusal of the BBC and STV to cover it, there has been a huge online reaction to the Scottish Socialist Party's protest against the Timid Ten, the group of Scottish Labour MPs who made the decision not to vote against the vile Bedroom Tax on Tuesday night. 

The protest, called on Thursday evening and subsequently publicised on social media, was quickly picked up by websites such as Newsnet Scotland and Wings Over Scotland, and despite less than 24 hours notice for a demonstration on a weekday afternoon, attracted more than forty people. 

It led to huge attention as the people of Glasgow rose up in fury at the utter betrayal of Labour MPs. 

On Friday afternoon, Anas Sarwar was the target. There are another nine Scottish Labour MPs who chose to retain the Bedroom Tax. As the movement against the Bedroom Tax grows organically, it's not for me to say who may be next for protest. It might be Pamela Nash, who claimed she was unable to vote to abolish the Bedroom Tax as she was at a conference in Vienna. It has subsequently emerged that the conference ended a full thirty-one hours before the vital division. 

This afternoon, with that development in mind, and in receipt of certain information, I asked Ms Nash:

Sadly, Ms Nash did not believe the question important enough to spend her time answering: just as she believed her all-expenses-paid soirĂ©e in beautiful Vienna wasn't important enough to leave to vote to abolish the Bedroom Tax. 

So, it might be Pamela we target next. I hope it doesn't ruin her busy social life, enjoyed at public expense whilst her constituents in Airdrie and Shotts struggle to find the money to pay for the Bedroom Tax she chose to keep in place. 

It might not be Pamela Nash. We might go back to visit Anas Sarwar. He left his office staff to sit in a locked office while he hid from his constituents. 

Maybe we'll target Jim Murphy. It might be any of the Timid Ten. We won't be giving them any warning: but let me make this clear: they are Bedroom Tax enablers. They are Bedroom Taxers. They will be hounded until they answer our questions: 

1) What event did you believe to be more important than abolishing the Bedroom Tax?
2) Which Coalition MP did you "pair" with?

As part of my election campaign in Shettleston, I am committed to utter transparency. I was asked this evening to submit articles to two news outlets. I publish them in full below, and apologise in advance for any repetition in the articles.
The protest at Anas Sarwar's office was called with less than 24 hours notice, and during the day on a weekday when people would be working or picking kids up from school.

Despite that, more than forty people came to Tradeston to demonstrate outside his office, including several constituents, who were furious to find that he had hidden from his scheduled, advertised surgery.

There was a deep sense of anger at his actions in abstaining on the vote to abolish the Bedroom Tax, particularly as he has been one of the more vocal MPs on the issue. It's difficult to come to any conclusion other than that he sees it as in his best interests for the 2015 election to have the Bedroom Tax still in place, so he can "oppose" it.

While the protest was called by the SSP, it was attended by a wide range of people, from the SSP, SNP, ex-Labour members, and people of no party affiliation. It was particularly good to see dozens of drivers passing by slowing down to toot their horns in support of our demonstration, and people walking past the demonstration wishing us well.

While Sarwar hid, he left his office staff to respond to the demonstration from inside their locked office, keeping constituents out. Phone calls went unanswered as he continued to leave his constituents in the dark about the motivations for abstention.

The Bedroom Tax, in some ways, is more brutal than even the Poll Tax, attacking the poorest and most vulnerable. It speaks volumes that this privately-educated, hereditary MP doesn't see it as important enough to turn up to a workplace for which we pay him over £100k a year in salary and "expenses" to attend.

It seems that Mr Sarwar is content to use the Bedroom Tax and its victims as a political football, but when it comes to the crunch, he doesn't see it as important enough to disrupt his social life to vote against it.

People are being evicted in Glasgow. He's nowhere to be seen.

The SSP is campaigning for a no evictions policy. Anas won't even support that.

His constituents deserve answers. Instead, Sarwar is in hiding.

As long as these answers are not forthcoming, we'll be there each week to demand them. He can't hide forever.

Glasgow needs MPs to stand up for us. Anas, and the rest of the Timid Ten, failed. The Bedroom Tax would have been gone if they and their Labour colleagues had turned up to vote.

They betrayed us. We'll remember that

On Tuesday night, I sat in shock watching the Labour motion to abolish the Bedroom Tax fall by 26 votes while 47 Labour MPs, including fully a quarter of all Scottish Labour MPs - the Timid Ten - failed to show up.
One of those MPs was my MP, the privately-educated hereditary MP for Glasgow Central, Anas Sarwar. Only weeks ago, he brandished on live TV a "Bill" to abolish the effects of the Bedroom Tax.
I tried to phone Mr Sarwar to ask what was more important than voting to abolish the Bedroom Tax, a cruel and iniquitous attack on the poorest and most vulnerable in society, with the disabled disproportionately affected. There was no answer from his office. I then tweeted him and was again ignored.
So, yesterday, furious at his betrayal, I called a protest outside his office in Tradeston. In the middle of the afternoon of a working day, with only a day notice, over 40 people - SSP, SNP, ex Labour and people of no affiliation - showed up to lambast Sarwar. 
I was delighted to see drivers passing tooting their horns in support, and pedestrians giving us their best wishes. People are utterly raging about this attack on the poor.
Despite this being a scheduled, advertised surgery, Sarwar refused to show. He hid away, leaving his office staff to face both the protest and constituents. The locked doors kept constituents out, and phone calls went unanswered.
It is difficult to escape the view that Sarwar sees the Bedroom Tax not as a crime, but as an opportunity for the next election. Would it suit Sarwar more to have it abolished this week, or to use its victims as a political football in two years?
This is Labour's week of shame. More than anyone else, Labour's deputy leader, silent as to his motives for abstaining, silent as to where he was, silent as to who he was paired with, holds the responsibility for Glaswegians still having the Bedroom Tax today.
Sarwar hid this week. He can't hide forever. We'll be back. He, and the rest of the Timid Ten, will bitterly regret their treachery.

The Coalition brought in the Bedroom Tax. Labour support the Bedroom Tax. The only way to get rid of it is to rise up, united, as one people. 

And the only credible alternative to the Bedroom Tax is a vote to restore independence in September, and a vote for a Scottish Socialist Party government in the subsequent election. 

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