Tag Archives: John Healey

Theresa May announces watered-down Labour policy on unfair evictions. Hers won’t be

Congratulations to Theresa May for announcing a new Conservative policy! It’s just a shame she stole it from Labour and watered it down.

Here’s her announcement as it appeared on Twitter:

The press release states: “Private landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants from their homes at short notice and without good reason, in the biggest change to the private rental sector for a generation, Communities Secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP has announced (15 April 2019).

“As part of a complete overhaul of the sector, the government has outlined plans to consult on new legislation to abolish Section 21 evictions – so called ‘no-fault’ evictions. This will bring an end to private landlords uprooting tenants from their homes with as little as 8 weeks’ notice after the fixed-term contract has come to an end.

“This will effectively create open-ended tenancies, bringing greater peace of mind to millions of families who live in rented accommodation.”

It won’t, though. Landlords will simply put up the rents on tenants they don’t want, and price them out of their homes. This is a pretence at taking action that won’t actually change anything at all.

This is a Labour policy that the Conservatives have watered down and put out in the pretence that they are “on your side” (as Mrs May herself protested in a poor performance on TV recently).

Consider this BBC news story from September 2018 – nearly seven months ago:

“Labour says it would scrap laws allowing private landlords to evict tenants without giving a reason.

“The law, in force since 1988, is thought to be the biggest cause of homelessness.

“Labour’s shadow housing minister John Healey announced the policy at the party’s conference in Liverpool.

“Mr Healey also unveiled plans for a £20m fund to set up “renters’ unions” to support tenants in disputes with landlords.

“So-called “no-fault” evictions – when landlords throw people out of their home without saying why – have been growing in recent years.

“The party’s policies include:

  • A new levy on second homes that are used as holiday homes
  • Reversing cuts to legal aid for housing related cases
  • Introducing three-year tenancies
  • Banning letting agent fees
  • New minimum legal standards to ensure homes are “fit for human habitation”
  • Giving cities the power to introduce rent controls”

I seem to recall the Conservatives having prevented moves to stop so-called “revenge” evictions in recent years, and also preventing a law to ensure homes are fit for human habitation. The Tory benches in the House of Commons are full of private landlords.

Shadow housing minister John Healey was remarkably restrained in his response to Mrs May’s announcement. He restricted himself to pointing out the faults in the watered-down policy she is offering:

“Any promise of new help for renters is good news but this latest pledge won’t work if landlords can still force tenants out by hiking the rent.

“For nine years, the Tories have failed to tackle problems facing private renters. Tenants need new rights and protections across the board to end costly rent increases and sub-standard homes as well as to stop unfair evictions.

“Labour is committed to giving renters the rights they deserve, including control on rents, indefinite tenancies and new legal minimum standards.”

Other commentators have been less kind.

I myself, for example, called it: “Another watered-down Labour policy. Time to give up and go.”

Rachael Swindon put her finger on the problem: “You’ve not thought this out (shock). The landlords will just put the rent up, forcing more homelessness, and more dependency on the state. Who actually comes up with these ideas? Honestly, you’re utterly useless.”

Paul Wingrove made a pertinent point: “Would be better if you acted to deliver all the social housing you have been promising for bloody years!”

And Jamie Aspin put into words what we are all thinking: “We could do with an eviction or two on Downing Street!”

Strangely enough, it seems Mrs May could actually be thinking the same thing.

Writer/actor David Schneider responded: “Brace yourselves. General election incoming…”


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Fabian doomsayer’s analysis of Labour is twaddle, designed to demoralise new members

The Independent‘s caption for this picture reads: “A little over half of Labour’s 2015 voters say they now support the party led by Jeremy Corbyn”. Gosh. And how many people who didn’t vote Labour now support the party? How many who didn’t vote at all, because the couldn’t support any of the right-wing parties (including Labour at the time) that were on the ballot paper? [Image: Getty].

Why has nobody seen through Andrew Harrop’s transparent and flimsy attempt to trash Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party?

His ‘research’ (if you can call it that) is riddled with false assumptions. In opposition, allow me to offer you this:

Get the picture now?

If you read his piece on the Fabian website, you can drive a truck through the holes in Mr Harrop’s logic.

“The Corbynite left has won the big internal battles but it seems to have no roadmap for winning back lost voters.” And which “lost voters” are these? The Liberal Democrat or Tory voters who had been temporarily won by the silly ‘triangulation’ policies of Blair, Brown and, to an extent, Miliband, that forced nearly five million voters from Labour’s natural constituency out the door? They were never truly Labour voters.

“On Brexit, the greatest political question for two generations, the party’s position is muffled and inconsistent.” Isn’t that because, with a “muffled and inconsistent” position from the Conservatives, there is nothing for Her Majesty’s Opposition to, you know, oppose?

Seriously, Labour did set out a consistent position. Unfortunately, right-wing Labour MPs with their own agenda seem to have taken delight in trying to confuse the electorate about the party’s attitude – with the help of a salivating press that relishes any opportunity to put Labour out of reckoning, especially when the Conservatives are in such poor shape. Keir Starmer has done the party no good at all by speaking out in public without having discussed matters in private.

“Labour remains strong in urban pockets but is faring very badly in by-elections.” This is a flat lie. Labour has been recording double-figure increases in voter percentages at by-elections. Sure, there have been some losses; that’s democracy – you don’t win every seat.

“If the opinion polls are any guide, it could soon cease to be a nationally competitive political force.” The opinion polls aren’t any guide, though. They’ve been consistently wrong for nearly two years.

“In Scotland there is no sign of recovery.” Scottish Labour has a right-winger – Kezia Dugdale – as leader. She is a huge liability, an obstacle to a left-wing Labour resurgence.

“The real threat in marginal seats is that former Labour supporters will scatter in all directions, while the Tories reach out to everyone who voted Leave.” It is misleading to refer only to “former Labour supporters”. If they are “former” supporters because they don’t like the party now, then they were never really Labour supporters at all. And what about people who didn’t support Labour in the last few elections but have returned to the party now? What about those who haven’t been voting at all, because they couldn’t support any of the right-wing parties (including Labour at the time) who were on the ballot paper? Is Mr Harrop ignoring them because they’ll mess up his propaganda piece?

As for Tories chasing “everyone who voted Leave”, perhaps Mr Harrop hasn’t noticed, but far fewer people would vote Leave again if the referendum was re-run, because they have realised that the Leave campaign fed the British public nothing but a series of lies from beginning to end. And has he forgotten that a significant proportion of Tories also voted Remain? Some might stay out of (misplaced) loyalty, but many may be put off by a party that is turning its back on them (if his claim about Tory policy is accurate).

“The Liberal Democrats now have their sights on the party’s 5 million remainers, and in the recent by-elections they’ve won plenty over.” This may be the only relevant point in Harrop’s entire piece. Yes. The Liberal Democrats are enjoying a resurgence – and Labour isn’t doing its job in response. The response is to point out that the Liberal Democrats are a right-wing party that allied with the Tories for five years and pushed through policies that were hugely harmful to the general population of the UK.

Anybody who votes for a Liberal Democrat, based on the party’s position on Brexit, is voting for a lie. The Liberal Democrats cannot affect the UK’s membership of the European Union – but they will happily ally with the Tories again if they get the chance. Tim Farron has said as much.

“To find a way back, Labour must therefore become the party of this cultural ‘middle’.” This is plain – Mr Harrop is advocating a return to the Blairite ‘triangulation’ that reduced Labour to the hollowed-out shell that lost the 2015 general election so badly.

Mr Harrop is completely wrong.

We’re back to Tony Benn’s “weathercocks” and “signposts”. Mr Harrop wants Labour to be a party of “weathercocks”, going any way the wind blows in a desperate bid for votes from people who – according to the assumption – won’t change their opinions. Labour has tried that plan. It is, in the words of Blackadder, “bollocks”.

British politics is at a low ebb and copying other parties is a sure way to self-destruction.

Labour members should be the “signposts” to a new kind of politics. Jeremy Corbyn has clearly expressed his direction of travel. If you need to be reminded, here it is:

Are these words not clear enough?

Sadly, it seems some in the media are keen to give Mr Harrop’s claims a semblance of credibility that they do not deserve.

Look at The Guardian‘s ‘fake news’ piece suggesting John Healey agreed with the Fabian doomsayer. The strapline has it that “John Healey … says report that party could shrink to 150 MPs is ‘warning’”.

Look at what he actually says, further down the piece, and you’ll see that this is an unwarranted misrepresentation. He didn’t support Mr Harrop’s attempt to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s new direction for Labour. Instead, he pointed out: “Quite rightly, the Fabian Society say the roots of Labour’s problems pre-date Jeremy Corbyn. They were there in the 2015 election and in the 2010 election.”

In other words, he is suggesting the opposite of Mr Harrop’s claims.

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At last someone in the Labour Party is speaking up on political issues

… and it’s John Healey! Who’d have thought it?

His article in yesterday’s Guardian makes a lot of sense (although obviously he doesn’t go far enough in his suggestions. Labour never does, these days).

At least he’s making the right noises – pointing out that the Conservative Government’s plan to cut social security by £12 billion will harm people who are trapped by failing markets for housing and jobs. Think about it – cutting social security means people will be more insecure. That’s probably why Tories prefer to call it “welfare”.

He claims that the cut to the total annual household cap on benefits, from £26,000 to £23,000, is popular but will save less than one per cent of the total target.

More will follow – cutting tax credits (the subsidy for under-paying businesses, meaning people in work will be plunged into poverty), housing benefit (the subsidy for landlords, meaning people will be unable to pay their rent), and to disability payments (because nobody cares what happens to society’s most vulnerable until they become society’s most vulnerable; the evidence suggests these people will die).

According to Healey, every time the Tories wield the axe, they will challenge Labour to support them. If Labour refuses, the Tories will then be free to shout about Labour being the “party of welfare” – and never mind the fact that the Tories are the party of corporate welfare, funnelling billions to bosses.

Many of the cuts will punish the poor – without reducing the benefits bill, he reckons.

Take tax credits. Over the last five years, the Coalition government made 23 separate cuts, freezes and rule changes to tax credits costing working families £13.4bn. But overall spending rose, by £2bn.

Or housing benefit, where 10 separate cuts cost low-income renters both in and out of work over £5bn. But the total bill went up by £4bn over the Parliament.

Healey drew up a lengthy factual analysis of Coalition Government policy on housing benefits and discovered that the Tories and Liberal Democrats were actively increasing the bill.

The decision, for example, to raise council and housing association rents to 80 per cent of market rates will increase housing benefit spending by £5.4bn over the next 30 years, on those homes built in the last parliament alone.

He called this a “Conservative policy failure, with both the taxpayer and families on low incomes paying the price”.

His solution was for Labour to commit to building 100,000 new council and housing association homes a year until 2020, in the knowledge that those homes would pay for themselves, in full, in housing benefits savings over 27 years.

Just as people take out a mortgage over that time period and see a return on their home investment, so government could do the same.

Every pound invested in a genuinely affordable home means the state pays out less in housing benefit.

Over thirty years, I calculated that £1 generates £1.18 in savings… by recycling savings in benefit to build new homes, the up-front capital costs for those 100,000 homes each year would be no greater than the housing investment when I was Labour’s housing minister in our last year of government.

We can’t spend this parliament debating welfare costs on Tory terms again, so our challenge is to sidestep the narrow Tory narrative and start making a bigger case for bringing benefits spending down.

So this is the answer: Use the Conservatives’ own record against them and demonstrate that the government is asking the wrong questions and proposing the wrong solutions.

Source: Labour must make and win the big arguments on welfare – Comment – Voices – The Independent

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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