Today, more than 50 self-organised protests against the government are taking place the length and breadth of the land. Most of them have been organised without the say-so of Labour HQ. Yet the activity has the wholehearted support of many of our leading MPs. So this weekend could be a milestone crossed: the first national expression of Ed Miliband’s devolved, community focused Labour Party.
But how has this self-organised, locally focused, digital campaign actually happened?
Firstly, and most importantly it’s down to passion and commitment. A tiny band of members with passion for a cause have shown what can be done. Dr Eoin Clarke and his colleagues at Labour Left have produced materials for members on the ground who seek to register their opposition to Cameron’s ill-conceived bedroom tax. Without them providing homemade petitions, posters and model Facebook pages, the events would not be taking place.
Before the days of social media, Eoin Clarke and his team could not possibly have had the time and logistical support to organise members into such a complex set of local campaigns. But social media allows groups to form really quickly without the need for a single person to book rooms, print posters, stuff mailings and arrange transport. Now you can do all of that online. And that’s what the team have provided: a Facebook page for every protest. Simple but clever.
But to be able to do this, the team needed one additional distinguishing ingredient: A bold clear line from the top of the party. And we’ve had that on the bedroom tax. Ed Miliband and Liam Byrne have made our opposition to this unfair tax central to their message.
A mention must be given to the Sunday People, who themselves have leapt into the digital age with a brilliant humorous twitter feed, Google maps and support for the campaign on the ground with high quality branded materials.
The tax was introduced to solve under-occupancy in council housing but the there are not enough smaller homes to make this happen. In the West Midlands 60,000 families will be affected. Everyone wants to see sensible welfare reform but the bedroom tax is not the answer.
Over 5 billion is lost through tax evasion every year illustrating that there are other less heartless areas where money could be saved. But David Cameron has no idea the impact that this change will have on ordinary people, no conception of the difference that £700 less a year will make to many on the edge scraping by.
Just last week the OBR rebuked David Cameron for misrepresenting their position on the economy it seems misconstruing the facts is an unfortunate habit the Prime Minister seems to have fallen into. At PMQs he stated,
‘Pensioners are exempt, people with severely disabled children are exempt and people who need round-the-clock care are exempt.’ This is not the case according to the National Housing Federation. Iain Duncan Smith’s concessions this week will just exempt foster families and those in the armed forces. Two thirds of families affected are home to someone with a disability.
The response to the campaign on the ground has been positive; people are angry and outraged and want to fight back so good luck wherever you are out protesting and remember to send your photos to [email protected]
Stephanie Peacock represents the West Midlands on the National Policy Forum